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"More frequently, the intentions of are good. Well-meaning designers employ PD techniques for a wide range of reasons. For one thing, the process of working with community members in enjoyable. It feels good to elicit ideas and possibilites from 'non-designers,' it can be quite fun and engaging for everyone involved, and it can feel empowering for both design professionals and community members."

"Unfortunately, this does not change the fact that in most design processess, the bulk of the benefits end up going to the professional designers and their institutions. Products, patents, processes, credit, visibility, fame: the lion's share goes to the professional design firms and designers. Community mements who participate in design processes too often end up providing the raw materials that are processed for value further up the chain."

" organizations choose to work in solidarity with and amplify the power of community-based organizations. This is unlike many other approaches to PD, in which designers partner with a community but tend to retain power in the process: power to convene and structure the work, to make choices about who participates, and, usually, to make key decisions at each point."

"Analysis of political power is the design process - who sits at the table, who holds power over the process - what decision-making process is used - will be fundamental to the successful future articulation of in theory and in practice."

"Ultimately, at its best, a design justice process is a form of community organizing. Design justiice practitioners like community organizers, approach the question of who gets to speak for the community from a community asset perspective. This is rooted in the principle that wherever people face challenges, they are always already working to deal with those challenges; wherever a community is oppressed, they are always developing strategies to resist oppressionn."

"This principle underpins what Black feminist author adrienne maree brown calls 'emergent strategy'. Emergent strategy grounds design justice practitioners' commitment to community-based organizations that are lead by and have strong accountability mechanisms to, people from marginalized communities."

“[Community-led design is] all about developing tools and technology along with the people that it’s meant to serve. Just, in general, I think adopting any type of participatory approach from the beginning is usually super helpful, and also enables people to actually want to use this technology.” One concrete accountability mechanism that practitioners suggest is community advisory boards or governing councils that can guide and own design processes."

"There’s just so many things wrong with that. I feel like that was something built with good intentions, but they did not do any of the risk modeling that they should have done.”

When does risk modeling happen when we build a product?

"Adopt methods. This means spending time with a community partner, in their space, learning about needs, and working together through all stages of design. Usually, no new tech development is necessary to address the most pressing issues. Codesign methods have a growing practitioner base, but they could be better documented."

"Avoid “parachuting” technologists into communities. In general, parachuting is a failed model. Don’t do it. Stop parachuting technologists into organizations or focusing on isolated “social good” technology projects, devoid of context, when the real need is capacity building."

"The # (pound sign or hash) marker for conversations on activist chat servers would later make its way into much broader use in the now-ubiquitous social media feature we know as . It should not be surprising that the ability to create ad hoc groups, or ongoing conversations, instantly with the pound sign was pioneered by and , and yet today this is not widely known."

"At its most basic, the principle of attribution simply says that design justice includes giving credit where credit is due. This principle applies across the life cycle of the project, includes any products, and should also shape the story of the project as it is told to various audiences."

"In , those whose lived experience guides the process are recognized as codesigners; they become co-owners of designed products, platforms, systems, and other outputs and also become coauthors of the story about the project."

"Design proceeds through the alternating recognition and relaxation of assumptions, moving through iteration toward a “satisficing” solution: “The designer decides what constraints to relax in order to respond to the most important ones..."

"The concept that emerges from this process of sacrificing secondary properties is a satisficing design solution, not necessarily an optimal one, as is generally approached by engineering optimization. The satisficing solution is a necessity when trying to address a complex design problem with so many parameters that optimization approaches would not be feasible.”

"In addition, Maxigas notes that one of the most crucial functions of RTCs is maintenance and repair of movement : “Even though the actual everyday practice of hacktivism is mostly about maintenance, groups that run infrastructure have received little to zero attention so far. This is especially ironic because even the emblematic movement of contemporary (Anonymous) could not operate without relying on the services of radical server collectives. "

"One of the most powerful, and least discussed, ways that narratives structure processes and outcomes is in the scoping stage: How do we frame the “problem?”...Yet much of the time, powerful institutions frame problems for designers to solve in ways that systematically invisibilize structural , history, and community strategies of , resilience, and organized ."

"I argue both for a shift from deficit- to asset-based approaches to scoping, and for the formal inclusion of community members in design processes during the scoping or “defining our challenge” phase of a design cycle, not only during the “gathering ideas” or “testing our solutions” phases."

