Civic Media Collaborative Design Studio 2016: Co-ops


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The Civic Media: Collaborative Design Studio (Co-Design Studio:, based at MIT and working in collaboration with partners in multiple locations, generates civic media projects that are grounded in real-world community needs. We partner with community-based organizations, and use co-design and lean startup methods for project ideation, design, prototyping, testing, launch, and stewardship. In 2016, our partners will be worker-owned cooperatives.

TL;DR: We are running a project-based course in co-design with worker coops from February to May 2016 at MIT, and we’re planning to organize a 1-3 day event (DiscoTech/hackathon/design jam with cooperatives) to take place in multiple locations in the Spring of 2016. In the future, we’d like to explore an open, distributed, parallel courses model (like Check out the draft syllabus, here. More info follows; let us know if you’d like to collaborate! @schock /, or sign up for updates here: 

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What is the Co-Design Studio?

The Civic Media Co-Design Studio at MIT works to create civic media projects grounded in real-world community needs. We partner with community-based organizations and use co-design and lean startup methods for project ideation, design, prototyping, testing, launch, and stewardship.

Why Worker Cooperatives?

There’s growing interest in worker cooperatives as a powerful form of re-organizing the economy. If we’re going to ‘disrupt’ every sector with apps, why replace today’s crappy boss with another crappy boss tomorrow? Let’s disrupt the whole model and build a stronger, more democratic, more just, and more sustainable economy! “Worker cooperatives build community wealth and help make a democratic economy real,” since workers have a direct role in decision-making and a share of all profits. For more info, see and

Who are you?

The Co-Design Studio is organized by Sasha Costanza-Chock, Associate Professor of Civic Media at MIT and worker/owner at Research Action Design ( This year Evan Henshaw-Plath will work with us to share lean UX and lean startup methods. Additional resource partners may include, MIT CoLab, and more.

Who are partner organizations?

TBD. Likely candidates include cooperatives of home health aides, bicycle delivery, and gardening, among others.

What will you be doing?

  1. A course with Design teams making and launching projects

  2. A DiscoTech/hackathon/design jam

  3. (Possibly) launch a lean co-op startup incubator!

When is it happening?

We’ll kick it off in February 2016, and see how long it lasts!

Where is it?

We’ll be running a course at the MIT Media Lab. We’re hoping that others will run similar courses in parallel. We’ll also be organizing and promoting a DiscoTech/hackathon/design jam that will take place at multiple locations around the world. For updates see

What will happen to the projects you make?

They’ll be owned by the cooperatives we partner with, and also released as Free Software and Creative Commons content.

How can I get involved?

That depends on who you are and how much time/energy/resources you want to commit!

  • Join the co-design studio course during the Spring semester at MIT

  • Run your own co-design studio with worker-owned cooperatives! (We’ll provide some resource materials based on our own process that you can use or remix as you see fit, and we’ll host video check-ins for teams that are working in different locations).

  • Volunteer with one of the codesign studio design teams

  • Attend (or organize!) a DiscoTech, Hackathon, or Design Jam focused on worker-owned cooperatives (dates TBD).

  • Sponsor us!

Co-Design: Cooperatives! Preparing for the Spring 2016 Co-Design Studio.

Worker Owned Cooperative logo

Worker-Owned Cooperatives FTW!

We’re pleased to announce that in the Spring of 2016, the Co-Design Studio will be partnering with worker-owned cooperatives in low-wage sectors. We haven’t finalized partners yet, but most likely we will collaborate with cooperatives of home health aides, gardeners, and possibly a bicycle delivery coop.

Stay tuned, more soon! In the meantime, you can learn more from the U.S. Federation of Worker-Owned Cooperatives.


Civic Media Codesign Studio: Project Partner Pitches

Today the potential project partners for the fall 2013 civic media: collaborative design studio came by to present a little bit about the work they do and the possible projects they’d like to team up on. Here’s a summary of the presentations – you can see that they are all doing incredible work, and we’re very excited to have the chance to collaborate with them.

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Preparing for the Fall 2013 Civic Media Codesign Studio

Image by Nina Bianchi

I’m excited to announce that the Civic Media: Codesign Studio course will be held again during the Fall Semester in 2013. We’ve received support from the MIT Teaching and Learning Fund to increase the number of students who can join and the number of community partners we can work with. Please spread the word, and look for announcements soon about who the partners will be. You can also check out the drafting space for the new version of the course syllabus, here: Hope to see you in September!

Register now for Civic Media: Collaborative Design Studio, Spring 2013!

