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I’m talking to a client about facilitating a two day workshop.  The participants need to write a large report.  One of the ideas proposed is to run the workshop as a charrette.

With apologies to any charrette experts out there, my understanding of a charrette is of a multi-disciplinary exercise designed around design.  My experience of charrettes (over a decade ago) relates to community centred urban design projects.

The word charrette is French for little cart.  Its use to describe a group design process emerged from the intensive last minute practices of 19th century architecture students at L’Ecole Des Beaux Arts in Paris.  Instructors would send the carts to collect drawing assignments.  Students made the most of final moments available by hopping onto the carts to add the final touches to their work before the deadline.

So I am revisiting the concept and application of charrettes, looking at potential benefits and elements of that process that might be applicable to this assignment.  

charrette wordle

There are many characteristics of this task that align with a traditional charrette.  There will be cross-sectoral experience and expertise in the room.  It has a specific task as its focus.  It will require concentration.  Participants will need to work in intensive spurts over two days.  To come to an agreed ‘whole’ outcome, participants will need to open up and learn from each other.  There will be flurries of activity.  Numerous feedback loops will be required for all of the breakout groups formed across the two days.  The cart will come to ‘collect’ their report on a date that is public, with a deadline that will not shift.

I’ve got a few questions about applying the full traditional charrette on this occasion.  They largely spring from the absolute structured agenda required.  My inclination is always to soften up the edges of process design to see what emerges from the group.  They know what they know and will respond as they need to respond.  I’ll keep you posted.

A few links courtesy of Google Scholar.  A trip to the local library for old-fashioned references proved fruitless.

The Charrette as an Agent for Change - Bill Lennertz.  2005.  Note: this is a pdf file.

Handbook for Planning and Conducting Charrettes for High-Performance Projects - Lindsay, Todd & Hayter.  US National Renewable Energy Laboratory

 A Tornado in Reverse - Mike Lamb

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