Overused terms like participation, engagement, co-creation, involvement, and inclusion, to name a few, have always been a matter of concern in designing cities. However, what does intentional participatory design mean? And why should we practice it? These questions are often neglected in discussions on designing cities for all. In this series, we aim to rethink the city for and by everyone by discussing who the designer is, what barriers and challenges are to shift from the user to co-designer, and how to make a true impact. With designers, researchers, practitioners, and policymakers, we will dive into the different components of participatory design within spaces, products, policies, and systems.

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Anna Noyons (Amsterdam) is a social designer, founder & creative director of (ink). Anna identifies as a designer, very much from the idea that everything is a design. Design is not just the logo on the door of a company. Our laws are also a design. Our society is a design. In principle, they are all consciously or subconsciously created structures. All this determines the space we live in. At (ink), they create products, services and systems that bring out the best in people. They are helping organisations (small and large, commercial and governmental) reach their goals and make positive impact by improving their strategies, products and services. (ink) combines design, psychology and a start-up mentality to transform big societal challenges into concrete solutions.

Happyplaces Project » Anna Noyons from happykamping on Vimeo.

James Veenhoff (Amsterdam) is one of the founding partners at Fronteer, a B Corp certified impact strategy firm in Amsterdam that has grown into one of the leading players in the field of ‘co-creation’. At Fronteer, they apply design thinking and expert co-creation to develop strategies, concepts and coalitions for positive impact. Recently, James Veenhoff in collaboration with Martijn Pater, published a book on this subject, titled ‘Collaborate or Die’. In this practical, action-oriented, and easy to read book, they take us on a step-by-step journey towards impact. Building on over 15 years of international experience with corporates, startups, ngo’s and governments, they de-mystify the term co-creation, describe the key types and trends and share the Five Guiding Principles.

Maria Piels (Amsterdam) works at Inbo Architects, primarily focusing on large scale complex housing and educational buildings. She believes that we can cohabit our built environment by facilitating positive encounters, empowering its users, reflecting our emotions, and bringing us closer to the tranquility of nature. This is especially a reality in today’s bustling city life. Currently she’s working on a project in collaboration with AM project developers at Vreeswijkpad in Amsterdam-Zuidoost. AM project developers and their partners won the tender issued last year by the municipality of Amsterdam. What is special about the tender is that for the first time an independent citizen jury was also allowed to judge the entries, in addition to the jury of the municipality. One of the main selection criteria was participation.

Tim Devos (Antwerp) is an engineer-architect, master in human settlements and doctor in social geography. He co-founded Endeavour, where he uses his skills as a spatial professional to stimulate innovation in city making, always learning from a diversity of voices. He is also a postdoctoral researcher at the Centre for Mobility and Spatial Planning (AMRP) at Ghent University and teaches at several universities in Belgium and the Netherlands.

Jiska Gysels (Brussels) is an engineer-architect and fascinated by the way socio-economic ideologies influence daily life. She prefers to use narrative awareness in her search for inclusive answers to transition issues. In doing so, she checks ecological, economical and spatial challenges against societal and actors needs in complex spatial development scenarios.

“Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.” While this vision of activist Jane Jacobs has inspired for decades, the question remains; how can citizens develop their engagement to shape their living environment? Endeavour is a workers’ cooperative that supports this engagement through social-spatial research and innovation, process design and guidance, consultancy and activism.

DossierDesigning Cities for All
Programme seriesDesigning Cities for All

How can designers contribute to the creation of inclusive cities for, and by everyone?