Dr Cara Broadley

Project Title: Social Studios: exploring participatory design methods with community groups towards enhancing participation requests

Social Studios aimed to understand how Participatory Design can support people, communities, and public service authorities in the preparation, submission, and implementation of Participation Requests (PRs). As part of the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act (2015), PRs were introduced in 2017 as a policy mechanism to enable people and communities to shape decisions and services that affect their lives. Several reviews have since been carried out to evaluate the success of the legislation and identify opportunities and actions to inform their future. In addition to responding to these assessments, Social Studios sought to further understand the barriers, challenges, and opportunities surrounding PRs; to co-design a suite of interactive tools to enhance meaningful local decision-making in Scotland; and to put forward a series of reflections and recommendations that support the integration of Participatory Design within PRs and broader forms of public participation.

Social Studios involved the participation of twelve community members, representing eight community groups from Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, Fife, Perth and Kinross, the Borders, Glasgow, North Ayrshire, and East Dunbartonshire. Through each taking part in four Social Studios workshops, held online, and supported by the Companion workbook and kit, participants shared their experiences of PRs, identified challenges and opportunities to enhance the PR process, and co-designed and evaluated a series of fifteen tools comprising the PR Toolbox. Five participants also chose to remain involved in the research to present the outcomes at the Scottish Government event in March 2022, seeking to apply their experience to encourage and enable others to consider the benefits of a PR. Through an evaluation survey, participants also highlighted how the research had increased their confidence to progress PRs that had been stalled and to seek alternative routes to participation and decision-making. Following further dissemination, piloting, and iteration of the PR Toolbox, additional evaluation will be undertaken to assess the longer-term impact of the research on community participants as its co-designers.

I applied for an AHRC fellowship that would have led on from Social Studios but this was unfortunately unsuccessful. I am currently working on a further two bids and I have also had a paper accepted for a special issue of the journal of Policy and Practice on design and policy and this is due to be published shortly.

Awarded: Research Incentive Grant

Field: Visual Art, Interpretation Design and Practice

University: Glasgow School of Art

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