Architecture of Participation

WTF is an ‘Architecture of Participation’?

The term ‘architecture of participation’ comes from a 2004 article by Tim O’Reilly in which he stated:

I’ve come to use the term “the architecture of participation” to describe the nature of systems that are designed for user contribution. Larry Lessig’s book, Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace, which he characterizes as an extended meditation on Mitch Kapor’s maxim, “architecture is politics”, made the case that we need to pay attention to the architecture of systems if we want to understand their effects.

Tim O’Reilly

WAO member Doug Belshaw documented a useful framework of 8 steps to help people cover all their bases when thinking about volunteering, contributing and facilitating communities. Since then, we’ve used this framework with a variety of organisations.

Architecture of Participation including: clear mission, invitation to participate, easy onboarding, modular approach, strong leadership, ways of working open, backchannels & watercoolers, celebration of milestones

The Process

As every project and organisation is different, applying the AoP framework is a contextual process. We start by having a looking at whose attention you are looking to scaffold and the systems you already have in place. Then we combine our experience with the framework and make suggestions on how to use what you’ve got to increase stakeholder engagement.

Our creds

We’ve used this framework with Greenpeace, Mozilla, Red Hat, Catalyst, NEAR and likely elsewhere too. It’s just super useful. Read how we’ve applied it:

Architecture of Participation (spiral staircase image)