Transformative change requires local agency and long-term planning, but this is not easily accommodated in development programmes, which often rely on short-term thinking and top-down technological solutions.

Design methods have proved useful for facilitating co-development of technological solutions with marginalised communities. This case study explores whether—and, if so, how—participatory design can support grassroots transformational change by facilitating community engagement around the challenge of energy access.

The authors used backcasting to facilitate the co-design of a 10-year transition roadmap to electric cooking with 30 members of a rural community in Kenya. The roadmap articulates a local vision of a long-term development process, including the community’s role in that process. Through follow-up interviews they found that workshop participation was linked to subsequent grassroots community actions. The findings are discussed in relation to the literature on transformation design.