Recruiting volunteers: Rules of thumb for your charrette

One way to mitigate charrette costs is to utilize volunteer design professionals, university professors, and students as part of the charrette design team.

One way to mitigate charrette costs is to utilize volunteer design professionals, university professors, and students as part of the charrette design team. Using volunteers can be very positive and cost-effective, but in order to be most useful the volunteers need to be carefully recruited and handled.

Often, volunteers can require a considerable amount of additional management. The charrette includes a series of intense work sessions that require the design team to work efficiently. This means that the designers must be able to work as a team. 

There is very little room for philosophical impasses during the charrette. At minimum, members of the design team should share basic values and philosophies toward community design. The charrette manager is in charge of recruiting and selecting the volunteers.

One way to prevent problems is to evaluate volunteers before the charrette by reviewing their professional work and/or by holding a team meeting where basic issues are aired and discussed. To be clear, debate among the design team members is encouraged and certainly can produce better results during the charrette; however, the debate should remain within manageable limits and should not concern core values of team members.

An example of a type of debate that is not manageable during a charrette is when one camp recognizes the value in learning from traditional urban patterns and another camp does not. It is important to make sure that the design team is “on the same page” in a basic sense before the start of the charrette, and this includes any volunteers; otherwise, you run the risk of a great deal of talking with not enough work being accomplished.

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