What is Participatory Design?
Participatory Design is a design practice where is given a central role to the importance, value, and relevance of human experience. Participatory design has his foundation in involving different “non-designers” in the design process with the ambition and the practical objective of build better tools for the users [1; 2].
“Non-designers” refers to the end-users (or potential users) of a product or a service or to other external stakeholders that are involved in the design process . In this regard, Robertson and Wagner  claim that in Participatory Design, the success of the outcome is strictly linked to “the different voices who have been able to contribute to its design”.
Participatory Design has not a unique theoretical framework, but a common key challenge in all PD approaches is to find an appropriate way to involve and engage people that have different backgrounds, experiences, and interests in the project .
An ideal Participatory Design structure
As Bratteteig and Wagner affirmed , the result of a Participatory Design session could depend on the type of projects (big or small) and from the inclusion of different voices that could change the scope of how solutions are formulated .
An ideal situation in Participatory Design is a continual relationship between researchers/design team and users. This continual relationship can be carried on, for example, by iterative meetings, events, and workshops in order to bring new people into the design process and to ensure that a variety of perspectives can be addressed .
But often in small UX research projects, it is not possible to carry on iterative activities such as meetings or workshops, or it is not possible to involve all the user groups to address the right variety of perspectives. So, how to adapt the Participatory Design approach to small projects?
Participatory Design in small UX projects
Big UX projects take in care complex issues, where multiple dependencies have to be taken into account, involving multiple stakeholders, various organizations, or organizational units in a large amount of time. On the other hand, smaller projects may concentrate on problems that are more contained, in a limited time, focusing for example on one specific aspect of practice and one main user group .
The strength of Participatory Design is in his nature: exploiting the flexible nature of it is possible to adapt the Participatory Design methods to small research projects.
As Spinuzzi  supported, Participatory Design is an approach that is still developing and consequently, the design of it can be quite flexible.
Despite its flexible nature, in almost all Participatory Design researches there are three basic stages that can be considered as the methodology of Participatory Design: initial exploration of work (stage 1), discovery process (stage 2), and prototyping (stage 3). The implementations of Participatory Design do vary in their attention to rigor and validity, but they all reflect a commitment to sustained, methodical investigation according to grounded methodological principles .
How should be structured the Participatory Design discovery process in small research projects? Which methods should be used?
During the discovery process, a Participatory Design’s design method could be the creation of a workshop . To ensure the best outcome possible (even in small research projects) is necessary combinate various activities during the workshop, including making (making tangible things: collages, mapping, mock-ups), telling (diaries and cards), and enacting (acting, enacting, and playing: game boards, props, and black boxes, participatory visioning, and enactment, improvisation…) .
In a small research project, a workshop should be planned to focus on a small target of users, on a contained problem, and on one main user group (always taking into account that during a PD workshop it is always important to define which roles have the members of the group that is formed) [6; 7]. In a small research project, the main user group taken into account may be a homogeneous group where the members, even if they don’t have different backgrounds for the dimension chosen (e.g. homogeneous group formed by public employers) may differ in dimensions which were not considered as relevant for the composition of the group (e.g. if they are all public employers they can be from different departments).
Another format of workshop that has been organized in the past 20 years is the Open Space Technology. Open Space Technology format has been used in Participatory Design’s researches to create inspired meetings and events, putting people working together in order to create extraordinary outcomes that in this case are instant reports and project proposals . This kind of workshop is another example of how Participatory Design methods can be adapted for small projects. In this regard, the Opens Space Technology format can be used with a small group of people (from 5 to 2000) working in one-day workshops, three-day conferences, or the regular weekly staff meeting .
In conclusion, Participatory Design is a powerful tool and an excellent opportunity for researchers to create better tools for their end-users, even in small research projects. The success of the Participatory Design approach is in the hands of the researchers: they have to adapt and use it in a proper way.
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 Sanders, Elizabeth, e Eva Brandt. «A Framework for Organizing the Tools and Techniques of Participatory Design», 2010. https://doi.org/10.1145/1900441.1900476.
 Tone Bratteteig, Ina Wagner. «What Is a Participatory Design Result? | Proceedings of the 14th Participatory Design Conference: Full Papers — Volume 1», 2016. https://dl.acm.org/doi/abs/10.1145/2940299.2940316.
 Kushniruk, Andre, e Christian Nøhr. «Participatory Design, User Involvement and Health IT Evaluation». Studies in Health Technology and Informatics 222 (2016): 139–51.
 Robertson, Toni, e Ina Wagner. «Ethics: Engagement, Representation and Politics-in-Action». Routledge International Handbook of Participatory Design, 12 ottobre 2012. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203108543-11.
 Spinuzzi, Clay. «The Methodology of Participatory Design», 2005, 13.
 Svanæs, Dag, e Gry Seland. «Putting the users center stage: role playing and low-fi prototyping enable end users to design mobile systems», 479–86, 2004. https://doi.org/10.1145/985692.985753.
 Druin. «The role of children in the design of new technology». Behaviour & Information Technology 21, n. 1 (1 gennaio 2002): 1–25. https://doi.org/10.1080/01449290110108659.
 Open Space Technology official website https://openspaceworld.org/