HCI has a tradition of engaging in democratic practices and contributing to public service innovation. Working with complex socio-political realities presents significant challenges for HCI researchers, which are amplified by the current democratic and economic crisis. In this article, we present insights from a longitudinal study where we worked with multiple stakeholders in the context of an austerity-driven transformation of public parks service in a city in the North East of England. Over the course of 20 months, we developed a participatory socio-technical process designed to create collaborative spaces between communities and institutions to re-envision and re-shape the city's public parks service. The study contributes to HCI research concerned with developing tools and processes that aim at connecting across the boundaries between communities and institutions. Our process and the resulting analysis expose the practical complexities of transformation and co-creation processes and the troubles that come with opening spaces for wider participation within highly contested and political settings. We provide an orientation for HCI design research aspiring to contribute to social innovation and democratic practices in troubled times.
- Digital civics
- Local democracy
- Participatory infrastructuring
- Socio-technical systems