Dynamics of power & participation: lessons from Cambodia and Thailand

Isaac Lyne, Istvan Rado

This chapter draws on two initiatives situated in Thailand and Cambodia, inspired by strength-based capacity building approaches known as ‘asset-based community development’ (ABCD) and ‘Appreciative inquiry’ (Ai). Our approach challenges western-centric conceptions of equality in participatory design and novelty in creative process. In Cambodia, a failed experiment with bamboo furniture led to the re-evaluation of welfare safety nets and sustainable social arrangements. In Thailand, an initiative revealed a multitude of capacities among Karen migrants that were considered as important by an economic development NGO, but also revealed that a high priority for Karen migrants themselves was the veneration of their culture, which renewed the conversation about development priorities. By discussing contexts in which real-world decisions are embedded, we offer designers and researchers insight into how local dynamics become articulated through capacity building. We seek to sharpen design discourse regarding hierarchies of knowledge and power, and the factors underlying the adoption or rejection of solutions by communities.

Suggested citation

Lyne, I. & Rado, I. (forthcoming). Dynamics of power & hierarchies: lessons from Cambodia and Thailand. In Y.Akama & J. Yee (Eds), Entanglements of designing social innovation in the Asia-Pacific. London: Routledge.