HCI researchers are increasingly interested in supporting the needs of underserved communities, including low-income, gendered, ethnic, and racialized populations, and people with disabilities. But research and design methods developed primarily for Western urban professionals often break down in the face of the complex structural and historic circumstances of such communities and resulting systemic challenges such as poverty, illiteracy, geographic isolation, or global marginalization. For example, methods such as focus groups may assume an unproblematic relationship between the researcher and participants, which often does not hold in communities which have been systematically marginalized from design. Researchers are beginning to develop alternative approaches, such as those inspired by participatory design (PD), action research (AR), community-based research design (CBPR), or feminist HCI, to deal with some of these challenges in a situated manner.

The goal of this workshop is to support our developing understanding of appropriate HCI methods for supporting such communities, by documenting challenges that have arisen in applying HCI methods to them, identifying ways to adapt methods to make them more appropriate to underserved communities, and articulating the conditions under which these methods are or are not successful. At the workshop, participants will collaborate with one another to explore their own as well as past, present, and future research and design initiatives with underserved communities; discuss challenges and lessons learned from using methods to facilitate technological development and creation among such populations; and brainstorm methods and solutions to address these challenges.


  • Tawanna Dillahunt is an Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan’s School of Information and holds a courtesy appointment with the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department. Dr. Dillahunt leads the Social Innovations Group at the School of Information and in collaboration with her colleagues uses human-centered design approaches and research from multiple disciplines (psychology, ubiquitous computing, law, sociology, economics, design, and health) to explore the ways in which technology can be used to solve real-world problems such as unemployment and climate change, particularly among disadvantaged communities.
  • Sheena Erete is an assistant professor in the College of Computing and Digital Media at DePaul University in Chicago, IL where she co-directs the Technology for Social Good Research and Design Lab. Dr. Erete’s research focusing on understanding social issues faced by those in marginalized communities by considering social, cultural, and economic contexts and designing socio-culturally appropriate technologies that helps address such issues. Her current projects explore how to design technologies that address social issues such as crime, education, political efficacy, and economic development.
  • Roxana Galusca is a Project Manager and UX specialist at Sassafras Tech Collective, a tech cooperative in Ann Arbor, MI where she uses a holistic view of the planning and design processes, from the initial stages of product planning and creative exploration to the final¬†phase of product implementation. Dr. Galusca comes to the field of UX with a PhD in Media and Cultural Studies and has several years of experience in mentoring, research, and team management.
  • Aarti Israni is a user experience researcher, designer, and problem-solver and has a passion for conducting and drawing insights from user research and communicating rich stories about the user experience based on data¬†gathered. Aarti has a personal interest in using user-centered methods to address social challenges and help users from underserved communities.
  • Denise Nacu is a designer and researcher working at the intersection of technology, learning, and design. Dr. Nacu co-directs the Technology for Social Good Research and Design Lab with Dr. Sheena Erete and works with researchers, designers, and educators in the Digital Youth Network. Dr. Nacu teaches user-centered design, prototyping, and evaluation methods in the Interaction and Social Media program at the College of Computing and Digital Media School of Design at DePaul University. Previously, she was Director of Design at the University of Chicago Urban Education Institute where she designed and developed tools for education.
  • Phoebe Sengers is a faculty member in Information Science and Science & Technology Studies at Cornell, where she leads the Culturally Embedded Computing group. Dr. Sengers is a computer scientist and a cultural theorist, working primarily in Human-Computer Interaction and cultural studies of technology. She develops culturally embedded systems; i.e., new kinds of interactive technology that respond to and encourage critical reflection on the place of technology in culture.