Using the power of participation to make global challenges more achievable and meaningful in people’s daily lives.

This site is a working hypothesis and iterative toolkit for connecting people’s individual needs with the global scale of development challenges. Its mission of ‘participation’ is the result of asking the question:

“How might we envision a world that enables equitable forms of co-creation that contribute to emerging, dynamic and interrelated patterns of sustainable urban life?”

While individuals have the potential to significantly contribute to long-term environmental sustainability by adopting pro-environmental behaviour patterns, there are a multitude of internal and external factors that can play a considerable role. Internal factors include personal capabilities, attitudinal factors, as well as habits and routines. External factors include surrounding contexts, infrastructure, political structures, socio-cultural and economic issues. To understand how these factors affect each other and their interdependencies, they should be considered as a system.

Exploring patterns of participation – from low-stakes social interaction to formal activities towards sustainable impact — this site features key termsconcepts and tools related to both people-centred and global-scale processes for collaborative sense-making and problem-solving.

Seemingly small features of social, physical and informational conditions can affect people’s behaviours considerably. “Choice architecture – both good and bad – is pervasive and unavoidable, and it greatly affects our decisions” (Nudge, 2008). Furthermore, emerging research around ‘Installation theory’ suggests that, “societies funnel their members into specific, expectable behaviours with local ‘installations’”, that “not only channel behaviour” but that are also “essential in the reproduction of society and culture” (Lahlou, 2017). Can cities provide the social, physical, and informational conditions (or ‘installations’) for a cultural shift towards sustainability – while principally avoiding coercion, and rather upholding freedom of choice for individuals in their patterns of behaviour?

This site explores the actions and conditions of participation at five magnitudes:

Congregate with people to show up and exchange ideas, work towards consensus, build a resilience for difference, understand problems, and increase the approachability of challenges.

  • Related design discipline: Interaction/interface Design — increase approachability of knowledge and expertise.
  • Related social/physical condition: Approachable

Aggregate insight, terms and concepts to increase their accessibility for people.

  • Related design discipline: Platform Design — increase accessibility of collaborative workflows and methods via technological, digital and web-based systems.
  • Related social/physical condition: Accessible
Advocate people’s ideas, projects and activities that contribute towards the legibility of shared goals.

  • Related design discipline: Information Design — increasing legibility of research, analysis, synthesis and presentation in ways that communicates the appropriate picture and story.
  • Related social/physical condition: Legible
Facilitate the planning and development processes for supporting and people’s tangibility for satisfying their own needs.

  • Related design discipline: Engagement Design — increasing tangibility of workshop planning and facilitation that contribute to participatory learning for cities and citizens.
  • Related social/physical condition: Tangible
Co-create with people on shared purposes, challenges, and projects for sustainability.

  • Related design discipline: Strategic & Collaborative Planning — increasing sustainability of social, environmental and commercial impact for life.
  • Related social/physical condition: Sustainable

Human-scale Challenges

This ‘working hypothesis and iterative toolkit’ is intended to contribute to Manfred Max-Neef’s taxonomy of fundamental human needs by exploring qualitiesobjects, activities and settings of participation. Max-Neef’s theory postulates that the ways that an individual satisfies their needs operate at multiple interdependent levels at once, as opposed to a linear or hierarchical ascension.

City-scale Challenges

This site also applies the lens of human-scale development at different magnitudes of society from individuals, to coordinated groups of people, through to broader organisations and institutions — and ultimately — society at large.

The Physical and Contextual Challenge

City challenges are complex, large and ambiguous. However, these challenges are increasingly relating to information as well as physical space. Along with physical and informational challenges, cities must also — critically — meet the needs and expectations of their multiple stakeholders of whom range from organisations, producers, groups of users, to individuals in civil society.

The System Challenge

In order to respond to these physical, informational and contextual challenges, we must identify the multiple and interdependent dimensions involved in producing, distributing, receiving, and maintaining these solutions. Ultimately, it is the rigorously-defined and validated methodologies that are at the heart of analysing and synthesising city challenges in an informed and effective manner.

The Potency Challenge

Including people in a way that addresses all five magnitudes of participation (approachability, accessibility, clarity, tangibility, sustainability) ensures that the insights and opportunities make the biggest impact on urban development.



Reference to urban systems theory are made throughout and system dynamics models are used for making sense of and illustrating these complex and interrelated social systems.



This research on ‘patterns of participation’ began in 2011, following exposure to the Introduction to Strategic Sustainable Development, provided by the Blekinge Institute of Technology and the affiliated non-profit, non-governmental organisation, The Natural Step.



The first public expression of this research on ‘patterns of participation’ was read at the League of Pragmatic Optimists’ Lab #7 event, in London on 29/11/2016. Read the aspirational letter to the future called Grass Roots with Digital Shoots on