Design for Democracy

Aslak Sødal 17368 assignsubmission file SKjera Tønsberg Map Final web

(Skjer'a Tønsberg Aslak Sødal 2016)

Design for Democracy is an education-based research program that started in the fall of 2016, but there were several projects that predated it.

The aim of the project is to develop the next generation of Design for Democracy. We think developing democracy is about practice and culturing rather than about theory. In short, it is about design. Design can play a crucial role in the development of the next generation of democracy.

Here is the link to the democracy files, a collection of resources regarding Design for Democracy.


Want to study Design for Democracy?


Design for Democracy is not new and we think we need to build on the existing work. But this needs to be developed further. Victor Margolin has been important in maintaining the agenda and provides an excellent overview in this lecture from 2012.


Victor Margolin: Democracy and Design in a Troubled World


The research project is in its initial phases based on the explorative research by design of the master students at AHO. The project is based on master studio courses, designed as education based research, in its built up phase. 

A larger dialogue was initiated with the 2017 RSD6 (Relating Systems Thinking and Design 6) Symposium at AHO 18th to 20th October  Read more here: >>>>>

Also we are contributing to the DEMOCRACY AND DESIGN PLATFORM initiative.

Read more about news, information, links and projects in the blog below. Any comments or initiatives for collaboration are welcome.


Advisory Council


Harold Nelson

Benedicte Wildhagen, Norwegian Design Council ( 





Democracy "Gigamapped"

This looks very much like Gigamapping.

Explaining forms of democracy

Call for Action

Open Letter to the Design Community: Stand up for Democracy

Ezio Manzini and Victor Margolin

IMG 4771


Read more about our course and R&D on Design for Democracy here  >>>>>

Design for Democracy, Course Description

Systems Oriented Design: “Design for Democracy “

Scope: 24 ETCS

Institute for Design

Oslo School of Architecture and Design


Do you want to take this course?

Please see for application.

The course runs autumn 2017. Most likely it will be running again autumn 2018.

Requirements: You need to have a bachelor in design or architecture or similar education that will be accepted by the Oslo School of Architecture. You can either join this course as an exchange student or apply for the master studies at AHO. Please contact the AHO study administration 

The Design for democracy course is part of the Institute of Design.

We are accepting students from all institutes to this course


Course Description

This course description is based on the 2016 Design for Democracy Studio and future studio courses might differ.

Language: The course is taught in English

Professor in charge: Birger Sevaldson / Linda Blaasvær

Prerequisites: Bachelor degree or equivalent in design or architecture

Recommended previous knowledge: Completed first year of master level education




Alfred Clatworthy Holmen

This project is a bout "Gjestebud" a concept for involvement tested in several municipalities in Norway. It involves citicen who get a discussion challenge from the municipalities. Then they invite friends and neigbours to discuss the issue. Gjestebud is a method for involving citizens into municipal processes. 


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Final Report 


Design for Democracy Tønsberg Seminar

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19th April We were arranging a seminar as a follow up for the municipality of Tønsberg. About 25 busy staff attended the seminar which we found wonderful. In the middle sits Cathrine Heisholt who has been following the project closely and Geir Viksand, director (Rådmann) of Tønsberg Municipality.


Melina presenting in Tønsberg

Melina Hozhabri presenting her project on empathy to the audience.

After her Simon Sandovall presented his project "A Bridge Between People".

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Alfred Clatworthy Holmen from Designit participated. He also presented two earlier projects he did as a student with Svelvik Municipality. >>>>>

After him Linda Blaasvær presented Marie Løkens project Folketråkk. And Birger Sevaldson presented Christopher Pearsell-Ross' project Future Fest.

The feedback from the audience was that this was highly relevant and interesting. After the presentations we had a short workshop for generating ideas for participation and democracy.

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Melina facilitating one of the workshops

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The workshops though short and superficial because of the time-frame generated eager discussions and participations. Hopefully it contributes to trigger a process. We realize that this is work with a long horizon and that there are many issues to relate to and other discussion and ways of democracy to develop in the future.

We intend to work on with Tønsberg since both parts have now reached a bit further in knowledge and experience since we started.

