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Review of participatory design approaches and when to use each approach




EC: Edgerton Center

Faculty Supervisor:

Kendra Leith

Faculty email:


Apply by:

September 30, 2020


Megha Hegde: mhegde@mit.edu

Project Description

D-Lab has documented initial hypotheses about which type of participatory design (user-centered, co-design, and user generated) to use when and why. However, the team is interested in conducting a more in-depth study on the different types of participatory design and the factors that contribute to choosing one approach over another. The UROP would develop an evidence base to create a cross-comparison of the different types of participatory design approaches that exist. The UROP would begin by conducting a literature review on the approaches to participatory design, when organizations use each approach, and what factors contribute to that decision. In addition, the student may support the research team to conduct interviews with organizations using each approach. Outputs will include an annotated bibliography and presentation on findings from the literature and/or interviews. This research will help inform the field on which approaches are most applicable given the goals of the project and the context. Key Research Questions: • Which types of participatory design approaches do different organizations use? • When do they use each approach and why? • What factors contribute to that decision? Interested candidates should email Megha Hegde (mhegde@mit.edu) and Kendra Leith (kleith@mit.edu) with a resume and brief explanation of why they are interested in this project and describe any relevant previous experience. Compensation: This a paid UROP opportunity at $13/hour with an expectation that the student will spend approximately 140 hours on the project over the course of the semester (10 hours per week for up to 14 weeks). About D-Lab: MIT D-Lab works with people around the world to develop and advance collaborative approaches and practical solutions to global poverty challenges. The mission is pursued through our academics program of more than 20 MIT classes and student research and fieldwork opportunities; our research groups spanning a variety of sectors and approaches; and a group of participatory innovation programs we call innovation practice. D-Lab applies a variety of participatory design approaches to develop solutions including user-centered design (for), co-design (with), and user generated design (by).


Applicants should have an interest in international development and design. Students should have a background in social science research and experience conducting literature reviews as well as experience and/or training in conducting interviews.