National Charrette Institute is published by prestigious American Planning Association PAS Memo

The American Planning Association invited the National Charrette Institute at MSU to write about our charrette process for the Planning Advisory Service’s PAS Memo.

People sitting around tables doing group work during a charrette.
Group work during a charrette in Norman, Oklahoma, in 2014 that was conducted by the National Charrette Institute.

Recognizing that there are lots of ideas afoot about what a charrette is and how to use them, the American Planning Association invited the National Charrette Institute at MSU to write about our charrette process for the Planning Advisory Service’s PAS Memo.

This online newsletter publishes six times a year, and covers a wide range of topics relevant to planning practitioners.  

The institute happily accepted the invitation, and our article was published by the APA in the November 2018 edition of the PAS Memo. “Crafting Charrettes that Transform Communities” defines and describes the NCI Charrette System approach and offers guidance on when and how to incorporate this process and tool into planning work.

This PAS Memo walks through the three phases of the charrette system: preparation, the charrette, and adoption and implementation. It also discusses how to know if your community is “charrette ready” and what to do if it is not.

Community planners and other changemakers face many challenges that are difficult to overcome, including lack of trust, fear of change, exclusion, entrenched thinking, specialty silos and endless meetings.

The NCI Charrette System employs a number of strategies for intervening in complex situations and moving groups from stagnation to action, including collaboration that brings stakeholders, experts and decision makers around the same table, talking about and creating solutions together.

Other strategies include time compression that compels people to participate, building trust and listening, multiple feedback loops (NCI advocates for three opportunities to get input from the public in on alternatives) and collaborating through design so that participants visualize change through the use of design sketches.

A case study from the college town of Norman, OK, provides a powerful illustration of how this process can overcome planning challenges and drives learning home. In 2014, a contentious debate bubbled over in Norman when a developer proposed a five-story apartment building occupying an entire city block in a one-story single-family neighborhood.

Norman had an outdated zoning ordinance that didn’t meet the community’s needs and when faced with an impasse over appropriate building height, the City partnered with the University of Oklahoma to try a fresh approach using a NCI charrette.

The result was the development of a vision and the adoption of a radically new form-based code for the Center City area that brought certainty as to how the area could accommodate growth.

To learn more and read the PAS Memo, visit: Crafting Charrettes that Transform Communities.


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