Pride of Place: Co-design, community engagement and the Victorian Pride Centre

Gene Bawden and Alli Edwards

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XYX Lab, at Monash Art Design and Architecture, Melbourne, is a newly formed research collective of design academics and practitioners examining issues pertaining to communication and spatial design practices interrogated through the lens of gender identification and equity. Determined to make real-world impact, the Lab’s remit is to collaborate with real-world stakeholders: other researchers, activists, affiliated groups, policy makers and the broader public. To this end we have developed a number of design thinking “tools” – two- and three-dimensional play-based prompts – through which we engage workshop participants in co-design processes that activate participatory story-telling. The tools permit our diverse collaborators to align themselves to shared ideas; extend innovative discovery; dispute contentious concepts; and reveal new insights that inform the research of the Lab and the objectives of the stakeholders. The most significant of these workshops was undertaken with the newly formed Victorian Pride Centre Board in late 2016.

In April 2016 the Victorian State Government announced their intention to establish the first Australian Pride Centre in Melbourne. The Pride Centre will galvanise the city’s diverse LGTBIQ community through a physical and metaphoric site of support and celebration. Buoyed by the clear commitment of the State Government to recognise, respect and empower gay, lesbian and non-binary gender identity, the members of XYX approached the newly appointed Commissioner for Gender and Sexuality, Rowena Allen, with an offer of design thinking workshops that would surface the Pride Centre’s key ambitions. The Centre must be more than a building, the identity of which is construed simply by its location and tenants. It needs to define itself through a clear, careful and outward facing communication of its culture, values and history. To this end the Lab set about constructing a bespoke set of design tools for the Pride Centre Board to engage with in a one-day workshop. The tools produced a sequential revelation: personal affiliations and deeply held opinions from the various legions of the LGTBIQ community shifted through a progression of interactive, performative and play-based activities towards a united consensus on the Centre’s higher purpose. Use of the bespoke tools, hand-made by the Lab members, revealed the importance of well-designed, engaging and intersected prompts in revealing and extrapolating ideas from a community, that, at times, may be suspicious of participatory methodologies that activate story-telling as research. This paper reveals how the tools facilitated the participants’ engagement, and how they have helped shape the future thinking of the Pride Centre Board.


Victorian Pride Centre; LGTBIQ; Design Thinking; Co-design; Design Workshop

To cite this article

Bawden, Gene and Alli Edwards. “Pride of Place: Co-design, community engagement and the Victorian Pride Centre.” Fusion Journal, no. 13, 2018, pp. 43-63.

First published online: 29 June 2018

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