Collaborative, design-based democracy
In the face of a democracy in crisis, in all its forms, and convinced that democracy’s core principles are more valid today than ever, we propose a discussion around the following question: Can the experiences of participatory design in general, and the ones of design for social innovation in particular, help to update and upgrade the ideas and practices of democracy (and, specifically, those of participative democracy)?
In order to start this discussion a scenario is proposed, i.e. a scenario of a collaborative, design-based democracy.
The idea is to extend the definition of democracy by considering its ‘designing‘ dimension: democracy as a hybrid, physical and digital space, equipped to offer people an increased possibility to meet, to start conversations, to conceive and collaboratively enhance their projects. That is, a democracy that not only gives people the freedom to meet and collaboratively design their lives and their world, but that also has to be seen as a space equipped to give these conversations and co-design processes a better chance of concrete results.
This design-based collaborative democracy clashes with the idea of a direct democracy online: an idea which, in using the appeal of digital technology and social media, proposes a dangerous simplification of reality if pursued unilaterally, reducing choices relating to the public good to a sort of continual plebiscite in which everyone is invited to express his/her individual opinion, without the effort of creating shared opinions and mediating between different opinions.
In contrast to this drift towards plebiscitary democracy, design-based democracy enriches the general idea of democracy with a new dimension: one which, when added to representative democracy, feeds it with meaningful conversations. It is democracy intended as a space of possibilities in which the (often long and difficult) construction of shared ideas and practices takes place. In turn, precisely because they emerge through dialogue, and the effort it involves, these ideas and practices may lead to results that are more coherent with the irreducible complexity of the world.

Ezio Manzini

DESIS Network

Bucine (AR), Italy

Fields of Action
It sets a stage on which diverse actors can come together and democratically collaborate in shaping their present and future world. It engages diverse people and publics in co-design and co-production processes concerning different aspects of their everyday life.
It refers to all the design initiatives that are particularly responsive to the goals of democracy. It may deal with the provision of basic human rights (such as access to food, shelter, health care, and education) and, more in general, with the transition towards a more resilient, fair and sustainable society.



Democrazia Partecipativa

Innovazione Sociale