Power of Design Agency in Building and Sustaining Collaboration: Two Cases in São Paulo

Janaina T. Barbosa, Heather Wiltse, João A. Mota


Design research has considered the power of collaboration in terms of the politics of artefacts, services and practices to build or to support publics. Working within a framework of “commons” as continuing processes of negotiation in collaboration, this study asks: How can design skills and agency build up collaborative capacities in urban communities for sustained processes of social innovation? This qualitative research explores two case studies in Brazil, where design agency is identified in social practices carried out by both designers and non-designers. Three key processes involved in designing collaboration were identified: experimenting, disrupting and sustaining. This work concluded that design skills facilitate the distribution of power to build collaboration through co-production of common spaces. This investigation contributes to the ongoing discussion of design and “infrastructuring,” identifying the power of design agency in building and sustaining collaboration in a complex social landscape of an emerging city.

Full Text: