Funded by the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland, Social Studios is a research project exploring formal decision-making processes and concepts of empowerment through participatory design. With an emphasis on the Scottish Approach to Policymaking, Social Studios examines the role design research plays in enabling policy intentions to be reimagined and realised in practice with communities towards enhancing democratic governance and equitable participation.

The research focuses on the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act (2015) and the introduction of ‘Participation Requests’ as a way for communities to enter into dialogue with public authorities about local issues and services on their terms and to request that a collaborative process is established to bring about positive change. Through participatory Social Studios workshops, visual, reflective, and generative methods will be used to elicit communities’ experiences of being involved in Participation Requests, and to co-design a series of tools that address key challenges and opportunities. Forming a Participation Portfolio, these tools will be shared across Scotland to test how they can be adapted and scaled to address diverse local issues and contexts, enhance broader national engagement with Participation Requests, and equip people to drive action in their communities.

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Staff associated with the project

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