Case study

City Making Research

Using co-design as a tool for sense making
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During a two-week project as part of my Digital Civics Study Abroad program, I collaborated with a PhD student named Sean from Newcastle University, providing consultation on research methodologies from a UX perspective. The core objective of the project was to explore the integration of digital technology into the community, particularly through youth-led initiatives in urban planning.


A significant aspect of my involvement in this project was designing the co-design workshops. I actively participated in conducting these workshops and analyzing the outcomes. Designing the co-design workshops played a crucial role in the project, as it involved developing activities that allowed participants to gain new perspectives and progress in their projects by stepping away from familiar contexts.

  • Co-Design Workshops
  • Participant Interviews
  • Qualitative Research
  • Data Analyzing
  • Participatory Design


As part of a research project for a PhD at Newcastle University, we focused on Digital Citymaking with the youth community. Our objective was to investigate how technology can empower young people and give them a platform to express their opinions. Our findings revealed that the youth in Sunderland (UK) feel disconnected and believe they lack influence in shaping their community. Thus, our primary aim was to address this issue and provide our sponsor with a design direction to further their project.


By conducting a series of co-design workshops involving our sponsor and the youth community, we successfully identified five significant themes related to technology and social action, as perceived by the young population in Sunderland. These themes, namely Campaign, Movement, Collaborative, Location-based, and Inclusive, offered valuable insights. In concluding our team's work on this project, we provided our sponsor with recommendations on how to proceed using UX approaches. These suggestions included the implementation of a more participatory design approach, continued workshops to introduce and explore the impact of technology in the lives of young individuals, as well as the consideration of in-house technology resources available to the youth council. By considering these suggestions, our sponsor can effectively navigate future possibilities and approaches within the project's area of focus.

UX Research

This project encompasses three primary phases: understanding the context and existing research, gaining insights into the community members and their objectives, and exploring the role of technology in the city with a focus on social action. To begin, we delved into comprehensive research to assess our project's position and identify barriers to change within the youth council. This step allowed us to determine the specific initiatives that captured the interest of the youth community, evaluate the available resources, and align our sponsor's intentions.

Subsequently, we facilitated a co-design workshop in collaboration with our sponsor, aiming to gain a deeper understanding of the Sunderland Youth Council and the larger community. This process unveiled valuable insights about the community's historical background and the distinctive mindset prevalent in the area. Armed with this knowledge, we developed an action plan that prioritized creating value for the Sunderland community through our approaches.

Finally, we conducted another co-design workshop exclusively with the youth council, focusing on their perception of themselves as community members and their aspirations for influencing their surroundings through technology.


A significant portion of the design work in this project centers around creating co-design workshop experiences and carefully selecting activities that enable us to obtain the desired insights. Whether our aim was to gain a fresh perspective on previous research or to explore the identities and roles of the local youth within their community, designing these workshops was crucial. Alongside this process, we engaged in ideation sessions to brainstorm various ways in which the community could potentially benefit from digital social initiatives.


The most significant learning outcome from this project lies in the ability to adapt various methodologies according to the specific context and goals at hand. Through the utilization of co-design, we were able to achieve sense-making in diverse ways. Firstly, we employed it to gain a deeper understanding of the project's current state. Secondly, it enabled our sponsor, Sean, to make sense of his existing research from a fresh perspective. Lastly, co-design empowered the local youth to reflect on their identities and their roles within the community.