Debate about participatory design (PD) has focussed considerably upon process. Factors such as facilitation skills and commitment to a participatory ethos have been highlighted as factors mediating stakeholder engagement. Discussion has been driven overwhelmingly by experience of PD in the global North with citizens who enjoy full rights. This article considers engagement with encamped refugees in the global South. Here context has a significant impact upon engagement. Drawing on a four-year research project concerning shelter design we discuss dimensions of context that bear particularly upon PD efforts. As we illustrate, despite contextual constraint, it is possible to produce valuable knowledge about design together with residents. Moreover, attention to context can help achieve a more nuanced approach to the evaluation of PD initiatives.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101107
Number of pages21
JournalDesign Studies
Early online date11 Apr 2022
Publication statusPublished - 31 May 2022


  • human factors
  • humanitarianism
  • interdisciplinarity
  • participatory design
  • research methods

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Architecture
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • General Engineering
  • General Social Sciences
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Artificial Intelligence


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