Am J Community Psychol (2006) 38:125–139

DOI 10.1007/s10464-006-9065-0


Integrating Social Science and Design Inquiry Through
Interdisciplinary Design Charrettes: An Approach
to Participatory Community Problem Solving
Sharon E. Sutton · Susan P. Kemp

Published online: 23 June 2006 
C Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Abstract Interdisciplinary collaborations that aim to facil- Keywords Community problem-solving . Community
itate meaningful community outcomes require both the right design . Participation . Interdisciplinary . Collaboration .
mix of disciplinary knowledge and effective community par- Action research . Participatory research
ticipation, which together can deepen collective knowledge
and the capacity to take action. This article explores three
The whole issue of broadening the disciplines is that ev-
interdisciplinary design charrettes, intensive participatory
erybody can look at the elephant from their perspective,
workshops that addressed specific community problems and
you know, and then you sort of come together on it. And
provided a context for integrating design and social science
the process works very well if you have both a facili-
inquiry with local community knowledge. Evaluation data
tation process that enables people to understand it from
from the charrettes shed light on how students from the
the [experts’] point of view, and you have a facilitation
design and social science disciplines experienced the char-
process that really does not presume anything about the
rettes, and on their interactions with community members.
[community’s] input. . . . because these people are very
Key advantages to this interdisciplinary, community-based
well-informed (charrette team leader).
collaboration included expanded knowledge derived from
the use of multiple modes of inquiry, particularly the re- The past 30 years have seen a variety of efforts in the
sulting visualization tools that helped community members academy that aim to improve the quality of life in low-
understand local issues and envision novel solutions. Key income, minority communities, ranging from long-term part-
drawbacks included difficulties in balancing the two disci- nerships to small projects. These efforts frequently involve
plines, the tendency for social scientists to feel out of place collaborations across disciplines and with community mem-
on designers’ turf, and the increased disciplinary and in- bers, ideally producing innovative solutions to the complex,
terpersonal conflicts arising from a more diverse pool of and often racialized, problems that exist in these commu-
participants. nities. They also bring to the fore the challenges of bridg-
ing not only across academic disciplines but also across the
social and spatial lines that separate academia from its sur-
S. E. Sutton ()
Department of Architecture and Urban Design, Director of the roundings. Academics may have difficulty recruiting and
Center for Environment Education and Design Studies (CEEDS), interacting with community members as equal partners—
University of Washington, especially when they are also attempting to resolve disci-
Seattle, Washington 98195-5720 plinary differences—and community members may perceive
the university as “ivory towerish” and disinterested in em-
S. P. Kemp bracing the knowledge they have of their own circumstances.
School of Social Work, Faculty Affiliate in CEEDS, Yet, “these people are very well-informed” and essential to
University of Washington, implementing any interventions academics may propose.
Interdisciplinary collaborations that aim to facilitate
meaningful community outcomes require both the right
mix of disciplinary knowledge and effective community


Social scientists’ problem-solving approach rettes (selected for their comparable scope and participants) and their accompanying activities. while producing deeply contextualized data (Luke. and methods produce different outcomes. Although some focus upon the immediacy of hu- ology and psychology) – and our shared commitment to man experience and behavior. 2003). proach (summarized in Table 1) giving the most space Developed by faculty affiliated with an interdisciplinary cen. designers. co-learning. interviews. a hallmark of ac- proach problem solving in distinctive ways. In this article. and action. readers. and community members ap. focus groups. and others are preoccupied finding creative solutions to perplexing community prob. 1995). which characterizes engaging local residents in community problem solving. the challenges design and social science students encoun. ac- students because their developing capacities in interdisci. inar. 2005) as the basis for critical reflection. Typically. They believe that research should benefit community tered during the charrettes as they sought to work across members either through direct intervention or by laying the disciplines and with community members. architect. our work. engagement in community problem-solving. settings. with the larger social and material conditions that shape hu- lems. 1998). Second. tives. defined as systematic Methods investigation. and the design of appropriate change Three community problem-solving approaches strategies. surveys. to design. We present three such char. which together can deepen the group’s col. Although most action research methods are com- mon in social science research (e. Objectives This effort reflects our own disparate but intersecting dis- ciplinary cultures – one author is an artist. and requires highly developed facili- of the implications of this methodology for interdisciplinary tation skills to manage interpersonal and group processes. and preceded by a framing sem. social scientists are committed to using their while providing them with tangible outcomes. tion researchers engage in a participatory. research. expecting that agogical focus of the charrettes and therefore we have con. on par with widely accepted social science methods. action re- three charrettes.g. since this will be unfamiliar ground for many ter of an architecture school. it knowledge and methods for the social and collective good offers insights into a notion of community research and (Boog. social scientists. the charrettes resulted in a series of proposed interven- tions for the communities served. to illustrate the mutual en. we first explore their distinctive tween researchers and end users. patory community projects. and Social scientists bring to community problem-solving a musician (with a PhD in psychology). action. The differences between action research and mainstream so- To provide a framework for describing the varied roles cial science have more to do with the researchers’ stance. observation. 2000). In action research. The significance of the methodology we describe is man possibility. social change begins in the research process with an em- plinary collaboration among faculty. collected primarily through (Boog. tion research is the use of conventional methods in novel Springer . we then surface the differential advantages search is ecumenical. Typically. that em- braces design as a method of inquiry. and community members as. First. iterative cycle of plinary community problem-solving were an important ped. 2003). each group’s varying objec- lective knowledge and capacity to take action. encompassing both quantitative and and drawbacks they posed.126 Am J Community Psychol (2006) 38:125–139 participation.. designers. dialogue. We focus upon groundwork for action (Israel et al. Al. a university center that supports and evaluates teaching and learning. the other is a social shared interest in people within their social and material worker (with a PhD in social welfare and a BA in soci. Following a description of the methods (Cornwall & Jewkes. In partici. values. we reflect upon a community participation approach that and result in different advantages and drawbacks. we describe each group’s community problem-solving ap- tensive problem-solving workshops called design charrettes. design charrettes offer a promising tool for social interactions. the article emphasizes phasis upon participation and democratic inclusion (Meyer. We conclude with a discussion interpretive methods. It seeks to maximize participation.. Social scientists. all share a concern with people and their twofold. reflection. Action researchers’ dual obligation to social science and though conceiving the charrettes required unusual interdisci. narrative analysis). Below integrates design and social science within the context of in. specifically their efforts to realign the balance of power be- sumed during the charrettes. currently rooted in the social sciences. Values gagement of designers and social scientists with community members in defining and exploring complex problems. than with their choice of problem-solving approaches. it will serve as a catalyst for structural or cultural change sistent data on their experiences.

