Participation in co-design: In search of a recipe for improved cookstoves in urban Indian slums

Cristian T. Ghergu*, Agnes Meershoek, Preeti Sushama, Onno C. P. van Schayck, Luc P. de Witte

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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This study responds to the need for participatory, context-oriented approaches to address the growing health threat of indoor air pollution faced by marginalised communities of urban India. It explored the application of the co-designing model employed by Project Exhale in two non-notified slums in Bangalore, by analysing processes and tools of multi-stakeholder collaboration, the knowledge that emerged from them, and its translation into the designing of improved cookstoves. Bringing the end-users, designers and researchers onto a common platform led to the generation of contextual, user-knowledge and technical expertise, which were transferred to the development of the prototype. In this process, stoves' suitability concerns traditionally raised in literature are not seen as barriers to implementation, but issues that can be addressed and negotiated through participatory methods. The involved actors experienced a parting from pre-defined, traditional roles towards more flexible ones, as required by the project at different stages. Tools employed for the knowledge exchanged within this community of practice needed continuous exploration, negotiation and adjusting, as transferring the co-designing model in resource-limited settings demands higher flexibility and a grounding of activities in local experiences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)179-202
Number of pages24
JournalAction Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021


  • Co-design
  • community participation
  • participatory approach
  • household
  • indoor air pollution
  • improved cookstoves
  • Indian urban slums

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