Reflections on Assets-Based Design: A Journey Towards A Collective of Assets-Based Thinkers

Published in ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing (CSCW), 2021

Recommended citation: Wong-Villacres, M., Gautam, A., Tatar, D., DiSalvo, B. (2021). Reflections on Assets-Based Design: A Journey Towards A Collective of Assets-Based Thinkers. In Proceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer Interaction, 5 (Article 401). http://aakash.xyz/files/cscw2021.pdf

The field of Computer-Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW) has long recognized a socio-technical gap complicating the design of technologies that can sustainably meet social needs. In response, a growing body of research advocates for assets-based design, an approach that seeks to build upon what the individuals and community already have. The emphasis on positioning assets rather than needs at the center of the process can complicate designers’ decisions on what activities to foster, how to conduct them, and what outcomes to expect. In this paper, we reflect on two different assets-based design endeavors with vulnerable populations. Our reflections present assets-based design as an ongoing process that prioritizes the formation and evolution of a collective of assets-based thinkers who continually learn about their assets and ways to use them to attain desirable change. From that reflection, we contribute three methodological commitments for assets-based design to the growing CSCW scholarship on supporting vulnerable communities to attain emancipatory transformations: (1) embedding trust-building elements throughout the journey; (2) facilitating the formation of an interdependent collective; and (3) making moves towards incremental transformations. Further, we contribute a discussion on the change of perspective that entails for researchers and designers interested in undertaking assets-based design. In particular, we underscore the need to recognize the value of work before the work, to see technology as an intermediary rather than an inevitable end, and embrace impact in the shape of slow incremental transformation.

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