Our Process

Our primary tool is the Community Engagement Lab, a modified charrette that we tailor to address the unique needs and circumstances of a particular client and a particular community. The term charrette emerges from the fields of architecture and urban planning; it describes a highly collaborative, solutions-focused process intended to bring a diverse group of stakeholders to consensus around a thorny design problem. In our Labs, all participants move through a process of deliberative democracy. Together, they explore different perspectives on a topic or question for which the client seeks input; brainstorm workable solutions; and, at the end of the process, present a selection of their ideas to an audience of decision makers. Clients, once equipped with the authentic community input provided by the Lab, can go on to design programs, facilities, or resources reflective of their constituencies’ needs and desires.

 

As part of our process, we spend time learning about the project that our client has in mind and building our knowledge of the dynamics already at play in the community that the client is hoping to engage. Working with the client, we build outreach strategies to insure that a diverse group of stakeholders attends the Lab. A trial-run Lab, another essential component of our practice, allows the client to experience firsthand what we propose to do on the actual day. It also enables us to refine activities and their sequencing so that the “real” Lab functions optimally. In addition to designing and facilitating the Lab, we work with the client afterwards to make sense of the results or outcomes generated and to plan next steps.

Recent Projects

  • Fund for the Public Advocate – Engaged adult education agencies in a collaborative RFP design and development process 
  • The Brooklyn Public Library – Designed and facilitated a day-long Lab to engage community members in the re-design of the local library branch in Red Hook
  • School District 13 – Conducted four Community Engagement Mini-Labs to consider the following question: How might Community District 13 ensure that all middle school students have equitable educational opportunities?