Economic Development via Participatory Design

I use a “Participatory Design” approach to Economic Development.

Strategies and projects are developed via a process that plays to the strengths of passionate people in your community – whether your “community” is:

  • a city or an urban suburb
  • a region, rural town, or marae
  • an industry sector or an individual business
  • a not for profit or community organisation
  • a government department or a regional/local council

A Participatory Design project is NOT a “tick the box” exercise. I try to involve all stakeholders (e.g. employees, partners, customers, citizens, end-users) in the process of Economic Development to help ensure the results meet their needs and are usable.

Economic Development via Participatory Design - Tokoroa 2003

Participatory Design works irrespective of culture or demographic profile. That said, results vary by community. A regional community of 25,000 people might uncover 1000+ new ideas that result in 40 project proposals. Another regional community with the same population may discuss 400 ideas that result in 30 opportunities.

For more information about Participatory Design, see: Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC) and Participate in Design.

Economic Development and Communities of Innovation

Most community projects involve adaptation – working with ideas that are already within the community. For example, unemployed seamstresses joining forces with existing fashion designers to form a new industry cluster.

Innovation is slightly different from adaptation. While there are innovators in every community, true innovation tends to follow on from a community being connected in the first place, so projects related to true innovations don’t happen as often. Disruptive innovations like the Internet are always possible, but like unicorns, unusual.

Depending on the scope of the assignment, the process takes 12-24 months of working alongside your staff and your community members on a part-time basis.

For a regional town of 25,000, the investment is likely to be less than half the annual cost of an executive-level manager (excluding the costs of implementing the strategies themselves).

Here is a background to the concepts driving Communities of Innovation: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Communities_of_innovation 

Participatory Design and Change Management

It is not unusual for participatory design, scenario planning, or even strategic planning, to meet with some resistance.

So, from a best practice Change Management perspective, there is no point in you spending money if, for example, the current community leaders are not prepared to positively embrace change.

For more information about Change Management and Community Building, visit the Forbes Magazine website

Get in touch

An initial confidential and obligation-free conversation lasting 15-30 minutes should be enough to identify any insurmountable roadblocks preventing us from proceeding with a Participatory Design approach to Economic Development with your community.

Call me now on +64-27-272-2168, or get in touch via our Contact Page, and let’s see where we get to.

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