ables framed more by theory than by real-world conditions Springer . Sometimes do not participate. create visual relevant knowledge that improves knowledge. increasing the likelihood that re- tion into the larger culture of social science (Reinharz. Advantages 1995). Often. Utilize the skills of their outside prior evidence. ideally creating both effective and responsive change ition. social scientists focus upon the peopled as- nity problem-solving. this culture em. and numeric data. and collective experience.. they bring with them their socializa. from tested the. derive a concept preconceptions. as far as possible. reflexive.g. or hampers participatory.g. enhanced more accountable powerbrokers. interventions. use an inquiry use an inquiry mode that involves lives. emphasize artistic expression in block problem solving due to and iterative problem-solving lieu of social issues. create change representations that help people decision making and increases strategies that have local buy-in understand spatial experiences the potential for change and empirical support Drawbacks Empiricist. social scientists have the capacity to make empiri- inquiry. or personal agendas ways or unusual contexts (see e. they can locate the complex social problems of edge that applies across situations. which results in reliable knowl. search will reflect the multilayered complexity of individual Reflecting its roots in the natural sciences. By connecting new insights to theory and prior research ory and empirical evidence. Their emphasis on systematic inquiry strategies for local conditions and experiences. they may continue to frame problems within members and others. Kloos. intu- needs. these conventions present structed understanding of social relationships contributes to advantages and drawbacks to interdisciplinary community an informed. Cornwall & Jewkes. It prefers careful. As recent scholarship everyday life within a broader context. community change relationships and potential for and buy-in to implementing change proposals Advantages Contextualize local experiences Generate solutions for complex Possess socially and politically via theory and scientific spatial problems. personal and understanding of spatial a heightened sense of ownership. personal concepts over detailed familiarity constraints. tested spatial environment. may frustrate participants who want quick solutions to press- ipatory processes at the core of action research result in ing issues. 2005). bring relationships. critical understanding of particular situations. analytic. and scientific approach to methods. This carefully con- suggests (see e. design and test (the big move) that guides future lack a normative methodology interventions decisions Outcomes Written products with interpretive Visual representations of the More aware. researcher-centric bias Appear to leap to conclusions. researchers use these data to the academy prior to interacting with community members tailor tested interventions to meet particular community or use protocols that leave little room for serendipity. They may prioritize quantitative methods. and agendas.Am J Community Psychol (2006) 38:125–139 127 Table 1 Three community problem-solving approaches Social scientists’ approach Designers’ approach Community members’ approach Objectives To address complex social and To provide a specific solution that To achieve proactive or reactive human issues via engaged but beautifies and responds to goals that reflect their varying rigorous research and analysis functional and symbolic needs backgrounds and motivations Values Value solutions that resolve Value originality and artistic Value technical solutions that immediate human problems and expression that is practical and reflect the complexity of their also generalize to other situations uplifts the human spirit everyday realities Methods Frame problem via theory and Co-evolve problem and solution. problem-solving. capable citizens. pects of community issues. Through systematic use of tested phasizes a disciplined. layering of data. The partic. Drawbacks Outcomes Because action-oriented social scientists tilt toward the pre- Action research produces numeric and interpretive data scriptions and expectations of their larger disciplinary culture that can inform the problem-solving efforts of community (Kloos. By definition. incremental testing of hypotheses cally validated assertions about social and human concerns. 1991). or leaps of faith. which changes for the people involved and in targeted community frequently reduce complex problems into measurable vari- issues. When action-oriented social scientists engage in commu. 2005). mode that involves iterative simplification. or interventions derived. distrust. knowledge.. prefer bold disinterest.

. while creating something new and pre. While a participatory. we refer to a Designers begin unraveling the messy nature of a problem method of using visual representations to conceive and plan by drawing from past experience to select and investigate the features of a spatial environment. Values Methods Though the term design has several meanings. 2000). the latter opening up many possibilities for visually Springer . To access community member’s local knowledge and Design extends human capabilities. tackling problem and solution simultaneously (Cross. 2003. can utilize hands- countless stakeholders. green roof (has vegetation to absorb rainwater and slow heat 2001). an emphasis upon scientific methods “robs design of its artis. it brings diverse knowledge and skills into the problem-solving process. the bias of psychology and reject a design for a branch library that incorporates such other social sciences toward person-centered methods that fa. in part studies have found that testing potential solutions relative to valuing the objectivity and generalizability of the sciences. preferring in. The problems they address are ture alternatives (Al-Kodmann. Design in this sense 2002). Photoshop. perspectives. ameliorating environ. Because of prevailing biases toward design-as-art also to interpersonal conflicts (Cross & Cross. tions). which can better address today’s problems than ones emphasizing can lead to greater exploration and generation of ideas but esthetics. especially since designers lack spirit. Geographic In- ones not easily replaced if they fall out of favor (Cuff. tic depth” (Friedman. They generally agree that successful com- or fix a nonfunctional one. training in group dynamics. permanent features of the landscape – viewing photographs) or hi-tech ones (e. mapping. factions within the discipline tend to elevate cessful designers aggressively impose their view of the situ- one aspect over the other with some designers asserting that ation. 1991) formation Systems. analysis of the functioning of varied locales (Simons. in part tempt interventions before fully understanding a problem. Thus suc- Yet in reality. they must devote part of their time use the term design to indicate the intuitive. advocates of participatory de. Empirical studies of the design process suggest ferred at a specific locale (Friedman. At the same the need for attending to social processes and the potential for time. nonverbal in. While social scientists would find it foolhardy to at- In principle. They simplify a problem to ences. design is equally an art and a science. As a discipline. residents may vant to those conditions. though intuitive. 1995). 1995). in- mental conditions (Thistlewood. designers employ a variety of techniques. Alternatively. valuing the subjectivity and specificity of the arts. conflicts. munity participation requires tools that help non-designers sign aim to not only beautify the environment but to also visualize their existing circumstances and assess various fu- respond to human needs. involving internal contradictions and tools. the situation under study is essential to design. 2003. Because brick-and-mortar designs on techniques (e. design-as-science seeks to make the outcomes 1996).. transfer) in favor on a design that mimics the consistent fen- estration of a Carnegie-style library or the pitched roofs of Designers’ problem-solving approach their bungalow-style homes. 2001). which can generate Objectives more informed solutions.g. look- investigation of a problem to meet a need or improve an ing for surprises and interesting points that will give rise to existing condition. In attempting to provide a missing element Jewkes. derive a bold concept (sometimes called the big move). model-making. energy-saving features as vertical window fins (used on the vor behavioral explanations may obscure the role of contex. 2004). with designers analyzing and coming to understand of intuitive investigations predictable through an objective the problem by trying out possible solutions (Dorst & Cross. Sanoff.g.. Simons. we designers work in teams. team approach can detract dress practical problems in a way that also uplifts the human from the artistic enterprise. quent moves (Sch¨on. that the problem and its solution co-evolve (Maher et al. When and because we emphasized this aspect in the charrettes. and impose a logic that guides subse- encompasses the inquiry modes of both the arts and the sci. referred to as visualization tools. design particular elements. 2005). stead proven. to the group’s social processes (Stempfle & Badke-Schaub. familiar solutions. sketching. p. north side of a building to reflect more light inside) or a flat tual and structural factors in community issues (O’Connor. innovation. Further. computer-assisted simula- – people often resist designers’ innovations. a participatory approach to design also seeks to ad. These typically ambiguous. thus risking explanations and outcomes irrele. bringing in community members further expands both emphasizes originality and artistic expression. 1982). quiry modes employed in the discipline. 1982). 522) and other designers – far Designing in teams or with community members compli- fewer in number – asserting that knowledge-based solutions cates matters by requiring collective problem solving. 1990) and giving form to cluding some borrowed from social scientists (Cornwall & human activity. 2001. become expensive. For example.128 Am J Community Psychol (2006) 38:125–139 (Luke. 1988). Design-as-art involves a systematic.

