Community Collaborative Design

Community collaborative design is a general term used to define projects undertaken which benefit communities, non-profit and neighbourhood organisations, at varying scales and across a broad ranging scope of design services.

The process of community consultation and the role of design varies between collaboratives and organisations. By researching into this area, there are insights to be gained which may assist with future design and implementation strategies for Streets Without Cars. Three collaboratives were selected to highlight different approaches within the design process during the community consultation phase.

Community Design Collaborative

Established in 1991, CDC exists to assist communities, non-profits and neighbourhood organisations in the Philadelphia region with preliminary design services i.e. feasibility studies, scoping documents and concept design. The value of design and consultation services provided pro-bono for this process averages between $15,000 – $20,000. CDC projects do not extend to construction services.

Another important aim of CDC is to provide an avenue for connecting volunteer designers with non-profit leaders and communities in need, and to raise awareness about the importance and capacity of design in community renewal.

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The process encourages involvement from a wide variety of interested parties, including volunteer peer designers who review the project. Cost-estimating from the onset of the process is identified as a key priority, giving direction to the community’s goals. At the conclusion of the work, a report is generated for the client (community) to use in gaining third party funding.

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The work of the collaborative produces positive outcomes for all involved: clients gain the necessary tools to pursue funding for their visions; volunteer skills are harnessed in a way that make them feel that their time is worthwhile; the built environment benefits from an increase in diverse, engaging development projects.

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CoDesign Studio

Established in 2010, CoDesign Studio came into being when co-founder, Lucinda Hartley, realised that skills learned during volunteer work in developing countries could be applied here in Melbourne. She notes that “the ideas used to bring people into the design process are essentially the same,” and therefore applicable to any project involved with community consultation. CoDesign now works in Melbourne with neighbourhood renewal projects to develop and implement solutions and evaluate the results.[1]

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With three phases of work, CoDesign aims to initiate a short-term catalyst project of low-risk but high social activity to generate involvement within a community. These projects are usually within a context of a longer term goal, to potentially build a community-led strategy for the revitalisation of the area and in doing so, provide the opportunity for community members to establish connections with each other and with CoDesign.

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In an interview with Hartley in late 2012, she provided some insight into how CoDesign’s projects have been received:

We have very positive responses. Everyone likes the opportunity to meet with their neighbours and create something new. People really care about where they live, everyone cares about where they live. They just don’t always have the opportunity or understand how to make a difference in their community. What CoDesign can do is provide that channel for people to know how to make that change.[2]

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Architects without Frontiers

Established in Australia in 1999, Architects Without Frontiers conduct urban development and improvement projects in the Asia-pacific region. The organisation exists within the context of the larger international organisation, Architects Sans Frontieres, which has been implementing projects since 1979.

A community can approach AWF, and after a screened application process and preliminary consultation, a design team of volunteers engages with local designers in a traditional architectural design process. The team produces developed design ideas and supporting studies and scoping documents, which are then given to the community to assist with seeking funding opportunities.

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This process is very similar to the one utilised by CDC discussed above, though the geographical context, and relationship between international specialists and local designers, is unique.

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  1. Michael Short; The Zone interview with Lucinda Hartley; The Age; September 2012
  2. Ibid.

Image sources

  1. Community Design Collaborative process flowchart, author’s own image.
  2. Schools project, copyright Community Design Collaborative.
  3. Reimagining Philadelphia’s Schoolyards project, copyright Dominic Mercier.
  4. Community Design Collaborative measures of success, author’s own image.
  5. CoDesign Studio process flowchart, author’s own image.
  6. One Small Change Streetscape Activity, West Dandenong, copyright CoDesign Studio.
  7. Shape Your Carlton Project, copyright CoDesign Studio.
  8. CoDesign Studio measures of success, author’s own image.
  9. Architects Without Frontiers process flowchart, author’s own image.
  10. Architects Without Frontiers and RMIT collaboration for Gunbalunya Cultural Centre, copyright Architects Without Frontiers.
  11. Local and international volunteers working to build Gossing school, Nepal, copyright Architects Without Frontiers.
  12. Architects Without Frontiers measures of success, author’s own image.