"Scoping is therefore an ongoing and key aspect of any process. Unfortunately, under capitalist heteropatriarchy and settler colonialism, scoping also often is used as an excuse to ignore, bracket, or sideline questions of structural, historical, institutional, and/or systemic ."

Example provided by the author: an problem statement raises the issue of unemployment among U.S. "citizens" and says that the issue is lack of information about the utility of a degree.

The term "citizen" is vague, "although both unemployment and college access in the United States are deeply structured by race, class, gender, disability, and immigration status: in other words, by location within the ".

Problem statements matter.

"Again, the point here is not that new technologies are useless, that design challenges are a waste of time, or that existing solutions are always sufficient. Instead, it is to recognize that wherever there are problems, those most affected have nearly always already developed solutions..."

", historically, was a valuable commodity and an input to sustainable farming practices. Now replaced by imported and , it has been reframed as waste, and municipalities spend vast sums of money annually to literally throw away a potential source of income."

This is an important book, and I struggle with the implication of it's critiques on parts of my career. I'm a technologist at a software company - how do I avoid tech solutionism? How do I ensure that design originates from the affected populations and builds upon systems generated by locals?

"...radical ideas and practices that were pioneered by people working within social movement networks were, in some cases, adopted by corporate actors and thereby scaled up and normalized. In other words, another reading is that ideas and, in some cases, individuals were able to infiltrate capitalist institutions, and through technical systems , they spread certain kinds of power throughout society (e.g., in architecture)."

"Communication professor Anita Say Chan, in her book Networking Peripheries, provides a powerful overview of the ways that technological innovation often happens on the margins of society, far from the innovation hubs imagined and created by city planners, state officials, and private sector investors."

"Resnick summarizes the core of constructionism in the following two principles: first, “people do not get ideas, they make them.” Second, “people construct new knowledge with particular effectiveness when they are engaged in constructing personally meaningful products.”

"Principle 1: We Use Design to Sustain, Heal, and Empower Our Communities, as Well as to Seek Liberation from Exploitative and Oppressive Systems

...In practice, student design teams wrestle with the fundamental tension that structural problems identified during design justice research cannot be easily designed away."

It me!

"Especially in an educational setting, this tension can easily leave student designers feeling overwhelmed, hopeless, or paralyzed by the seeming futility of design work. Although true for all design approaches, it is especially crucial in design justice to find specific ways for participants to feel a sense of completion."

"Principle 2: We Center the Voices of Those Who Are Directly Impacted by the Outcomes of the Design Process

... We also secure resources to enable CBOs to fully participate in the design process. Organizations typically choose one or two staff members and/or highly engaged community members to participate in the Codesign Studio as project leads; these individuals attend ... design workshops and ... meetings. In this way, we work to break down the traditional expert/client relationship..."

"If at all possible, educators who teach or facilitate courses should find ways to resource community partners. It takes a lot of time and energy to remain engaged in a design process, time that nonprofit staff or social movement organizations may not have. Although community partners may express desire to participate fully in the design process, they are often strapped for resources and understaffed, and staff may have multiple roles and responsibilities."

"...If the design process unfolds over any significant length of time, early enthusiasm may give way to the realities of ongoing work, shifting priorities, and the need to respond to larger developments, crises, and/or political opportunities in the broader landscape.undefined Finding ways to compensate community partners for their time on the project can help mitigate these challenges."

"...we also know that a team that is trying to practice design justice needs to develop very clear, transparent, and explicit decision-making processes. One way to do this is to require a written working agreement or memorandum of understanding among all team members..."

"...This kind of document describes who is participating, what their respective roles will be, how decision-making will work, ownership of any outputs, and so on. The point is to make the process explicit and clear to all participants. A written agreement is a key starting point, but teams also often need to check in about how their decision-making process is working, as well as about how they feel about the design product(s)."

"Principle 3: We Prioritize Design’s Impact on the Community Over the Intentions of the Designer

...It’s hard to overstate the importance of honestly asking: “What will community members get out of the process?” In particular, community members who live at the intersection of multiple forms of oppression often don’t have free time to dedicate to a design process. Ideally, they will be paid for their time, but even so, community partners can sometimes be, and feel, used by the process."

"Principle 4: We View Change as Emergent from an Accountable, Accessible, and Collaborative Process, Rather than as a Point at the End of a Process

...Codesign Studio participants often reflect that decision-making in any design project involves a delicate balance between the desire to be inclusive, collaborative, and accountable, and the need to get things done."