more community-responsive projects. which may lead social scien. edge of a situation by telling stories. 2004).Am J Community Psychol (2006) 38:125–139 129 comparing a community’s past. Unlike the objective knowledge of experts. coming engaged whether as individuals or as representatives tations that help people make sense of their spatial expe. calls forth a wider range Potential benefits of community members’ participation of human perceptions. 1999). tiple dimensions (Cornwall & Jewkes. can aid the storytelling process. rupt it deliberately or due to lack of experience. Participatory designers benefit community problem-solving 1998) but also the objectives they bring into a participatory by generating beautiful. a personal commit- problematic (Cross. other and to the experts. realities. 2001). brokers. Typically diverse along mul- tists and community members alike to perceive them as un. Nasar. hours or insufficient funds to hire a babysitter (Cornwall & Jewkes.. such as long work environment (Galle. Waters & munity members’ participation helps them build their own Evans. spatial changes. ment to desirable outcomes along with preconceived notions pression may also seem irrelevant to pressing community of what is desirable. sometimes referred to as personal knowledge. Values Outcomes Knowledge derived from practical experience. and models – that help designers study DuBois. Because community members have a more capacity to salvage the deteriorated infrastructure of their nuanced understanding of problems (Cornwall & Jewkes. distrust of experts’ intentions. participatory designers may find that their in facilitating some solutions while blocking others (Corn- disciplinary tilt toward bold. 1998). tion helps diverse stakeholders tell their stories to each rives from their experiences in particular places at partic. they value expert and tech. even when it proves bring friendships along with animosities. portant historical and current conditions that experts may tive and spatial. Participants have diverse cultural back- Advantages grounds and socioeconomic characteristics that not only af- fect how they perceive their surroundings (see e. 1996). 2001). 1995). com- ing of their everyday environment (Tuan. and visualization tools pear to leap to conclusions. These competing objectives can pose significant riences and communicate with each other about possible obstacles to problem-solving (Al-Kodmann. others dis- to them. Further. At the same time. drawing upon the skills acquired in their vary- perception since studies indicate that designers have a ten. process. ing personal and professional lives. and intellectual powers range from more aware citizens to more accountable power than those associated with objective knowledge (Polanyi. and a height- 1962). Springer .g. of a group. present. communities and have an experience of bringing about 1995. 1994). Community members dency to make their initial concept work. 1995). the per. More importantly. 1999). novel concepts conflicts with wall & Jewkes. with those persons who will create and use the actual or because they have personal constraints. 2003). Additionally. Their emphasis upon artistic ex. 1995). they assume responsive or self-indulgent – a not entirely unreasonable different roles. not recognize (Rappaport. Some community members follow community members’ interest in detail and what is familiar the generally accepted rules of group dialogue. and future (Al. reminding them to point out im- ular moments in time. nical solutions that reflect the complexity of their everyday Kodmann. Methods Drawbacks Community members primarily communicate their knowl- Because designers co-evolve problem and solution. perhaps due to a spatial environment. change. while also facilitating communication disinterest in a particular issue. Visualiza- sonal knowledge people have of their communities de. others remain disengaged. and an agenda along with an interest concerns. they create visual represen. functional solutions to complex spa. Popay & Williams. Outcomes Objectives The outcome of a participatory design process takes the form Although many citizens want to participate in decisions that of visual representations – typically colorful perspective affect the quality of life in their communities (Lapp´e & drawings. community members do not Community members’ problem-solving approach bring an agreed-upon methodology into the problem-solving process. feelings.. reflecting their experience and understand. diagrams. People’s knowledge is both subjec. Thus unlike social scientists and designers. ened sense of ownership (Israel et al. they ap. 1977. they have varying motivations for be- tial problems.

our center mirrors na- horse-drawn carts on the way to final reviews. when they the charrette methodology and reflect upon its outcomes. including recruiting a community partner. faculty and students convened monthly in an invitational Charrettes can also take the form of intensive workshops. Outcomes may seem to offer little direct as team leaders and role models for students. 1976). while being even-handed in "looking proach that evolved over time as we reiteratively reflected at the elephant" from each group’s perspective.130 Am J Community Psychol (2006) 38:125–139 Advantages which sometimes involve the public. sometimes leaping onto structures into invisible networks of faculty seeking to the carts to retrieve their presentations from proctors build bridges between the academy. dedicate every waking moment to preparing a presentation. government. 1998. urban design students sometimes joining in. architecture charrettes had traditionally Drawbacks taken the form of a multi-day investigation of a controver- sial spatial problem in the city. Experts may belittle their ideas or funds may be the university. Sanoff. Architecture students participated as part of lacking to implement them. industry.. participatory ap- informed creativity. Our challenge in evolv. of the methodology. began in formal group of faculty and students from many disci- the 1800s when Parisian students attending the first school plines who shared an interest in participatory approaches of architecture hurried to finish their assignment aboard to research and design. 2001. department faculty. 2000). and political science. tudes in their communities. 1997). doing much benefit (Cornwall & Jewkes. 1997. 1998). students had a limited role. 2000) and prevent community members from telling their The center that sponsored the charrettes formed in 1993 stories directly. Charged with putting a new face on this revered tradi- proaches within a fixed time frame. according to folklore. 2000). with landscape architecture and exclude the most disempowered people (Sandercock. 1998). or lacked the skills to keep pace with Interdisciplinary design charrettes the work (Kelbaugh. As such. which has drew until the very last moment on the cart or en charrette evolved over the last century from visible institutional (Kelbaugh. chitects. sign inquiry. the department chair felt the need for a The charrette methodology affords the opportunity to exper. education. Its mis- as evidenced by the evaluations and outcomes of each sion included developing design criteria for K-12 school charrette. we needed to avoid relying too heavily on de. (Kelbaugh. reflecting a belief that tightly scheduled brainstorming promotes creative Because community members bring socially and politically consensus building. In 1998. cuss the charrette methodology. the process may their required course work. Then we describe three implementations natively. seminar. Additionally.” or relying too heavily on hi-tech visualization tools. 2003). factions of a community together to focus mental energy. tion. In this section. 1995) or may seem unrelated to of the work and presenting the outcomes in a lecture at their input. A charrette in itself comprises a ritual peculiar to the that mission broadened as the center evolved into an in- design disciplines which. about one third lost in- terest. 1994. However be- Seaver. needs. Sanoff. fundamental beliefs (Bloom. cause these charrettes were not educational per se. various outcomes. 2000). iment with integrating these different problem-solving ap. Springer . which would produce uninformed “pretty pic- tures. and local practitioners served pation unattractive. By balancing the contributions of each as a traditional inter-academic bridging structure funded group. of- in the designers reacting to community participation as an fering a seminar followed by a charrette. 1997). In our university. The students tional trends in interdisciplinary collaboration. and implementing impediment to artistic expression (Harrison. In rare instances. Alter. The most successful charrettes bring constructed knowledge of the conditions. Owens. Nationally distinguished ar- For varied reasons. and atti. we sought to improve community problem-solving by architecture. facilities and also creating K-12 design curricula. Though the charrettes accrued enormous successes. and develop consensus on a difficult. Today’s students use the term to describe and the community (Klein & Newell. they improve the effectiveness heighten awareness. the center obtained funding from central administration ing the methodology consisted of establishing a spirit of and began crafting a new interdisciplinary. we dis- to avoid relying too heavily upon social science inquiry. To develop the frenetic activity that precedes their reviews. They timely problem (Sanoff. change. in most years. community members may find partici. Context which can falsely persuade (Al-Kodmann. dropped out. charrettes also increase the potential for social change due to the sense can provide a structure for helping people re-examine of ownership their participation engenders. which required at least one which would upend the spontaneity of design and result year to realize. We needed upon the evaluations of each event. of decision making (Israel et al.

prac. one social science or design student serving as the leader for social science students would take the lead in facilitat- a group of 13 to 14 students. education. While design students team consisting of two design faculty or practitioners and would take the lead in producing visual representations. ture searches related to the social and spatial aspects of the dents per team). For design students.g. In the seminar. ical stance. landscape on with students. including dis- would take the lead in creating photographic data banks and cussions at the center’s invitational seminar. The entire team would develop an over- architecture. cedures typical of a small design office. writing). cen- work conducted interviews after those charrettes. and urban design. social scientists. Another measure of success consists of ing instructions for the visioning session. and a liberal arts undergraduate student.. that faculty and practitioner team leaders would assume titioners. We expected that the community partner would take the lead in clarifying project goals. and then share their findings ulty and students. and academic publications by fac- social and spatial resources. It called for interviews with com- charrettes. beginning with securing participation goals. history. interdisciplinary collaboration. with student leaders investing Community participation consisted of youth developing 40 to 55 hours and other students investing 20 to 35 hours their own proposals prior to the charrette and presenting over the course of five days. a doc- munity members. and action. social work. and then small groups of students would community and environmental planning. for authoring a mission statement. (e. ing the visioning session and community forum. we established objectives reflecting our theoret- which framed the problem addressed during the charrette. To assess the students and community members’ reactions to conducting and analyzing interviews. Following pro- The participants for each seminar/charrette sequence con. The other task – designing members and community members participated in the evalu- a visioning session – asked students to create a visualiza- ations (for a complete discussion of the pre-post evaluations. assets mapping. 2002. spent many hours together. i. a doctoral student in education administered a pre- problem posed by the community partner into a doable as- post evaluation. Stu. shedding light upon the interdisciplinary social science students would take the lead in conducting experiences of students and their interactions with com- and analyzing interviews. and a doctoral student in social photographs. and social scientists from all concept. Both groups would conduct litera- which resulted in far lower participation (one or two stu. and in rette counted as part of their required core course work. we envisioned sisted of undergraduate and graduate students. the teams problem.. maps. design students the outcomes occurring after the charrette. assessment and visioning session. social work students observed two of the signment for the charrette. while also attending other them to initiate the event. The seminar. Sutton & Kemp. and then write instructions for using the lustrative data from these evaluations comprise one mea- tool during the charrette.e.. architecture. tion tool that would help designers and non-designers make see Sutton & Kemp. script for the forum. and retrieval of archival data (e. To complete their assignment. creating photographic data banks. community partners undertook with the community partner in order to articulate charrette their own outcomes. explore alternative solutions for aspects of that concept. One task – conduct- participation.g. and social science students. and youth and adult community members. and urban planning. it counted as an independent study. organizing the community forum. synthesizing census data. project descriptions.. re- Expected contributions of designers. conducting a tour of the neighborhood and assessing evolving solutions We use the term visual inquiry to characterize the types of during the charrette. reports doc- creating the visualization tool.Am J Community Psychol (2006) 38:125–139 131 Participants The charrettes primarily utilized visual inquiry. with each ordinate the small-group designs. To assess these objec- ing a needs assessment – helped students turn the vague tives. 2006). the role of mentors and project directors.g. aerial and ground-level toral student in education. cruiting community members with personal knowledge of and community members the problem. community required both those methods of inquiry. During the with the team periodically reconvening to critique and co- charrette. working hands- dents included designers from art. historic photographs). Both team sus data. the char. and both groups would map umenting the proposals. In addition. drawing) and the term analytical inquiry to char- Measures of success acterize the types of investigative methods we expected so- cial scientists to contribute (e. and writ- munity members. in the charrette and then using the charrette proposals in a Springer . reflection. analyzing topographical maps. participants formed three or four teams. adults participating in the needs classes. we expected that sure of success. each gen- erating about 100 drawings and models. and the public attend- ing a community forum. public health. the charrette. faculty. and implementing proposals after the investigative methods we expected designers to contribute charrette. retrieving archival data. The il- decisions together.

the seminar students conducted a needs assess- hope resulted from the heightened awareness of a problem ment that included cognitive mapping and design sessions that the charrette engendered. Outdoor classrooms and public art at the New sidewalks leading to one school. and a steep generated a diversity of ideas and helped them learn to topography constrained pedestrian movement. all underwritten by sales tax col. Their comments indicate that would have liked even greater ter and five new schools. students with 2 design faculty members and 1 students proposed: organized to illustrate outdoor education social science faculty member as consultants 1. and interactive Presentations to school board and city council in both disciplines (6 people) compasses. and outcomes for Charrette I Participants Proposals Outcomes Community partner: suburban school district To create informal outdoor learning A poorly attended community forum serving primarily immigrant children opportunities at community sites and link Drawings and models Seminar: 5 design students. outcomes occurred that we charrette. Given analysis of this informa- tion. and mapping of sure. A digital publication of the proposals. and A gateway immigrant community located at the intersection outcomes. and 1 district 4. mostly white and a few Asian adults and mostly im- migrant children. a teaching team of faculty and students from our also note practical difficulties (e. the comments were being built.000 com. 109 fifth graders. who did not us to provide suggestions for improving children’s oppor. live in the area and did not attend the community forum. which teams members were to discuss with looking across the three charrettes to synthesize the children and adults. lessons they provide for interdisciplinary. Their visioning session utilized a map locating the sites.g.500) that Teaching team: 1 design student. tunities to navigate and explore the outdoor environment.132 Am J Community Psychol (2006) 38:125–139 Table 2 Participants. A habitat corridor to link the yards of private charrette superintendent (190 people) and multi-family housing with the school yards Proposals incorporated sketches by fifth graders variety of ways. Interpretive trails and signage to make theories (10 people) children aware of the history of various Two public art projects (totaling $53. Prior to the work together as colleagues. 2 social science them to the schools via pedestrian pathways. With 70 percent of the land zoned commercial. bus shelters. However. they stated the assignment as: create informal learning opportunities at twelve community sites and link them to Description of the charrettes the schools via pedestrian pathways. discussions with teachers. A comprehensive bicycle trail to link An op-ed piece in a local newspaper and a 1 social science faculty member (all in existing fragmented pathways. though students. members Charrette: 58 design students. proposals. but sporadic sidewalks. muters. compared with just 8 percent for community participation. community members on a real-world issue.. providing lessons related to the construction indicate satisfaction with the opportunity to work with process. 1 design landmarks. their comments charrette.000 residents compared to 100. See Table 2 for a summary of the participants. In some cases. disciplinary diversity and that they believed collaboration lections. the teachers’ comments indicate satisfac- To complete their task of developing an assignment for the tion with the children’s design sessions and university Springer . asking faction with the lack of input from teachers. community-based The charrette involved 115 participants consisting of problem-solving. and 1 student with a background bridges. the area’s outdoor resources. For their part. of two interstate highways served as the site for this char. the district funded and volunteers built faculty member. proposals. area had just 15. 3 principals. and this cannot be directly attributed to the teachers. dividing up tasks and center had been working at two schools where new buildings developing common ground). but we cannot know this for with fifth graders. but dissatis- The school district served as community partner. The neighborhood afforded a new community cen. while adding three-minute spot on a local television station education). students devoted 23 rette. 8 team leaders. Charrette I: Improving opportunities for informal which the center and community partner continued to col- outdoor learning in a suburban community laborate on implementing over a three-year period. arterial roads. the percent of their comments to interdisciplinary collaboration. 9 three elementary schools. In their evaluation of Charrette I. 2 social science 3. along with photographs and Below we provide a description of each charrette before descriptions. 2 social science students and 2. It resulted in a variety of proposals. Additionally.

The neighborhood offered a small-town mostly white and a few Asian adults and teenagers.Am J Community Psychol (2006) 38:125–139 133 Table 3 Participants. several historic buildings. students devoted fewer The volunteer planners served as community partner. a A scholarly paper network of alleys.200 persons with residential property preferences by applying cut-outs of various architectural el- surrounding a compact business district and a median house. and density in the area. hold income 30 percent higher than the city’s served as the The charrette involved 91 participants consisting of site for this charrette. posals. curving public art installation with this cannot be directly attributed to the seating. It resulted in a variety of pro- landscape. Though borhood plan. Multi-story buildings with features that Integration of the drawings into the city’s students. an Olmsted park that dou. ements to the montage. many comments about work- office that would soon produce design guidelines for their ing across disciplines parallel those made by students partic- plan. A streetscape with traffic calming (achieved consultants that incorporated the digital principals. but dissatisfaction and photography. they with not receiving extra compensation for curriculum stated the assignment as: provide alternative approaches to planning. offer a mix of residential and commercial use. we took on this partnership because problem that has practical problems in terms of integrating we felt the charrette outcomes would help inform ongoing the disciplines). 6 team leaders. In particular. students proposed: A digital publication and an exhibition of the administrators (designers) as consultants (6 1. compared to 24 percent for community participation. participants were to indicate design A neighborhood of 9. which the center and community partner continued ing lots in the heart of the business district diminished its to collaborate on implementing over a fifteen-month period. decorative motifs) and Two articles in a community newspaper of the planning group including residents. proposals.. pedestrian quality. A request for proposals from design business persons. Because the city had mandated increased See Table 3 for a summary of the participants.g. but heavy vehicular traffic and numerous park. even quality. Given analysis of this information. while also maintaining its Drawings and models Seminar: 4 design students with 2 city small-town quality. though the university had contributed monies to bring bled as a high school playground. though stage. and pedestrian/vehicular conflicts and increase 4. In their evaluation of Charrette II. meeting city-mandated requirements for increased density along four blocks of the main street in the business district. Charrette II: Maintaining a small-town character while while also maintaining its small-town quality. and city officials (92 people) through distinctive paving patterns and publication enlarged sidewalks at intersections). and created a neighborhood plan. proposals. sentment about lack of respect for the social scientists and To develop a charrette assignment. and outcomes for Charrette II Participants Proposals Outcomes Community partner: volunteer planning group To meet city-mandated requirements for A very well-attended community forum for a middle-income urban community increased density. but the comments of this group indicate re- debates about density in communities throughout the city. comments to interdisciplinary collaboration – 14 percent ing us to provide drawings that would illustrate their neigh. neighborhood design guidelines students. and green streets linking to Codified design guidelines to minimize regional open space. Their vision- achieving greater density ing session utilized two 50-foot-long photomontages of both sides of the main street. and charrette demolition of an addition to the original field house Park proposal incorporated high school students’ ideas visit as a career awareness exposure. Refurbishment of the park to include a new pedestrian-scale architectural features. ask. and 15 members porches. they wanted to influence the city less relevant in this charrette. meetings with the planners. strategies Charrette: 51 design students. Elements to preserve. proposals. 4 young architects. K-12 3. bay windows. Elements to preserve. 4 social science 2. and a distinctive natural teenagers of color onto campus. 12 high school maintain human scale (e. a branch librarian. overhangs. conducted a needs assessment that included design sessions Though the comments of some students indicate dissatis- with the high school students. enlarged entries. organized to illustrate six design people) 1. a volunteer planning group had organized outcomes. the seminar students the designers’ tendency to dominate. defined paths. Though working within a middle-income context was ipating in Charrette I (a broadened outlook on a real world atypical for our center. faction with serving a middle-income community and with Springer .

demanding that the building dents seemed energized but also overwhelmed by the his- be converted into a heritage museum. residents. Nevertheless. and their own lack of responsiveness to community ings and symbolizing a bitter struggle by community activists concerns. an inventory of neighborhood ments indicate great satisfaction with the quality of commu. lem of profound social relevance despite the difficulties they The agency served as community partner. university brought to their proposed project. To de. ceived value – to solving the problem and to the students’ The charrette involved 94 participants consisting primar- education. students’ comments indi. design. though this precaution proved unnec- that “could be immediately incorporated and implemented. An overcrowded elementary school had served the concerns about conflicts between black team leaders and area during the era of restrictive housing covenants.” essary and insulting to community members. the university’s involvement in the community and learn- ter the state demolished surrounding properties to construct ing about faculty members’ track record there. participants ticipation in this charrette would seem to reflect community were to attach the images to a map to indicate the desired members’ increased engagement. See Table 4 for a summary of the participants. connect the abandoned building to its surroundings. This racial make-up and the contested subject matter and what outcomes to expect. asking us to encountered. not just the museum. several historically ers adding a layer to the disciplinary conflicts experienced significant sites. their deep sincerity in trying to address community about the neighborhood’s acceptance of its plan for a much needs (noting the lack of a “bwana attitude”). the community members participated in the needs assessment and visioning partners comments indicate that they had difficulty under. as illustrated in paintings by black artists. session. when white students. Their agency had just purchased the building and was raising funds attitudes toward interdisciplinary collaboration seemed col- to redevelop it into market-rate housing. proposals. but they also a highway through the heart of the neighborhood. sues. Their comments also indicate satisfaction with However. The added attention to community par. ethnic festivals. and mostly white conflicts and result in students feeling less adequate to gen. display of cultural heritage. dents. provide suggestions for improving access to their newly ac. umentation of the neighborhood’s historic destruction. community partners’ comments indicate a quired building since its original access had been destroyed positive reaction to students’ tremendous inventiveness and by re-grading for the highway. soul food restaurants. For their part. the credibility the a needs assessment that included cognitive mapping. which enhanced their per. location of these activities. archival research.134 Am J Community Psychol (2006) 38:125–139 the overbearing style of one community partner. and photographic documentation. commercial space. In all. the visual doc- smaller museum than the activists had envisioned. especially the fear of gentrification. enrollment had plunged and the school closed af. and the char- and writing sessions with the fifth graders. Their visioning session utilized hood may have resulted in proposals that did not adequately images of activities identified during interviews with resi- address local needs. the seminar students conducted unanticipated politeness of the activists. students recognized the great demolished during highway construction – but rapid gentri. ored by a strong sense of disciplinary and cultural inade- and a small heritage museum. Charrette III: Making a historically black neighborhood In their evaluation of Charrette III. into a members and their own lack of familiarity with the neighbor. though primarily white community erate meaningful proposals. while cate concern that limited communications with community turning the entire neighborhood. the relationship also seemed to surface ily of black team leaders and fifth graders. A neighborhood-based torical and sociopolitical complexity of the problem. The neighborhood afforded a quacy. and outcomes. they rated the charrette prompted the community partner to hire an armed guard for very positively and felt it provided them with fundable ideas the community forum. Yet. the velop a charrette assignment. stu- who occupied it for eight years. students stated the assignment as: re- lent to the work. most com. forum. They also expressed concern energy. and some Asian students. even though they expressed charrette. benefit of working with community members on a prob- fication threatened to displace the area’s historical residents. The school noted the university’s general insularity from community is- sat vacant for twenty-five years. numerous churches. isolated from its surround. many African Americans attended the community standing the charrette process. and their own inadequate knowledge of the Negroes were effectively confined to this area of the city. At the same time. A historically black neighborhood of 28. community. However. with racial tensions between students and team lead- rich cultural history.300 persons (46 Students’ comments indicate that they especially valued the percent African American) with a median household income charrette’s cultural diversity and working with local resi- 27 percent lower than the city’s served as the site for this dents on a meaningful problem. students devoted even into a heritage museum fewer comments to interdisciplinary collaboration – 7 per- cent compared to 59 percent for community participation. For their part. Given analysis nity members’ input and the sense of purposefulness they of this information. interviews with rette itself. their roles within that process. and by social scientists and designers participating in previous a substantial amount of open space – the result of properties charrettes. which generated innovative ideas and seemed to Springer . resources.

interviewed community members both before and after the design students developed a tool with little attention to how event. The best example students were unable to produce an effective visualization occurred during Charrette III. However. Expanding knowledge through multiple modes of Engaging community members in the visioning session inquiry Though we explicitly intended that the visioning sessions The charrettes provide beneficial insights into how social would allow community members to communicate on an science and design inquiry can combine to produce a deeper even keel with team members. documenting sites much as they for organizing the proposals. launching a public relations campaign. tists’ research that community members fully grasped the de- struction of their neighborhood’s infrastructure. While their pre-interviews yielded objective design participants would use it. and 1 2. and 3 market. proposals. and getting input from the university’s business school Proposals incorporated fifth graders’ drawings and stories change minds. Due to the interplay between the designers and social sci- sis of the charrettes reveals that this methodology offers both entists. in these charrettes. students proposed: according to four themes contained in the students with 2 social science faculty 1.Am J Community Psychol (2006) 38:125–139 135 Table 4 Participants. 8 team leaders. agency representatives (94 people) 4. However. resident interviews members. The second seminar students put all their effort into Springer . Open spaces for social activities (farmers 1 teacher.’ And to see it in that not only integrates intuitive and analytical inquiry but that chronological pattern and graphically was very powerful. deeper relationship with the university and the was through the designers’ visualization of the social scien- costliness of the proposals. Creating a network of businesses and arts organizations. Advantages and drawbacks to interdisciplinary one community member explained: “The historic presenta- community problem solving tion they put together of what’s happened here and analyzing it historically is just saying: ‘this is what the neighborhood We set out to explore a problem-solving methodology that used to be and this is what it is now. created an exhibition that community members passively ad- These students also spearheaded a systematic investigation mired. work students. 2 design heritage. pea patches. despite its evident value. Reopening a street de-mapped during highway construction. A network of pathways connecting An article in a local newspaper public relations person for the agency serving landmarks and incorporating public art Two scholarly publications as consultants (15 people) depicting African American and A forthcoming doctoral dissertation in social Charrette: 10 social science students. their post-interviews deepened would at the outset of any design assignment. and evolution.” also engages community participation. reconfiguring a street that floods to drain naturally. in the first two charrettes understanding of community problems. 46 design neighborhood history. and then they our understanding of the benefits of visual representations. Such interplay did not occur in the first two charrettes because of the dearth of social science students in Advantages the seminar. Referring to a series of maps showing the neighborhood at different times. A comparative analy. 1 design faculty member. it an ongoing. ethnic festivals). That is. this charrette resulted in proposals that reflected the advantages and drawbacks to interdisciplinary community community’s current concerns. when social science students tool. Gateways to mark main entry points. and outcomes for Charrette III Participants Proposals Outcomes Community partner: neighborhood-based To reconnect an abandoned building to its A reasonably well-attended community forum agency in a historically black urban surroundings. The first seminar students trav- criteria that provided the basis for the visioning session and eled throughout the town. as well as its cultural history problem solving. 5. 5 community members. 21 fifth graders and 3. their comments noted the need for into the history of the neighborhood and school. while turning the entire Drawings and models community neighborhood into a display of cultural An exhibition of proposals organized Seminar: 9 social science students.

they tested their methodology twice. Aerial seminar. and a longer time later codified this vision as a design guideline speaks to the frame. teams their needs assessment. the other charrettes lacked. to change its position. but two of the designers had a research background. In addition. which further shifted in the com- vealed. the group evolved many social interactions. many community partners. number of parking places. the group had begun black artists to depict the activities their interviews had re. but commandeered as community members watched or wrote the photographs revealed striking evidence of just how much on the montage. once within the class Unquestionably. proved extremely useful in structuring (e. their center to lead children through these design and construction everyday reality. ing weeks as they walked the district. their plan for the session specified with fresh eyes. seeing the macadam alization tool. the best tracted more teenagers of color). resulting in a sharpened spatial framing of the ini- photographs. Their influenced the way students framed the charrette through session had four components: socializing over food. the problem of needing access to a building After a year debating how to accommodate parking given that had a contentious. the problem of need- collaging spatial elements (derived from their needs assess.. tion with needing community support for a contentious plan cluded that the numerous parking lots had to remain – an attracted mostly social science students. processes. ing outdoor learning environments primarily attracted de- ment) onto a map. In Charrette III. However. its visioning session can illustrate what durability of the co-learning that occurred. the seminar stu- However in a fourth charrette. While seminar vision. university. the initial problem posed by the community and again with the community partner. and communicate. dents always engaged K-12 youngsters in hands-on work In Charrette II. it created camaraderie among the participants that the students’ framing of the charrette was mainly spatial. which the designers novative approach to parking would have been futile. This group con- idea that counters expert wisdom on what makes a viable ducted an investigation into the multilayered historical and Springer . the problem of needing drawings for a (drawing. For this reason. Pressing the planners to adopt a more in- hard-to-cut-out architectural elements. developing a recruitment approach that might have at- these discussions in all three charrettes. Using visualization tools to engage community members The depth of this interdisciplinary collaboration produced in co-learning outcomes that continued for over three years. stu. and the entire group selecting a set of shared science orientation of the separate teaching team that was values. racially charged history in combina- the city’s mandate for increased density. By using designers’ tools. This seminar Drawbacks had five designers and just one social scientist. By the end of the meeting. while discussing their neighborhood plan attracted only design students into the evolving assessment with adult community members. but that group expanded to include the social in the collage. II produced proposals situated within the design literature ners spent three hours studying aerial photographs of their and utilized by the community partner as design guidelines.g. teaching team enhanced interactions with the children and grounded the design process in outdoor education theories. leaving little time to work with the a shared vision that reflected expert wisdom and it’s own tool. In Charrette I. teams reflecting upon the values implicit sign students. we finally realized our in. We have not reported this charrette here due to ment. writing). solutions the planners had not imagined. vestigations of traffic counts. At the same time. the group had con. providing a visual the third seminar put all their efforts into the process. This session not only generated a compelling shared involved in the school construction project. while leaving unexplored its social dimensions perspective drawings. making sure that non. and profes- collect information but that the research process would help sional communities as well as the curricula developed by the community members make sense of. which encouraged the designers to propose technical its divergence from the others – it involved a more com. we hoped students would achieve by attending to both the visualization tool and the process of using it. including the design and construction of two separate public art installa- We intended that the seminar students would not merely tions by volunteers from the school. Not only did this Achieving disciplinary balance within the seminar group develop the social and visual aspects of the session. neighborhood. That the planners plex problem. de. heightened awareness. Charrette example occurred in Charrette II when the volunteer plan. Conversely. Nevertheless. the social science students in macadam existed in the business district. partner determined enrollment in the seminar. dents emphasized the parking problem in their needs assess- tentions.136 Am J Community Psychol (2006) 38:125–139 producing an exquisite photomontage and a collection of business district. understanding of the issue that differed from their other in- bating in detail every social interaction that might occur. which in turn designers felt comfortable manipulating the materials. and Though they hit upon a strong idea of using paintings by the like. they lacked the technical skills to produce the visu. intended to facilitate the rapid production of tial problem. model-making. In this spirit of iterative co-learning.

