Community Design Circles: Co-designing Justice and Wellbeing in Family-Community-Research Partnerships

Ann M. Ishimaru, Aditi Rajendran, Charlene Montaño Nolan, Megan Bang


Researchers and practitioners of family engagement have long called for a move beyond conventional deficit-based family-school partnerships. In response, a burgeoning movement in the field has sought to identify and enact new forms of collaboration with nondominant families and communities, in terms of both change-making andthe process of research itself. In this article, we bridge the fields of family engagement and design-based research to conceptualize and illustrate a solidarity-driven process of partnership we undertook with families and communities of color, educators, and other researchers towards community-defined wellbeing and education justice. We offer community design circles as a methodological evolution aimed at reclaiming the central agentic role of families and communities of color in transforming educational research and practice. We illustrate three co-design dimensions with vignettes from a national-level participatory design research project called the Family Leadership Design Collaborative: 1) building from and with families’ and communities’ definitions of wellbeing and justice; 2) disrupting normative, asymmetrical dynamics; and 3) building capacity for social dreaming and changemaking.


Participatory design methodologies, educational justice, community wellbeing, partnerships, racial equity, solidarities

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