Creating Spaces for Collaboration in Community Co-design

Дата выхода / Published: 2021

Mirian Calvo and other authors

Полный список авторов: Madeleine Scalter, Mirian Calvo

Urgent societal challenges have led to unease in our socio-cultural interactions and the production systems that underpin our lives. To confront such challenges, collaboration stands out as an essential approach in accomplishing joint goals and producing new knowledge. It calls for interdisciplinary methodologies such as co-design, an approach capable of bridging multiple expertise. The core activities of co-design are based on the premise of collaboration and on developing creative social environments. Yet achieving collaboration through co-design is challenging as people need to understand each other, and develop trust and rapport.

We argue that ‘informal-mutual learning’ is central to building mutual understanding. This article explores how we create spaces for collaboration through co-design by examining the social environments supporting them. It examines the value of collaboration and its impact upon participants within an action research project conducted in Scotland. We identified Cultural-Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) as a suitable theoretical framework. It offers support for holistic inquiry into participation and learning. Its strength was in the attention that it pays to multi-dimensional human interactions within the social environment. This led to an understanding of the concepts of boundary-crossing and boundary space examined through a CHAT lens. The findings shed light on four designerly conditions supporting informal-mutual learning when engaged in collaboration during co-design situations: choreography and orchestration, aesthetics, playfulness, and quality and quantity of participation. The findings enable us to elaborate on the theorisation of boundary space, a theoretical space for the assemblage of multiple levels of expertise to achieve collaboration.


Mirian Calvo is a Lecturer in Participatory Architecture at the Lancaster Institute of Contemporary Arts (LICA), ImaginationLancaster, Lancaster University, UK – developing research within the Beyond Imagination Research Project. Her research interests draw a convergent path between the designing of spatial/physical conditions and the infrastructuring of social and material situations. This work supports social innovations and transformative agencies, with a focus on activating genuine collaboration. Her doctoral thesis explored the intrinsic relationship between informal-mutual learning and community-based co-design, focusing on how designers can identify and visualise informal learning processes. Mirian has also participated in several research projects including Leapfrog (httpp:// and as a co-design consultant for European non-profit organisations. Mirian is an interdisciplinary designer with both an academic and a professional background in participatory architecture, urban planning, design innovation, design ethnography and co-design.  

Dr Madeleine Sclater joined The Glasgow School of Art in 2013. Madeleine is widely published and is a regular speaker at conferences and events, both internationally and nationally. She was recently invited to deliver a guest lecture at the International Conference of Culture, Cognition, Biography and Learning, Pusan University South Korea (March 2014). Madeleine teaches on the MRes in Creative Practices Programme and the Doctoral Training Programme. Over the last 17 years, Madeleine has developed and maintained a strategic international profile in the field of Education, Art and Design Education and Technology Enhanced Learning. With a background in Fine Art (Painting) and digital media, she has pioneered collaborative methodologies for the development of distributed creative practice with particular focus on the use of technology to support learning within art and design education. Her recent research has explored the use of virtual platforms, such as second life, to facilitate the development of collaborative creative practices involving the co-design of virtual methodologies between researchers and participants. In this work she has developed methodologies to develop and support research communities, the sharing and reconstruction of personal narratives, and the development of young people’s voices through photography and film-making.  



Publication is published under ‘open access’ or under the author’s permission and copyright of the work belongs to the author. 

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