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Radical Participatory Design + Relationships in Complex Systems Inclusive Design with Victor Udoewa — DT101 E127

Victor Udoewa works in the Office of Public Health Data Surveillance and Technology at the CDC. Previously, he worked at the Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs at NASA, as well as at 18F and Google. We talk about his journey into design and leadership, the role of design in the civic space, radical participatory design, and orchestrating relationships in complex systems.

Portrait of Victor Udoewa

Listen to Learn About

  • Civic design and social impact design
  • Radical participatory design and working with the people and communities you’re serving
  • The effect of relationships on systems
  • The fallacy of problem solving

Our Guest

Victor Udoewa works in the Office of Public Health Data, Surveillance, and Technology (OPHDST) at the CDC. He previously served as CTO, CXO, and Service Design Lead of the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs at NASA. He was the Director of Strategy at 18F, a civic consultancy for the federal government inside the federal government. He led the digital strategy practice and served as a designer and strategist on projects. Previously, as a Global Education Instructional Designer and Training Development Specialist at Google, he designed learning products and services for people in low-to-middle-income countries around the world.

Show Highlights

[01:07] Victor started out in aerospace engineering, building computer models.
[03:44] How one summer in El Salvador working on composting latrines changed everything.
[06:05] Wanting his work to make a positive difference.
[06:22] Becoming a science and technology policy advisor for the government.
[06:38] Moving to the UK and designing educational products and services focused around literacy.
[06:57] Coming back to government work as a civic designer and innovator.
[08:39] Civic design and designing for social impact.
[09:19] Much of the work of the U.S. government is done by contractors.
[10:11] Civic work has numerous challenges. You must be prepared for that struggle.
[12:30] Victor talks about finding and working with good people.
[15:02] Why Victor uses the term radical participatory design to describe what he does.
[16:19] The three main characteristics of the projects Victor works on.
[17:08] Why the choice of facilitator is so important.
[17:48] Professional designers can underestimate the skills and expertise of the community they are working with.
[18:57] The process Victor uses to help community members feel comfortable with leading and facilitating.
[21:45] Shifting from problem- and need-based methodologies to asset- and place-based methodologies.
[23:30] Victor talks about a community he’s working with to create a socially-equitable and racially-just Parent-Teacher Association.
[23:42] The Sustained Dialogue methodology.
[26:53] The correlation between poverty and the absence of healthy relationships.
[27:50] How Victor defines poverty.
[28:56] A Miro Moment.
[32:18] The effect of relationships on the design space and beyond.
[36:41] Viewing school as a service.
[40:16] Going beyond human needs.
[42:17] How might we create environments that facilitate learning well?
[44:39] Making a shift from student-centered to student-led.
[45:29] Building innovation and flexibility into institutions.
[47:24] “The end of solutions.”
[49:44] Solving is not “one and done,” especially when working with complex systems.
[52:50] Books and resources Victor recommends.
[58:01] Dawan talks about Victor’s article, Radical Participatory Design (link is below).


Victor on LinkedIn
Victor on the Federation of American Scientists
Victor on ResearchGate
Victor on the Service Design Network
Control the Room: Victor Udoewa: Giving Up Power In Your Space
Guest Lecture – Dr Victor Udoewa – Participatory Design: A Digital Literacy Case Study | UMD iSchool
Relating Systems Thinking and Design
Association for Community DesignChicago conference
Life Centered Design School
Radical Participatory Design: Awareness of Participation, by Victor Udoewa

Book Recommendations

Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples, by Linda Tuhiwai Smith
Research Is Ceremony: Indigenous Research Methods, by Shawn Wilson
Thinking in Systems: A Primer, by Donella H. Meadows and Diana Wright
The Non-Human Persona Guide: How to create and use personas for nature and invisible humans to respect their needs during design, by Damien Lutz
My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies, by Resmaa Menakem
Designs for the Pluriverse: Radical Interdependence, Autonomy, and the Making of Worlds, by Arturo Escobar

Design Thinking 101 Episodes You Might Like

Facilitation + Remote Teams + Miro with Shipra Kayan — DT101 E121
Collaboration + Facilitation + Workshops with Austin Govella — DT101 E83
Designing Facilitation: A System for Creating and Leading Exceptional Events // ALD 006 — DT101 E73

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