Multi-Disciplinary Methodology for Applications Design for CNs, including Design Guidelines and Adoption Facilitation (v1)
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The goal of Task 3.1 is to devise a methodology for the participatory design of local applications tailored for Community Network. They have to be autonomous and be able to run without relying on the existence of Internet connectivity. The should also operate toward local collective awareness, social cohesion, citizen engagement, and conviviality. This should be a shared goal between active participants of a CN, local communities and citizens that could be served by the CN, and local authorities that can facilitate the process. The netCommons consortium has set the objective of achieving this goal by engaging citizens in the design process and build context-specific applications that address real needs of real communities. For this, a participatory design process methodology is being developed, which borrows knowledge and best practices from different related disciplines to address the particularities of our selected case study and the resources available in the project. This report analyzes the key decisions made during the first year of the project, the first successful gathering of our participatory design process carried out in late November, and the future steps scheduled toward the accomplishment of this task’s objectives as described in the DoW. More specifically, Chapter 1 introduces the two main concepts/challenges that we have to address in this task: namely local applications for CNs, and participatory design. It explains the rationale behind our final decision to use as main case study the Sarantaporo.gr Community Network and the recruitment for this purpose, through AUEB, of members of the Sarantaporo.gr Non-Profit Organization. This collaboration has created a powerful win-win collaboration between netCommons and one of the most successful case studies of rural CN in Europe. Chapter 2 provides a brief overview of participatory design practices and guide the reader across disciplines, from processes of practice within urban planning and participatory budgeting, to establishing collaborative environments for urban design and placemaking, and eventually for social software and design research. Aside from embedding our current research into a tradition of practice, some lessons are to be learned from this overview, summarized in Chapter 3. We also discuss the recent experiences from the SEED grants by Open Technology Institute (New America Foundation) a project with similar objectives and approach as Task 3.1, but also important differences. Subsequently, in Chapter 4 we provide a detailed description of four reasons why local applications in CNs make sense, namely practical, political, social and economic. Having a clear motivation behind the development of such local applications is a fundamental requirement for a participatory design process to be successful, since the participants in the process need to be convinced that the object of design is meaningful in the first place. The same holds for the application design, which needs to take advantage of the reasons why providing local solutions for services that could be in principle be provided by global Internet-based platforms make sense for the users of the application, the local community. In Chapter 5 we explain the motivation and challenges that come with the topic, and propose a specific methodology for participatory processes by describing its main principles and elements: basic steps of the organization of workshops, a set of proposed tools for eliciting information and brainstorming, the framing of the design process, and the definition of the overall strategy. The final part is devoted to the evaluation criteria that will help us assess the different phases of the process and the final outcome. The real life case study, namely the Sarantaporo.gr CN, makes more tangible the theoretical background in Chapter 6. This Chapter presents the context, the profile of the area and the main actors of the process: the Sarantaporo.gr team, the local authorities, and the local residents. Then we analyse the first steps of our participatory design process, by means of detailed descriptions of the project activities: a preparatory meeting in Athens, and the Sarantaporo symposium in November 26-27, 2016. This part is indeed a tell-tale story of the complexity of participatory design, and it is very useful to understand how the Task will proceed in the next months in order to achieve its goal of giving a set of guidelines that can be followed in other cases to enhance the probability that ICT-based, bottom-up collaborative project have success. In the concluding notes in Chapter 7 we discuss our strategy for building up a methodology for participatory design for the cases of interest for netCommons, we summarize the lessons learned from the first step in Sarantaporo, and we describe our short-term and long-term future plans. It is very important to highlight that in this Task netCommons personnel is also tapping into resources that are not, strictly speaking, of the project: the Sarantaporo.gr NGO, local people, but also complementary research projects with whom we cooperate. This is indeed in the true spirit of Collaborative Awareness: building platforms and tools that enhance the social welfare of a community by joining, merging, and blending forces coming from different pools but working together for the same final goal.