Participatory design for democratic innovation: participation requests and community empowerment in Scotland

Cara Broadley, Brian Dixon

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1 Citation (Scopus)
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Over the last decade, a growing body of research has explored the potential of applying design approaches within policymaking, resulting in the emergence of a novel practice, termed ‘design for policy’. While largely successful, questions remain regarding the specifics of the design for policy process. In this, key points of contention relate to the way government-citizen deliberation and collaboration is framed (i.e., who gets to participate in design for policy initiatives and how), as well as the of the role of design within the process (i.e., is it a means of problem-solving or problem-framing). Responding to these challenges by examining the potential of a specific design approach—Participatory Design (PD)—in design for policy, the present article turns to the Scottish policymaking context. Here, we present a case study of a project titled Social Studios, which explored how PD might enable communities to better approach Participation Requests (PRs)–a mechanism within the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act (2015) that allows groups to engage with public authorities on local issues relating to infrastructure and services. From an initial overview of the context of the study, we describe its methods, process and, finally, its outcome—a bespoke ‘PR Toolbox’. The article then closes with a series of reflections on the broader potential of PD in the context of design for policy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)444-465
Number of pages22
JournalPolicy Design and Practice
Issue number4
Early online date29 Dec 2022
Publication statusPublished online - 29 Dec 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Participatory Design
  • Participation Requests
  • Communities
  • Engagement
  • Empowerment
  • Scotland
  • empowerment
  • engagement
  • participation requests
  • Participatory design
  • communities


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