Through a case of civic action in relation to rural development in Denmark, this paper contributes its deliberations on rural participatory policy by shedding light on the unordered site of controversy where participatory-oriented policy meets public involvement practices that happen beyond procedural limits. Danish rural planning is marked by economic and population decline and by economic pressure on the municipal sector. In this uncertain situation, rural livelihood and development increasingly rely on citizens. Drawing on perspectives from participatory design, public involvement, and Science and Technology Studies, and mobilizing the concept of design Thing, the paper attempts to understand a citizen-initiated participatory design (PD) process as an experimental means of public involvement in a rural setting. It analyses the intersection between the micro-level activities of the PD process and national and municipal plans, policies and procedures. In doing so, it traces how the socio-material PD process was a civic attempt to contest institutional definitions and to move the power to define issues from the authorities to the community. It analyses the role of the PD process in the articulation of shared issues, and how this process was one event in the ongoing community practices of public-ization of issues and of forming publics, so as to define local trajectories for an uncertain future. Continuing the analysis, the paper considers that the process of issue and public formation is neither linear nor uncontested; there is no single public, but rather multiple and porous configurations of difference and change.