How to organize walking tours

In the NCI curriculum, walking tours are a part of the stakeholder involvement sub-phase of the Charrette Preparation phase of the NCI Charrette System.

In the NCI curriculum, walking tours are a part of the stakeholder involvement sub-phase of the Charrette Preparation phase of the NCI Charrette System. Because they act as a visioning exercise, walking tours are normally organized four to 12 weeks before the start of the charrette. They are an excellent way to engage the community in visioning a future for their community. Participants are excited to use their own neighborhood as a laboratory for studying various attributes of healthy neighborhoods.

The walking tour is a well-prepared and carefully orchestrated event that normally occurs on a Saturday morning. All members of the community are invited to assemble at a community center location (e.g., a church or school). They are then divided into groups of eight to 10 people with a tour leader who can be either a member of the consultant team, local planning staff or community leader. There is also a volunteer designer with a sketchpad and a volunteer recorder with a notepad.

Each participant receives a tour map and each team takes a different path along the route. They stop at pre-assigned locations along the route and the tour leader asks questions of the community members and then brainstorms ideas to improve the area. The ideas are captured by the recorder as well as by the designer.

Once the tour is finished, the groups reconvene at the community center to brief each other on the highlights of their tours and share their sketches. This debriefing session provides a forum for community members to hear each other’s perceptions of their community along with ideas of how it can be improved.

The staff then takes the results and puts them into a report of the walking tour that includes the tour maps, notes, and sketches from each team. This report provides invaluable ideas as a starting point for the forthcoming charrette.

The NCI initially learned about this tool from the Portland Bureau of Planning, who use it with great success.


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