Community-based co-design in Okomakuara – A contribution to ‘Design in the wild’

PDC 2014 Workshop: 4th of October 2014 8h30-16h30

Contact: Gereon Kapuire


Although the wider motivation and principles of Participatory Design (PD) are universal its concepts and techniques are highly contextual. Community-based co-design is a variation of PD, where processes are negotiated within the interaction. Thus this workshop gives participants the opportunity to validate their own conceptualisations, techniques in-situ application against a selected Herero community’s evaluation. Besides a day of new impressions and thoughts we intend to record the discussions and present a shortened video at the conference.



The objective to hold such a workshop is to provide a firsthand opportunity to a number of participants to discuss principals of PD and to explore methods with a rural community in Namibia. A secondary motivation is to create a platform to share experiences and best practices among participants on the application and conceptual adaptations of PD values and techniques within a community context. Moreover a currently under-represented topic of discussion is a broader understanding of how communities perceive and benefit from participatory design other than the product designed.



The location of the workshop will be in Okomakuara, a village in the Ovitoto communal area, which is situated in OMATAKO CONSTITUENCY in OTJOZONDJUPA region. It is approximately 60 km/ 1hour drive away from the capital city Windhoek. The involved participants will be a selected group of five to ten community members from Okomakuara, which comprises of 9 homesteads whereby are all engaged in cattle farming. The village consists of a community that has the will to grow and a will to gain more knowledge through different channels or mediums. The surrounding area, Ovitoto, is having approximately 2500 people all of them being cattle farmers. The majority of the population is OTJIHERERO speaking communities.



The workshop will run over a full day. We will provide transport from the conference venue departing at 8h30 and returning at approximately 16h30. Lunch will be cooked and served by community members.

The following activities are planned:

1. Greeting the community members. Introduction by the organizers of the workshop purpose and format. Introduction of community and individual participants.

2. Discussion on principles and methods of participatory design within a community context with selected examples, scenarios, showcases or case studies from the participants and the community members.

3. Introduction of the community context and the specific technology or service desired. Participants will be taken around for a walk.

4. Participants to apply their techniques and resources to the setup of the specified challenge of the Okomakuara community.

5. Design outcome, process and future community engagement discussed with participants.


How to participate

Participants are accepted on the basis of their position paper. Any interested researcher or practitioner who wishes to participate in the workshop must submit a 2-4 page position paper comprising of 3 parts. The first part should describe the participant’s prior experience in the field of community-based co-design or if the participant has no experience a strong motivation should be written on why she/he would like to participate. The second part must address issues such as participants’ rewards, incentives, or benefit sharing, protocol violations, dispute resolutions, timing, control, etc in the context of participatory design with communities. The last part will suggest possible methods and techniques to be deployed on the workshop day. 10 participants will be selected by all organizers based on a rating of their position paper from a community and academic perspective.



This workshop will allow researchers to carry out research activities in situ as an exposition of practical knowledge that is to be shared not only amongst avid academics, but also evaluated within a living community setup. Our goal is to provide the most practical environment possible to encourage free and open discourse, and perhaps even a changing of minds in the way in which we perceive things. Designing in the wild is targeted at researchers designing and evaluating potentially new technology in the users’ environment rather than designing to accommodate existing practices. From this workshop further developments in teaching community-based co-design can be derived.Aim is to encourage free thinking and open discourse using designing and evaluating encompassing research in the wild methods.


Expected outcomes

All interactions will be recorded e.g. video, photo, observation notes for further processing. At PDC the observations could be shared in form of a short video and/or power point presentation.

The workshop will gather information on:

  • Reflection on the perception of the community on the case studies presented.
  • Whether the concepts and technologies are acceptable and of value to the community.
  • Summary of experiences and learning, discussions and findings from the workshop.
  • Network platform set up to link the participants for further investigations in the study.

Organizers of this workshop

The organizers of the workshop are involved in community projects, participatory design as well as industry. The workshop facilitator is Gereon Koch Kapuire who is a lecturer at the Polytechnic of Namibia in the Department of Computer Science with six years of community-based co-design facilitation experience.Heike Winschiers-Theophilus is a Director at the Polytechnic of Namibia in the Department of Computer Science who has been engaged with community-based co-design for over six years.McAlbert Katjivirue is a senior software developer at Green Enterprise Solutions (Pty) Lt. The Ovitoto community members are his direct relatives and thus Mr Katjivirue is the entry point to the community.Shilumbe Chivuno-Kuria and Dott. Colin Stanley are lecturers at the Polytechnic of Namibia in the Department of Computer Science who have been part of the community-based co-design projects since their inception. Ernest Tjitendero is a Former Director of Budget Control of Ministry of Finance, now retired and serves as a consultant and a full time farmer in Ovitoto. Mr Tjitendero is an active community member who will be organizing the community members for the workshop. Kasper Rodil is a Ph.D fellow at Aalborg University (Denmark) and has been engaged in preservation of indigenous knowledge through digital technologies and particpatory design since 2010.

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