I’m excited to announce that Dr. Federico Casalegno, director of the Mobile Experience Lab, will be teaching the Civic Media Codesign Studio course during the Spring Semester of 2013. Becky Hurwitz, Community Organizer and Codesign Facilitator at the Center for Civic Media, will join him as course TA.  This year, the course will have a special emphasis on how to plan, execute, document, and follow-up on inclusive hackathons in community spaces.

From the short course description:

Project-based studio focusing on collaborative design of civic media provides a service-learning opportunity for students interested in working with community organizations. Multidisciplinary teams create civic media projects based on real-world community needs. Covers co-design methods and best practices to include the user community in iterative stages of project ideation, design, implementation, testing, and evaluation. Students taking graduate version complete additional assignments. Limited to 16.

The subject listing is here: Sign up now, this is going to be amazing!

Press Pass, Personas, and the Past

Mothers for Justice and Equality PSA, by PressPassTV

Press Pass

During last Friday’s Codesign Studio, we had two visitors and a hands-on workshop. Notes from the two presenters are available on this etherpad, but I’ll provide short summaries here.

First, Cara Lisa Berg Powers from Press Pass TV gave us an overview of the work that they do to link youth media and community organizing. The Center for Civic Media has collaborated with Press Pass TV before, on the Aago project, which Rogelio has been a part of. Currently, they’re gearing up to launch a campaign called Respect In rePorting (RIP), designed to shift the ways that journalists cover youth violence. They’re excited by the possibilities of reworking a news remix tool we’ve been developing, as an engaging way to bring the RIP campaign into high school classrooms. Later, Cara emailed me the following recap:

*We would love to work with your team to create a branded version of the
news hacking tool for the Respect in Reporting Campaign

*We could definitely use a student interested in working with us on our
website and social media strategy

*Please let us know if there's anything we can do to be supportive of
documenting the Aago project



Next, J. Nathan Matias talked to us about his own trajectory as both a developer and humanist, his background working with startups that mine vast amounts of user data to generate useful tools, and his work with the Ministry of Stories. Last semester in my Intro to Civic Media class, Nathan developed a timeline of co-design in context, and we talked a little bit about that. However, the conversation mostly focused on design personas. I don’t have time to do justice to the discussion, but we did come up with the interesting idea of “Social Justice Personas.” As Nathan tweets:

@ricaroseroque a strong critique against personas is that they take people out of the process. Can we use personas for social justice? How?

Social Justice Personas in the context of technology design might mean something like ‘design personas based on ideal-type users who are social justice activists,’ or it might mean ‘design personas that are developed through a process that is accountable to social justice values’ – or perhaps both. For example, under the former approach designers might specifically create personas for activists from social movement communities or in particular contexts – under open or repressive regimes, or with high or low levels of technology access or literacies. Under the latter approach, designers might meet with community members not just once, to extract information and generate design personas (personas are often created from interview notes), but also to share the design personas back to the community as a kind of accountability measure or reality check.

The Past

During the last hour, we shifted to a hands-on collaborative timeline exercise. We drew both from the work that Nathan shared with us and from workshops developed by Project South. Project South has been around for over two decades, organizing for social, racial, and economic justice among grassroots groups in the U.S. South and beyond. They focus on bottom-up movement building and popular education; one of their techniques involves the development of contextual timelines that link movement history with political history and economic history, as well as with individual experience. We employed this strategy and produced a timeline that tracks ideas, geopolitical events, technologies, and social movements, then added key events from our own lives:

When we went around the room to discuss the timeline, almost without exception each person described some kind of personal connection to the events they added. This was true whether the event was in the distant past, or more recent. At the end we stepped back to consider contexts in which this workshop might be useful, or not, in a collaborative design process. Adding the personal events (birth, politicization, migration, family, and so on) provides a space for workshop participants to locate themselves within the arc of intersecting historical forces while simultaneously learning more about one another and building community. An emphasis on the technology timeline might in some cases help participants focus on how past technology design processes may or may not have included their community, get excited about the idea of playing a part in design, think about how technological change is linked to other historical forces, or simply build trust.



First meeting of the codesign studio class

After the first half of the class, which was taken up by a course overview, a round of introductions, and a discussion of logistics, we created a collaborative drawing of ‘design:’

We did one round of drawing, then stopped to discuss what each person created, then did a second round based on adding elements we thought were missing.

Keywords from the first explanation stage: cooperative learning, conversation (+1), foundational support, creating object, hypodermic needle, extraction, inspiration, creative commons, dialoge, local community, disconnect, no time, synthesis, peer production, question/need, commons, organic process, inferences, conflict, pedagogy.

Keywords from the second stage: sabotage, big picture, vision, capital, perfect/good, different processes, phases, project evolution, consensus, space & time, typology, time +1, environmental resources, influence, community access, food, governance, constraints (law, social norms), emerging structure, structural forces & constraints.