Funded! This project was successfully funded on May 17, 2012.


A field guide that explains the steps for running participatory workshops and urban design charrettes with community stakeholders.

Our project is to develop a field guide that explains the steps for running participatory workshops and urban design charrettes with local stakeholders – especially in areas where participation in urban design is new. 

In many places around the world, design tools must be made on-the-go and with found materials. Many times, urban residents generate highly creative and innovative solutions in workshops that take place with the simplest tools.

The field guide will explain how to organize participatory design workshops and offer strategies for creating design tools with the simplest of materials and resources. These skills are important for social designers across the globe—from cities in the developing world to boroughs in New York City. 

The field guide will be a how-to combined with our own experience of what it's like to organize a participatory design process. We will introduce our team and the many different people who get involved, and show what it's like to organize a participatory design process using an initiative we are working on this summer as an example – we'll also explain and illustrate the strategies and how design tools can be made with the simplest materials and resources.

We hope this book will be fun and informative for those who are already practicing in this field, but just as importantly the guide will provide a new resource as participatory design spreads around the world.

The field guide will give simple explanations of easy ways to organize workshops and participatory design projects, such as:

  • Urban design charrettes
  • Data collection and visualization
  • Model-making with found materials
  • Mapping and site design
  • Trainings and workshops

This field guide can be used by urban planners, activists, social designers, advocates, educators, residents and anyone who wants to organize a group to better understand their neighborhood or instigate change in their city.

Participatory urban design is a highly inclusive approach towards improving cities and the built environment. 

Today, design tools are more accessible than ever. Social design is the application of creative tools towards advocacy and social change. Participatory design is important because designers may develop innovative ideas, but their solutions might miss key social needs if local communities are not involved.  Design strategies are being used around the world to create solutions for pressing issues like climate change, slum housing, and more. Designers play a very important role in making positive change—and design will be ever more important in the future.

Our field guide will focus on the process of developing a community design campaign, neighborhood workshops and an urban design prototype. 

We believe that teaching is about showing not telling so we are going to produce the field guide alongside an in-action participatory project we are completing this summer called Firm Foundation.

During July and August 2012, we will be working with a riverfront neighborhood in Banjarmasin, Indonesia, along with local government to design solutions to flooding and other water-related problems and improve the public space available to the community. The project will include:

  • Participatory design workshops to learn about and understand water issues, prioritize problems, and identify sites in their neighborhood for improvements
  • Visualization of data from these workshops about water related problems
  • Design of maps and models to facilitate participation in design by community members
  • A prototype of one design intervention developed with neighborhood residents
All of these activities can be completed on-the-ground and with simple materials. And we’ll show you how in the Social Design Field Guide!

Based in Surakarta, Indonesia, and New York City, we work as a team on urban planning, design, and development projects that are both self-initiated and in support of NGO and international agency programs. 

Our approach is highly inclusive of the communities where we work and we believe in helping citizens and officials alike understand the complexities of the built environment so they can better take on the problems and opportunities that come with rampant urbanization.

The following are projects we’ve worked on recently. Our field guide will be developed based on the skills we tested out in each.

In 2011, we ran participatory workshops in Solo, Indonesia to support neighborhood residents play active roles in the redevelopment of a public market and a main street.

In 2010, we worked with local leaders to collect data about their neighborhoods. This data was analyzed and turned into mini-atlases that provide information to residents to use in musrenbang, the annual participatory budgeting forum.

In 2010, we ran workshops to help residents evaluate small-scale solutions for disaster risk reduction in Ulaanbaatar’s floodprone ger areas, hillside neighborhoods where thousands currently live in traditional tents. We also ran disaster risk reduction workshops in Padang, West Sumatra following the October 2009 earthquake.


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