Participation: who gets together when, what they do together, and how that adds up over time to something that matters

Participation is strategic. In this series of three articles, Marc Rettig helps us learn to treat it as such.

Marc describes what it means for participation to be strategic to our work, and why workshops alone are participatory “weak tea.” He then describes a simple language for sketching participation strategies. When we make our plans visible, we can better imagine them, collaborate on them, and manage them.

Participation is strategic when it bridges boundaries and marries differences. Work that matters requires both.
Participation is strategic when it makes room for people to combine their gifts and align them toward a purpose that kindles their coals.
Participation is strategic when it allows us to embrace complexity, engaging many points of view as a way to see and create inside complex situations.

How can we move beyond one-off workshops whose results go stale after a few weeks? We can learn to design for participation. And in service to that learning and that work, we could use a straightforward way to visualize our participation strategy.

Read Part 1 on
Participation might seem abstract, but what it stands for is not: people having conversations, making stuff together, planning, arguing, changing their mind, sharing meals, and generally doing what they do together over time in a way that moves them all forward.

We need a way to get all that onto the wall where we can work with it.

Read Part 2 on
How can we include the phases of the creative process in our visual participation strategy? Iteration? Working in different contexts? How might we extend Sam Kaner’s visual language to include personal and social outcomes?
Read Part 3 on

Want to talk about this stuff?

In late September, we’ll host an informal online conversation about the topics discussed in this series of articles. If you want to be notified when we have the details, register your interest here: