National Charrette Institute and the Consensus Building Institute collaborate to prepare Lakewood, New Jersey to be charrette ready

Training practitioners to get ready for a charrette is really important because ill preparation can lead to an unsuccessful charrette process, which not only wastes time and money, but erodes precious social capital.

April 9, 2019 - Author:

Image of Residents, representatives from neighborhood organizations, City staff, and the NCI design team talk through potential design solutions in the neighborhood during the charrette.
Residents, representatives from neighborhood organizations, City staff, and the NCI design team talk through potential design solutions in the neighborhood during the charrette.

We spend the majority of our time, in the NCI Charrette System certificate course, training practitioners to get ready for a charrette. This is really important because ill preparation can lead to an unsuccessful charrette process, which not only wastes time and money, but erodes precious social capital.

In February, I wrote an article about our RFP Co-Writing Workshop, a tool that the National Charrette Institute offers to help practitioners and communities get ready for a charrette. We also touch on it in our American Planning Association PAS Memo.

There are many ways a community can lack readiness for a charrette. These can include situations where there are deep cultural or social tensions or mistrust, where the community has been dealing with an issue for decades without success and there is real animosity around it, or a lack of clarity on what the “problem” is.

In those circumstances, a neutral facilitator or mediator may help diagnose the situation in order to design appropriate interventions to resolve underlying issues or concerns. These interventions might happen ahead of a charrette, simultaneously to a charrette, or during a charrette.

We were recently approached about a charrette process in Lakewood, NJ – a community experiencing social and civil tensions in addition to tremendous growth and development pressure.

While NCI was eager to help Lakewood, it seemed that some pre-work on defining the shared set of issues to be resolved needed to happen to ensure that a charrette would be successful. So, NCI turned to the Consensus Building Institute for help.

As part of their work as neutral mediators, the Consensus Building Institute conducts situation assessments around the world helping communities identify the needs and opportunities for collaborative action – those things that neighbors or stakeholders can do voluntarily – to build a positive future together.

We recently spent three days in Lakewood with CBI conducting interviews and focus groups with residents, stakeholders and leaders in the region to understand the broad range of perspectives; identifying key issues and needs; exploring biases and public climate; and ultimately recommending processes for developing solutions to pressing regional needs.

The greatest value of this assessment was to elicit the perspectives of a broad range of stakeholders about what they think is needed in Lakewood and the broader region, and to clarity the shared set of problems that they are seeking to resolve.  

While our results are forthcoming, we are confident that collaborating with CBI ahead of time to work through some of the social and cultural issues was the right move for Lakewood in preparing them for a charrette process.

We are also confident that the recommendations from the assessment process will help the community to move forward and will lay valuable groundwork for future collaboration.

If you are interested in learning more about being charrette ready, contact Holly Madill, NCI director, at nci@msu.edu.

Tags: charrette projects, charrette rfps, holly madill, national charrette institute


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