Designers are increasingly involved in designing alternative futures for their cities, together with or self-organized by citizens. This article discusses the fact that (groups of) citizens often lack the support or negotiation power to engage in or sustain parts of these complex design processes. Therefore the “capabilities” of these citizens to collectively visualize, reflect, and act in these processes need to be strengthened. We discuss our design process of “democratic dialogues” in Traces of Coal—a project that researches and designs together with the citizens an alternative spatial future for a partially obsolete railway track in the Belgian city of Genk. This process is framed in a Participatory Design approach and, more specifically, in what is called “infrastructuring,” or the process of developing strategies for the long-term involvement of participants in the design of spaces, objects, or systems. Based on this process, we developed a typology of how the three clusters of capabilities (i.e., visualize, reflect, and act) are supported through democratic dialogues in PD processes, linking them to the roles of the designer, activities, and used tools.

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