Designing a Participatory Workshop: Creating Space to Invent Friendships

Today, I started brainstorming about how to put together a participatory workshop that will enable everyday people to get involved in the design of their private and public spaces, without fear of inadequacy or pressure to look, nor act the way a designer or ‘artist is perceived to.

 

In context, I had been having a really low day; struggling with a personal grievance that held me back from being able to compose a narrative as to how the event should be composed. Some questions that plagued me were: How long should it be, how many people should I have at any one time, what things will they actually do, and how will I or my team facilitate it? Instead, my thoughts organised around what do people at my event really want to feel, why are they here, and what lead them to make that choice to share their time with mine and others?

 

There is nothing better then feeling like you’ve made a friend, not an acquaintance, but someone you feel like you could talk to about anything for the coming years of your life. At this event, this is what shines to me as important. “Positive human relationships are essential to healthy lives”. Sociologist Allan (1989) also tells us that friendships help sustain our social identity, and provide the resource to deal with life’s challenges. But, how do you create an environment that fosters friendships and connectivity, how do we invent friendships?

 

I do not propose to know the answer, but I do believe there are some considerations to be factored:

 

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1. Idea Sharing

 

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Idea Sharing is at the core of relationship building. We use ideas to build trust with other individuals in society, and in so, look to create relationships where we feel protected, adhering to our need for security, and coinciding, aligning with our desire to increase our social capacity/ agency, to enable activity.

 

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2. Proximity

 

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Proximity considered how the dynamics of the considered parties are effected by the various types of proximity; physical proximity vs. digital proximity and their effect on our tendencies to form meaningful connections. Within my study of ‘Proximity’ has found proximity act in a polarising manner; whereby proximity may create for individuals either a sense of convergence, or onset the feelings of envy and competition.

 

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3. Competence & Confidence

 

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Competence is the ability to do something successfully or efficiently. I believe this is an output as consequence of our social ‘idea sharing’ journey in relation to displaying our skills and ability in order to make others aware of our capacity to enable activity. In comparison, I believe ‘Confidence’ is a result/ output of ‘idea sharing’, in relation to desires, fears, passions and ambitions. In this, Confidence adheres to our need for or ability to provide protection, emotional/ social security and trust.

 

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4. Familiarity

 

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Familiarity describes how we relate to the individuals that we either share proximity with or choose to interact with. You can imagine this as when you are introduced into a new setting, does you already know some of the other people from other settings? This familiarity is defined by social markers, including but not limited to age, cultural backgrounds, interests, abilities and shared history. My understanding is that ‘Familiarity’ is built through multiple short instances of time, repeated in ritual over a long period of time. In developing familiarity it is important to consider how we ensure full group cohesion vs isolation or the formation of cliques. We must also explore further how familiarity may support or deter the formation and diversity of friendships and social bonds within a group.

 

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5. Play

 

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This may sound cheesy, but we all want to have fun in one way or another. “Play represents the spiritual freedom from the societal frameworks which leave us rigid or simply ticking boxes”. When we Play we exercise the universal language of childhood; the part of the human psyche that regardless of age yearns for joy, energy and connection. Through play we can develop friendships, by both emancipating and exploiting what I believe to be our two core ideals; security and agency.

 

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In the coming weeks I will be exploring each one of these facets in detail, attempting to understand how each one feeds into inventing friendships, and how each one can be applied to participatory workshop design.

 

Look out for what is to follow and please leave your comments in the section below, and/ or share them with me on twitter and other social media.

 

Thanks

Andre D. N. Reid

Founder of KIONDO

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