Thanks to all the presenters and to Tønsberg Municipality!

The Democracy Files

The Democracy Files is a resource of collected articles about democracy seen from the perspectives of us as designers. It does not claim to be a collection of fullfilling texts judged from the view of lets say political science. The files are under construction and we hope to be able to sort the sources in a way that makes them especially useful for people engaged in design for democracy.

The collection is put together by Harold Nelson and Birger Sevaldson with input from others. Please help with collecting relevant and important texts by sending them to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

If you have contributions and comments we are more than happy to receive them.


(According to Ezio Manzini based on Victor Margolin)


1) Design of democracy:

It addresses the structural elements that function as frames and regulators of human action in a democratic system. It focuses on institutions (as: branches of government, agencies, bureaus, courts, and offices) and procedures (such as: laws, regulations, rules, and protocols).

2) Design for democracy:

it increases the opportunities for citizens to participate in deliberative processes. It focuses on transparency (which enables citizens to be aware of the on-going process of governance) and deliberative methods (which means the opportunity to be better involved in decision making processes).

3) Design as democracy: (added by Manzini)

it sets a stage on which diverse actors can come together and democratically collaborate in shaping their present and future world. It engages diverse people and publics in co-design and co-production processes concerning different aspects of their everyday life.

4) Design in democracy:

It refers to all the design initiatives that are particularly responsive to the goals of democracy. It may deal with the provision of human rights, and fundamental freedoms (such as access to food, shelter, health care, and education) and, more in general, with the transition towards a more resilient, fair and sustainable society.

Read here: >>>>>

Future Fest

Christopher Pearsell-Ross

Design for Democracy, Systems Oriented Design 2016

Oslo School of Architecture and Design

Collaborator: The Municipality of Tønsberg

Future Fest is a collaborative, open-platform festival bringing together members of the public with cultural, institutional and municipal partners to reconceptualise the culture of participation around the built environment and municipal planning process. Using 3 conceptual models (the three horizons, the pace layers, and a model of deliberative democracy) a research agenda was set focused on the democracy and the urban planning process. Based on site visits, literature reviews and semi-structured interviews, 5 key priorites for a design intervention were developed: communication, trust, knowledge, capacity and accountability/efficiency. Using these prioties as design goals, a series of interventions were ideated and analysed for their systemic implications, feasability and scope. Future Fest emerged as a concept with high levels of systemic impact and low barriers to implementation.


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Marie Løken

Design for Democracy, Systems Oriented Design 2016

Oslo School of Architecture and Design

Partner: Doga, Ingvil Aarholt Hegna

The semester’s topics has been design for democracy. People tend to forget that democracy is more than just voting. Democracy is also about participation. Participation through dialogue, debate, and discussion in an effort to solve problems in the community. The aim has therefore been to increase participation. My focus has been on participation within urban planning. I have been collaborating with Doga, the project owner of Folketråkk. Folketråkk is a project that is based on an existing participation tool for children, called Barnetråkk. Folketråkk shall become a tool where people of all ages can contribute into municipal planning in a new way.

My project started with getting an overview of the context of participation and Folketråkk. It has been important for me to figure out how Folketråkk could be an easy and attractive tool to use. I have therefore been in regular contact with relevant actors and users. As well as gaining knowledge about motivation, behaviours and participation. In my meetings with Tønsberg municipality I learned that the ones that participate the least are the young. I have therefore focused on reaching them through a digital platform that are easy to use.


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Design for Democracy: Make Democracy Great Again

Aslak Sødal

Design for Democracy, Systems Oriented Design 2016

Oslo School of Architecture and Design

Collaborator: The Municipality of Tønsberg

How can we enable more people to keep up and stay engaged with what’s happening in their local communities, both politically and culturally?

Democracy isn’t just about voting. It’s about everything that has anything to do with protecting the best interests of the people, no matter what is their race, their gender political opinion or religion. These interests can be human rights, quality of life, infrastructure, or many more.

Participation is a key component for a democracy to work. We vote, we go to hearings, and we give feedback to the government about how we want our societies to work and function. All of these things are part of our participation with society.