"In many cases, perhaps counterintuitively, most participants feel better about the process if decision-making is constrained to a limited and specific number of moments. For example, especially in early-stage design projects, where the goal is to go from ideation to a prototype, everyone may feel better if feedback is limited to particular rounds rather than constant, ongoing back-and-forth about small requested changes."

"This is widely understood across many approaches to design. When student teams spend too much time researching, theorizing, analyzing, and ideating, but fail to move quickly enough to mock-ups or prototypes (depending on the type of project), they lose invaluable opportunities to iterate on the project based on user testing and feedback."

"Principle 5: We See the Role of the Designer as a Facilitator Rather than an Expert

Broader power dynamics do not magically disappear within design teams just because everyone involved is committed to design justice principles. Gender, race, class, disability, education, language, and other forms of structural inequality are always active in educational environments."

"Privilege and power never go away, but a design justice studio can become a place where they are explicitly recognized, acknowledged, and discussed... the facilitator must work to ensure that participants discuss privilege and power, introduce team working agreements that make these dynamics explicit and specify how they will be dealt with, and otherwise make the design process a place for mutual learning and growth around how to challenge the reproduction of structural oppression."


"As scholar Jo Freeman notes in her classic article “The Tyranny of Structurelessness,” too often the pretense of a flat structure serves primarily not to truly flatten power dynamics, but simply to mask them."

"Principle 6: We Believe that Everyone Is an Expert Based on Their Own Lived Experience and that We All Have Unique and Brilliant Contributions to Bring to a Design Process

Principle 7: We Share Design Knowledge and Tools with Our Communities"

"Principle 8: We Work toward Sustainable, Community-Led, and Controlled Outcomes

Clear, signed agreements about ownership are key. Design projects produce a wide range of outputs: from physical and digital artefacts and objects to working code, from applications installed on particular servers to images and representations of what the project was about, from slide decks, zines, and academic papers to data produced by community partners and community members."

"Principle 9: We Work toward Nonexploitative Solutions that Reconnect Us to the Earth and to Each Other

" practitioners who hope to avoid solutions that damage the Earth or that rely on exploitative labor relations face additional layers of constraint on the range of possible options. Of course, no solution is ever perfect, regardless of the criteria, and design can be seen as a permanent striving toward, an ongoing process of ideation, iteration, and revision toward the ideal."

"Principle 10: Before Seeking New Design Solutions, We Look for What Is Already Working at the Community Level, and We Honor and Uplift Traditional, , and Local Knowledge and Practices"

"Designers, developers, and technologists occupy privileged positions in the global economy. Without them, the infrastructure utilized by larger systems of oppression can’t be built or maintained. Many of these workers know this and are getting organized to put pressure on their companies and institutions. The movement members’ refusal to participate in the design of explicitly oppressive sociotechnical systems is an important development."

"During the Q&A [of a paper presentation on ], one member of the audience said (to paraphrase): “Design justice sounds nice, but it’s not practical or possible in real life.” To which the only response must be: We have to articulate a vision of the world we want, don’t we? Designers who ignore questions about process on the grounds that shipping the product is more important are deploying a version of the Machiavellian argument that the ends justify the means."

"How might we evaluate projects according to the design justice principles? One approach is outlined in the Design Justice Zine, no. 2. For any design project, we can ask three questions: Who participated in the design process? Who benefited from the design? And who was harmed by the design?"

"There are various versions of the argument that design justice in practice produces mediocre outputs. Among software development communities, for example, the phrase design by committee is often shorthand for a process that is assumed to produce designs that are “(a) ineffective, (b) inelegant and (c) not responsive to the core concerns.”undefined The implication is that shared decision making never works."

"First, does design justice require design by committee? The answer is simple: it does not. On the contrary, in a well-functioning design process, the design team recognizes and values the unique skillsets and experiences of each participant. The team frequently delegates particular kinds of work and particular kinds of decisions to skilled individuals and working groups."


Phew. What a book. Thanks to everyone who put up with a nightly flooding of your feed for the past month. It's early - only February - but I have a feeling that "Design Justice" by Sasha Costanza-Chock will be among the most important books I read in 2021.

I felt deeply uncomfortable exploring my own role as a cis, het, white male in a priveleged role within the world of design and tech. But I also very much enjoyed thinking about HOW things get built can do good.


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