Collective and democratic creativity : participatory research and design

Kin Wai Michael Siu, Y.C.J. Kwok

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic research


A research project was carried out to generate solutions for improving three children and youth integrated services centres in Hong Kong. The centres have been operated by a non-government organisation: The Boys' and Girls' Clubs Association of Hong Kong. Based on the research findings, the members of the design team of the Research Group on Urban Space and Culture worked with the organisation to investigate the needs of the centres, and to redesign and carry out renovations of them. Instead of only involving the researchers and designers in the project as is the conventional practice, we adopted participatory research methods. We invited the "users" of the centres to voice their opinions and aspirations. The research methods included questionnaires, observations, interviews, "photovoice", and design drawing workshops. The use of participatory action research in such an organised way to collect data for the designing of children and youth integrated services centres was a new step for Hong Kong. The result of the research and design efforts received very encouraging and satisfactory comments from government officials, the social welfare sectors, design professionals and the users of the centre. Most importantly, the project has aroused the awareness of the public, and has led the government, nongovernment organisations and professionals to consider the importance of participatory research and design. This paper first gives an overview of the project and illustrates the needs and aspirations of the different types of users of the centres. It discusses the rationale behind and the importance of allowing users to participate in research, and the advantages and limitations of this kind of user participation. It then argues that creativity lies not only in the imagination of designers, but is more related to the participation of the users. Only through such participation can designs meet the actually needs, preferences and aspirations of the users.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11-27
Number of pages17
JournalKorean journal of thinking and problem solving
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2004


  • Participatory research and design
  • Creativity
  • User


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