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Trauma-Informed Design + Participatory Design Perils + Research with Vulnerable Populations with Sarah Fathallah — DT101 E72

Sarah Fathallah is an independent social designer and researcher. Today, we talk about trauma-informed design, participatory design, and research with vulnerable populations.

Listen to learn more about

  • Trauma-informed design
  • Virtual facilitation design
  • Examining power dynamics in design work
  • Participatory design and its connection to trauma-informed design
  • The challenges of compensating community members who participate in the design process

Our Guest

Sarah Fathallah is an independent designer, researcher, and educator, who specializes in applying participatory research and design to the social sector. She has worked on projects of all sizes with non-profits, governments, and social enterprises, on topics ranging from civil and human rights, to healthcare, education, and financial inclusion.Picture of Sarah Fathallah

Her clients have included the International Domestic Workers Federation, the International Rescue Committee, and Open Society Foundations, to name a few. Sarah’s design work has been honored by the Core77 Design Awards, the International Design Excellence Awards (IDEA), ONE Prize, and the GSMA mWomen Design Challenge. Sarah also co-founded Design Gigs for Good, a free community-driven resource to help more people use the tools of design to create positive social change. Sarah is a graduate of Sciences Po Paris, where she studied International Business and Middle Eastern and Mediterranean Affairs. She also studied design innovation at the Paris Est, user experience design at General Assembly, and participatory design at MIT.

Show Highlights

[01:03] Sarah talks about how she stumbled into design.
[01:50] Her introduction to service design while in grad school.
[02:14] Sarah’s career has been focused on using the tools and methods of design in global development.
[02:47] The diverse range of projects Sarah works on.
[04:29] Sarah talks about how the pandemic changed her facilitation work.
[05:32] Ways of ensuring virtual experiences are as robust as in-person.
[07:30] Sarah explains what self holds are and how to use them.
[08:30] What is trauma-informed design?
[11:35] How Sarah helps bring people into trauma-informed design.
[14:18] Sarah offers advice on how to bring trauma-informed design into your own work.
[15:45] The potential problem with user interviews.
[16:22] Ways to learn about trauma and trauma-informed systems.
[18:14] Designers must always acknowledge and reflect on the imperfections in their work and seek to improve.
[20:31] Ways designers can self-reflect and critique the work that they do as they’re doing it.
[23:45] A framework Sarah uses to examine power dynamics.
[24:08] Examining the power differentials in the identities of the people involved.
[25:09] How to make sure you’re not exploiting the community or population you’re designing with and for.
[25:47] Ensuring the community is actively participating in the design work.
[27:50] The importance of participatory design in trauma-informed design.
[28:02] Defining participatory design.
[29:22] How Sarah applies participatory design to her own work.
[31:47] One question Sarah reflects on when she thinks about design work.
[34:10] The struggle designers often have in finding ways to compensate participants.
[35:53] Non-monetary participant compensation options that Sarah has used in the past.
[36:57] Asking the community what they want and need when it comes to compensation.
[38:08] Things Sarah wishes would be part of teaching design.
[43:10] Designer mindsets.
[46:07] Books and resources Sarah recommends.
[48:25] How to learn more about Sarah and her work.
[50:05] Fluid Hive’s resources for those wanting to learn and practice design thinking.


Sarah’s Website
Sarah on Twitter
Sarah on Medium
Sarah on Instagram
Sarah’s profile on Women Talk Design
Conversations on Design: Design Research with Sarah Fathallah
The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma, by Bessel van der Kolk
Companion to Feminist Studies, by Nancy A. Naples
Design Justice: Community-Led Practices to Build the Worlds We Need (Information Policy), by Sasha Costanza-Chock
Research as Resistance: Revisiting Critical, Indigenous, and Anti-Oppressive Approaches, by Leslie Brown and Susan Strega
Design in Crisis: New Worlds, Philosophies, and Practices, edited by Tony Fry and Adam Nocek
Modernity + Coloniality

Design Thinking 101 Episodes You Might Like

Design Thinking for the Public Sector + Building and Training Design Thinking Teams with Stephanie Wade — DT101 E14
Designer’s Role in Healthcare & Public Health + Studio Thinking with Jess Roberts — DT101 E21
Design for Mental Health: Creating an Effective Response to Student Loneliness with Denise Ho and Andrew Baker — DT101 E60

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