However, there are challenges with the dependency our democracy has on participation. People can loose sight of whats important, they can forget to join in on discussions, or they might not care. If everyone drops out, participation ceases, and this poses a risk to democracy.

This project is based on the thesis claiming: “Knowing more about what is going on around you, increases your overall engagement in it and ultimately leads you to more participative activity.”

The aim of this project is to increase the information available to all inhabitants, and in doing so increasing participation.

Throughout the project, both in the mapping- and the design-phase, it has been important for me to look as broadly as possible on the different solutions, and at the field it is set within.

Researching as broadly as possible, and not limiting it to early has been important to the project but also a big challenge. In the end, it has led to some interesting discoveries that later guided further mapping and understanding and ultimately influencing the final design solution..

The final solution is a digital service, focusing on simplifying and making available the existing information and knowledge about what is happening and going on in the local society.



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A Part of the Whole

Marthe Christensen

Design for Democracy, Systems Oriented Design 2016

Oslo School of Architecture and Design

Collaborator: The Municipality of Tønsberg


Tønsberg is a municipality and a city in Norway. This city has been inhabited since the middle ages and is often considered to be Norways oldest city and has a rich cultural history with many archaeological findings. Today Tønsberg has a population of over 40 000 people. I was interested in the culture in Tønsberg. What made a good city? And what are det decision processes around public art.

Can art be part of a place Identity? It made me think of the planned Utøya memorial, in which the local inhabitants of Hole municipality is going to court to stop the process. Worst case scenario is that what was suppose to be a positive marking of the aftermath of a tragic event, is in risk of becoming a negative identity of the place. There was important to be aware of the different interests in a public space. I dividedthem into three categories:


The citizen

The municipality

The artist


Inspired by Nancy Duarte I established a Value Network and gave these three roles:


The Influencer

The Resourceful

The innovator


Focusing in this project on the influencer role, I created a toolkit for the municipality to gather valuable local insights from the citizens, to analyse and implement or to breach oneself to challenge the place identity in the city your are innovating and changing. This role I defined as being competent on art and innovation, but also the aware of the local identity.

My design is a new role in the municipality to manage the challenges and preservation of established place identity, but also being able to manage the importance of innovation and the municipal culture. The role comes with a toolkit to help gather insights and analyse to use local experiences to make knowledge based decisions.


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A Bridge Between People

Designing for the emergence of new connections between elderlies & youth

Simón Sandoval Guzmán

Design for Democracy, Systems Oriented Design 2016

Oslo School of Architecture and Design

Collaborator: The Municipality of Tønsberg


In partnership with the Municipality of Tønsberg, Træleborg senior center and Færder Videregående skole in Tønsberg, the project tested out a process to facilitate conversations between elderlies living at Træleborg Senior Center & youth studying at Færder skole. Afterwards, this process was designed and shaped as a program: a process of 3 workshops to facilitate the emergence of new connections between groups of elderlies living in senior centers and youth studying in high schools. This process aims to make them aware of each other to finally create and envision together how they could be more connected in the future in order to contribute with each other.

By this, the project explores how by making new connections between different groups of people we can enhance awareness and empathy with each other, and by this, give a small step towards the shaping of a more democratic culture.


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How to Practice the Culture of Empathy?

Melina Hozhabri

Design for Democracy, Systems Oriented Design 2016

Oslo School of Architecture and Design

Collaborator: The Municipality of Tønsberg


All men and women are to each other

the limbs of a single body, each of us drawn

from life’s shimmering essence, God’s perfect pearl;

and when this life we share wounds one of us,

all share the hurt as if it were our own.

You, who will not feel another’s pain,

you forfeit the right to be called human.


A Quote by Saadi Shirazi


This project is a process orientated effort in developing, or perhaps, protecting a democratic process. It is contributing to the problem of participation in democratic societies by raising our awareness on differences and challenges within the societal constructs. It tries to open discussions on the role of individual’s self-awareness to their feelings and presence in time and space that results in a higher understanding of the collective societal body and extends the limits of tolerance and acceptance in the society by empowering the notion of equality among citizens. This approach also allows individuals to reflect back on their forgotten, or ignored, humanistic values and characteristics that can strengthen equality and respect towards others in the society.


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