Case Study: Designing Difficult Community Conversations for Multiple Stakeholders

Format: Papers, RSD8, Topic: Cases & Practice, Topic: Policy & Governance

Michael Arnold Mages

This paper will detail the design and development of a series of nine community conversation events discussing three different issues, that were designed and conducted by the author, in cooperation with the Pittsburgh public television channel WQED. These events centered on the topics of Guns, Poverty, and Equity/Opportunity each in turn. Each topic encompassed preliminary research, planning conversations with community stakeholders, public conversations regarding the matter of concern, and televised conversations with experts and a studio audience.

This paper discusses the underlying structural design of those conversations in relation to Björgvinsson’s (infrastructuring) participatory design practices. The underlying claim of the argument presented is that a designer convening a network of stakeholders to design and conduct a community conversation is working towards outcomes at several levels: the level of the stakeholder network, the level of the individual participants’ experience, and the level of infrastructuring within the broader community. The paper takes up each of these levels of interaction through the lens of Gastil, Knobloch and Kelley’s (2012) evaluation of participatory processes.

Citation Data

Author(s): OCTOBER 2019
Title: Case Study: Designing Difficult Community Conversations for Multiple Stakeholders
Published in: Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design
Article No.:
Symposium Dates:
First published: 4 October 2019
Last update:
Publisher Identification:

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Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design (ISSN 2371-8404) are published annually by the Systemic Design Association, a non-profit scholarly association leading the research and practice of design for complex systems: 3803 Tønsberg, Norway (922 275 696).


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