but to produce useful outcomes for our community terprise. deeply contextualized data (Luke. The charrettes illustrate that each group of partici- project reflects the culture of design where students spend pants contributed something valuable to community problem up to 90 percent of their time in studios that are open twenty. Because we were unable to attract a balance of students. the social scientists fo- their involvement. Through visual inquiry methods. cation/generalization mechanisms that the experts employed ences. They ensured that charrette contributed to the social scientists feeling out of neither the designers nor the social scientists would apply the Springer . cardboard models. peopled frame for a situation they observed: “I felt like I had arrived late for a party where might otherwise have addressed solely in spatial terms. the design teams working the groundwork for envisioning novel possibilities (Harri- in an atmosphere of perpetual motion at tables piled high son. Because of this emphasis.” the group failed to design a workable visioning session. In addition. But everyone else knew each other. ditions that had produced a given spatial environment. Rappaport. avoided the disruption by limiting upon the products of the charrette. At the same time. The open atrium where the places with a new clarity and detachment. which provided plastered with visual materials. providing the place. 1998). while linking their expert knowledge Feeling out of place on designers’ turf of social and spatial issues with community members’ first- hand understanding of their environment. the design- dent even experienced public ridicule at the hands of a team ers helped expand the partial view that community members leader for producing crude work. they began to see familiar reflected the culture of design. they produced visual representations that reflected their skills as design. books. providing the stories to help the ex- cally work. at community problem solving other times its spatial dimensions prevailed. a form of public feedback them as objective observers (Harrison. known as a critique in the design disciplines that also con.Am J Community Psychol (2006) 38:125–139 137 sociopolitical issues within the neighborhood. assignment until Charrette III. along with the physical most likely because they had a personal stake in producing fabric and political climate (Sanoff. the space and social interactions of the charrette members with the tools of design. while their education had socialized them to accept such disrup. involves projects. who lacked the socialization and group processes. as did the charrette itself. four/seven. one stu. (Boog. which resulted in a community forum presentation a process of moving things around to create more desirable that far surpassed previous ones. Whereas the designers focused more and institutional supports. spatial and visual relationships. the social science students. when the facilitator became which primarily concerns itself not with existing conditions more vociferous in demanding concise descriptions of the but with how the world ought to be (Lawson. Believing that the visioning process had to consider ing an assignment that required both drawing and writing. First. the social science students. Community members counterbalanced the simplifi- trasted with the private feedback occurring in the social sci. coffee cups. perts interpret layers of meaning that might have eluded ings and then discussing them. the social scientists or three consecutive all-nighters to produce presentations for helped enrich both the designers and the community mem- midterm and final reviews. bers’ understanding of the historical and sociopolitical con- jected to the disruption the charrettes created in their lives. Though many design students ob. with tracing paper. At the same time. lems. community members contributed an and drawing equipment. 2002). solving. spatial environment. In this way. the very idea of students toiling away on a partners. using their superior facilitation skills to manage interpersonal tion. The charrette as a space apart for interdisciplinary sometimes the social dimensions of the problem prevailed. 1998. Design. using an iterative ers. This studio-like space contrasted understanding of how they experience their social and with the environments where social science students typi. The disciplinary imbalance of the seminar negated our intentions to pay equal Through the charrette. ter sought to develop a problem-solving methodology that which benefited from affiliation with the teaching team. team leaders emphasized drawing despite hav. The distinctive space and social interactions of the with the specificity of their experience. By equipping community Finally. members of an interdisciplinary cen- attention to social and spatial issues except in Charrette I. 2000). cused more upon the social interactions the charrette engen- Second. 2003). observing their event took place consisted of work areas separated by easels neighborhood with suspended skepticism. neither had of their spatial environment and engaged them in spec- the design nor social science students completed the writing ulating about how that environment might develop. the team interacted by posting draw. Design students are accustomed to investing two Through analytical inquiry methods. research process that helped promote co-learning and action in a minority on the team. the people. felt obligated to draw. 2003). dered. we Despite our intentions to integrate social science into the hoped to not only generate a deeper understanding of prob- charrette. 1999). would integrate the differing inquiry modes of social sci- entists and designers. As one of the center’s social science faculty members design teams with a rich. this week of frenetic work remained a design en. their culture and history.

greater social differences and therefore greater interpersonal tive. and Linda Hurley Ishem. (2001). (e. and generalizable knowledge of social scientists ventional approach to inter-academic relations with commu- – with the practical knowledge of community members. ing (“talking across disciplines was easy – too easy. We nity relations as secondary.g. community members assured more nuanced propos. each group resistant to rethinking its out incorporating the particularities of their neighborhoods. big moves of the designers.g. in- 1998). the social knowledge: tools for promoting community-based planning and scientists seemed unduly intimidated by the designers’ ag- Springer . surfacing of two forms of technical knowledge – the visual. we believe that it it was only helpful to see the products that were generated provides a useful addition to the tools of interdisciplinary – the drawings and the models and things like that. . the charrette put the designers’ knowledge of the peopled aspects of spatial people into a temporary pressure-cooker with stimulating vi. and then encouraged them to be When spatial concerns did expand to include social ones. using accepted conventions in a drawing or writing ily incomplete understandings of the social scientists (Scott.. an article in a specified form and style). . we would note that the visual representations due to the prevailing lack of experience with. maintain disciplinary excellence but do not make one disci- The charrette offered a context for integrating these dis. the participants also encountered challenges. K. but then ‘a new thing’ would and could emerge”). norms. which limited their capacity to expand the speculative quality of a design studio. really opened the basis for rethinking issues of power and equity (Schoem up the thought process and allowed us to see the community et al. or emancipa. at least An expanded pool of participants – whether across disci- at first. across disciplinary and social boundaries. research associate with the UW Center for Instruc- they weren’t looking for helped them get closer to what tional Development and Research. Beginning with a fairly con- objective. The charrette tinctive contributions to problem solving. While the designers resisted Al-Kodmann. these new ways of knowing can provide itself (“having a professional team in there . Even seeing something Borgford-Parnell. issues. Bridging the gap between technical and local dedicating some of their time to social processes. got them excited and sometimes they would see things in them that they wanted to depart from but that was helpful Acknowledgements The authors gratefully acknowledge Jim and they even appreciated that. subjec. in plines or within the community – broadens the knowledge students’ valuing of the community’s knowledge (“[we need] base. co-learners. pline an outsider on another discipline’s turf. Because a charrette can potentially engage many All of the visual material that the students and the partici- different participants in speculation. 1993). conflicts among the participants. 1982 referring to though. and mutually respectful relationships community so that whatever position they come from .. Nevertheless. pants generated together is really inspiring to people in the consensus building.138 Am J Community Psychol (2006) 38:125–139 generic rules they had learned within their disciplines with. McTaggart. we feel that the conflicts of local knowledge. leaving students would lead to new insights and possibilities. a design student explains: fering perspectives and envision new academic and social structures. or even fear used by designers to explore and frame problems seem to of.. Interestingly tory knowledge (see e. Transformation ticulated as features of working with community members seemed to occur in normative discipline-based problem solv. Perhaps In particular. lems many interdisciplinary efforts seek to address. our experience suggests offer a useful problem-solving approach that captures both that greater group diversity results in increased disciplinary the generality of social science knowledge and the specificity and interpersonal conflicts. 1991). gressive spontaneity. The charrette methodology promoted a merger the problem became more deeply contextualized. new ways of knowing. Yet. 1993). doctoral they were looking for. Expand- References ing from the spatial to include social issues surfaced the rigidity of disciplinary culture. and how the community saw ries and practices. . In an interview with a social science represent not a drawback but an opportunity to mediate dif- student. feeling unsettled about their disciplinary roles. The charrettes provide some mentioned in the first two charrettes became more fully ar- evidence that such transformation did occur. And it research and action. to know how to talk to the community and gain insights that By augmenting or questioning accepted disciplinary theo- we otherwise would not have”). thus surfacing new understandings and perspectives. student in social work. many of the features of working across disciplines Habermas.. and specific knowledge of designers and the analytical. A foreshortened methodology made the social scientists into outsiders within space apart from participants’ normal routines. imbued with the realm of design. which lie at the heart of the community prob- in a new way”). in Charrette III. sual and human resources. Every discipline has rules that define competence By providing the local knowledge to expand the necessar. who generated the data for this article. the charrettes evolved into more assumed that the merger of technical and practical knowledge engaged but fractious community relations. Bredo & Feinberg. difference (Schoem et al. terdisciplinary collaboration requires a new set of rules that als and upended the simplistic. Yet. .

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