Case Studies

Selected Research and Projects highlighting our innovative Participatory, Human-Centered Design, Storytelling, and Analytics Approaches

Make foia work

How can we use participatory design remix Freedom of Information, journalism and storytelling today?

Make FOIA Work is about re-imagining journalism through design, participation and collaboration.


Faculty Dr. Paul Mihailidis, Dr. Adam Gamwell and Dr. Catherine D'Ignazio, staff and students at Emerson College and the Engagement Lab staff worked alongside the Boston Institute of Nonprofit Journalism (BINJ) and MuckRock, two independent and alternative news and information platforms and publishers, to produce a data-driven and engagement-based investigative reporting series that exposes corruption around the sales of guns in Massachusetts.


Through design studios in participatory methods and data visualization, project participants created a participatory guide book for journalists, practitioners and community members on how to undertake participatory design projects with a focus on FOIA requests, community participation, and collaboration. The project also highlights the course syllabi in participatory design methods and data visualization.

Make FOIA Work is a news literacy project that reimagines journalism through design-oriented, participatory and collaborative journalism pedagogies.

Read the stories at

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Participatory Design Process Guide

Can journalists employ Freedom of Information Act requests to meaningfully engage communities in dialogue about issues that matter to them? How might FOIA, data, and information connect journalists and local communities in the processes of informational gathering and news reporting, while fostering a sense of civic ownership and inclusion? This guide provides the techniques, methods and reflections that came out of the Make FOIA Work project and the Participatory Methods class in the Media Design program at the Engagement Lab and Emerson College. This guide is designed for journalists, educators, students, and communities to use and follow for creating more collaborative, participatory and inclusive projects.