Participatory Development | Marketing Practices

When you are developing a new program, or even just renaming an office to increase its visibility, you should involve students.

Participatory development is a process that involves the eventual user in the formation of a product, like an app, book or class. For example, asking color-blind users to choose the color palette of your PowerPoint. However, participatory design is not just about accessibility but about receiving input from a broad range of experiences.

To solve a problem, you need to be aware of the problem. Involving diverse perspectives ensures that the issues are understood and that diverse solutions are pursued. It is necessary to involve students in your processes to ensure your conclusions satisfy their needs.

What Participatory Development Is Not

Participatory design is not feedback.
Involve students from the beginning to the end of your process. Only soliciting reactions excludes students from most of development. However, as one step of many, asking for feedback is important.

Participatory design is not market research.
Allowing students to define the issue is an important step in the participatory design process. Yet students should also be involved in the proposal and evaluation of solutions.

Participatory design is not a critique.
Students should not simply review your ideas, but serve as collaborative decision makers during the project. However, this should not mean passing work off to the student.

Participatory design is not free labor.
Students are included not just because their perspective benefits your projects but because inclusion empowers students. Ultimately, the purpose is to best meet students’ needs, not to use students to advance your ends.

Participatory design is not universal.
There are many projects that do not require or may appropriately exclude students. For example, individual student disciplinary actions or employee benefits discussions.

When to Involve Students

When you are meeting students’ needs.
Students know what they need. If you are deciding on menus, amenities, etc. they should be offered a place at the table.

When your project impacts students.
For example, the relocation of an office. Students will advocate for services relevant to their daily living, like dining halls, to be located centrally. A student-oriented campus may look very different than a campus segmented by organizational structure.

Whenever broad representation is required.
If your committee involves all levels of faculty and staff, it should have a compelling reason to exclude students.