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Alyson Fraser Diaz and Nishita Chheda on Trauma-Informed Design

As part of their thesis project, DSI recently sponsored 2021 graduates Alyson Fraser Diaz and Nishita Chheda to attend a social design master class in Trauma-Informed Design Research taught by Sticky Design Studio in Australia. They wrote back to us with reflections on their experience and learnings:

“While this was not our first workshop on trauma-informed design, the workshop highlighted the importance of understanding trauma and working with a care-centric approach and gave a brief overview of the principles of trauma-informed design as well as how those can be applied in our design practice. 

For those that are unfamiliar with trauma-informed design, it is based on the principles of trauma-informed care and has six primary principles: Safety, trustworthiness and transparency, peer support, collaboration, empowerment, and humility and responsiveness (awareness of and respect for the experience of different cultures, genders and orientations). The workshop covered the first five of these elements and spoke about how these could be applied to research. The design process often can feel extractive, nontransparent, and possibly isolating to those who have experienced trauma. Incorporating these principles into the design process is extremely important because you may not know that the person you are doing research with has experienced trauma. 

Our four main takeaways were:

  • It is important to view individuals holistically and through a strength-based approach, and not just through the lens of their experience with trauma.
  • You must prioritize and center the physical and psychological well-being of your community before your project objectives.
  • Power with > Power over
  • Trauma is relational and so is design research. Our methodologies should be rooted in care and collaboration.

It is important to practice self-awareness and reflection while engaging in such work. Prioritize understanding your own story, position, and experiences and how it relates to the work we are doing, the biases it brings and the strengths it brings to this work.”

To learn more about trauma-informed design practices and see how this work impacted their final thesis project–Side by Side–take a look at their project and process paper over on our 2021 thesis website

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