Community Engagement

Best Practices for Government in Community Engagement

The report, “Best Practices for Elements of Engagement” highlights effective engagement practices among the seven Rebuild by Design projects. As project teams continue to engage with their communities, these practices can inspire project teams to effectively engage communities and develop innovative projects with sustainable results. Best practices are:

  1. Demonstrate the value of community participation: Sustainable engagement occurs when communities see that their input has an important role in the planning and design process.
  2. Sharing input should be easy and intuitive: Publicly funded sustainability projects mandate periods of public comment during which draft documents are shared with community members in order to provide formal feedback.
  3. Provide a physical planning space: Utilizing a storefront or other accessible space provides a “home” where project team members and government agencies can work together in a publicly accessible space.
  4. Visualizing the design aids understanding: Maps, models, and other hands-on visual aids help community participants understand what the project will look like when implemented.
  5. Use video to illustrate technical processes: Advancing a project from concept to implementation requires a significant amount of research, surveys and studies that show environmental effects over a sustained period of time.
  6. Keep the big picture in mind: Understanding how a community’s project area is interconnected with its surrounding communities encourages a comprehensive view of resilience.
  7. Share meetings online: Attending meetings can be a scheduling challenge for many residents. Using the internet to share what has been presented at meetings allows residents to stay informed when attendance proves prohibitive.
  8. Avoid inaccessible language: For most residents, “design jargon” and bureaucratic language are difficult to understand without years of experience.
  9. Utilize multiple outreach techniques: Community planning meetings are more successful when they harness the expertise and experiences of a diverse array of participants.
  10. Utilize existing social structures: Local community organizations can play an important role in facilitating outreach by extending their local networks and providing an additional credibility to Project Teams.
  11. The community is a classroom: Utilizing the project site itself as an outdoor classroom helps residents to understand the project’s impacts and implications.
  12. Respond to community concerns: Centering presentations, materials and programming on community concerns and clearly communicating design options fosters a relationship of trust and understanding with the community.

Read the full Elements of Effective Engagement report here.

© Rebuild by Design

RBD_U in Amman

In October 2017, academics, students and practitioners from the Middle East came together to test and define elements for teaching the planning and design of resilience in Amman, Ramallah, and Byblos.

As Amman looked to institutionalize resilience planning citywide, Resilience by Design University (RBD_U) was an opportunity to come together through a two-day event focused on the regional challenges of water, waste and transportation. The program partnered with local and regional universities to introduce resilience initiatives from the Resilient Amman strategy, and prototype solutions for local challenges. The program format was a two-day workshop split between theory and practice. The curriculum featured a mix of lectures, panel discussions, and workshops, and included practitioners and thought leaders from the fields of architecture, planning, design, engineering, technology, and the social and physical sciences locally and beyond.

The goal was to create a framework that can be used by academic institutions while working to create solutions to real problems, fine tune the understanding of resilience, and interact with local and national experts.

RBD_U Amman was organized by Rebuild by Design, PennDesign, 100 Resilient Cities, & Columbia University GSAPP.

Read more on the Rebuild by Design website.

© Rebuild by Design

RBD_U Bay Area

In October 2016, Bay Area academics, students, and practitioners convened to test and define elements of a shared curriculum for teaching resilience planning and design, specifically such that it reflects the challenges and resources in the Bay Area.

The goal was to create a framework that can be used by any academic institution, while working to create solutions to real problems, fine-tune the understanding of resilience, and meet people in the field. The two-day event featured lectures, panel discussions, and workshops with leaders in architecture, planning, design, engineering, technology, and the social and physical sciences. The RBD_U hackathon challenged students and practitioners to solve complex real world problems for Oakland, San Francisco and the South Bay.

RBD_U Bay Area was organized by Rebuild by Design, California College of the Arts Architecture, 100 Resilient Cities, New York University's Institute for Public Knowledge, PennDesign and San Jose State University.

Read more on the Rebuild by Design website.

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RBD_U Fundamentals

In February 2016, RBD_U offered a two-day symposium and workshop at Columbia University and New York University about the fundamentals of resilience.

Rebuild is excited to expand on the power that collaboration between designers, government, and communities will have on shaping a more resilient world.

Read more on the Rebuild by Design website.

© Rebuild by Design

RBD_U Kick Off Event

“Resilience by Design University” (RBD_U), launched with several schools, including University of Pennsylvania School of Design, New York University’s Institute of Public Knowledge (NYU/IPK) and the Yale School of Architecture, are setting up interdisciplinary conversations about resilience.

Its aim is to strengthen resilience in the schools’ curricula. In April 2015, students were invited to NYU/IPK for a workshop that explored possible collaborations between sociology and design. Looking at New York City’s Lower East Side, where the first compartment of the Hurricane Sandy Design Competition project the BIG U/Dryline is being advanced, the workshop addressed the possibilities of community-driven resiliency infrastructure.

Read more on the Rebuild by Design website.

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Planning for the Future of Xochimilco, Mexico

Rebuild by Design used its collaborative research and design approach to help Mexico City develop a plan for Xochimilco, a UNESCO cultural heritage area, to address climate change, water challenges, housing issues, and agricultural and tourism opportunities.

This initiative is part of Mexico City’s Resilience Strategy as a member city of 100 Resilient Cities, which focuses on regional collaboration and resilience, mobility, water, and equal access to urban amenities.

Rebuild helped Mexico City bring together interdisciplinary experts – such as academics specializing in urban planning and hydrology – to work with government officials develop a better understanding of Xochimilco’s challenges and opportunities. Designing a plan for Xochimilco included research, data, and site visits, with input from the public and key stakeholders at key points along the way.

Read more on the Rebuild by Design website.

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Collaborative Research and Design for a Resilience Pilot in San Juan, Puerto Rico

Rebuild worked with the City of San Juan, Puerto Rico on a resilience pilot to address multiple challenges the communities face including stormwater and sanitary sewer systems, informal housing, and economic and health disparities.

The resilience pilot informed the city’s resilience strategy as a member of 100 Resilient Cities. The 2-Stage collaborative research and collaborative design process based on Rebuild’s model kicked-off in October 2016 with parallel workshops with the communities and government agencies, where stakeholders were invited to draft their vision and goals and discuss research questions for the proposed Community Development Plan.

The following six-month processes began with the community setting their goals for the resilient neighborhood they wanted. This was followed by a research stage led by AECOM, Deltares, and the University of Wisconsin to understand the physical vulnerabilities to flooding and storm surge. Finally, a design stage, with a dedicated class from the University of Puerto Rico School of Architecture, utilized students to design five interventions that met the communities’ resilience goals. These designs included a series of water plazas to capture flooding, a new transportation network to connect the community to nearby health institutions and supermarkets, an “upcycling” space to reuse materials that could be sold for profit, a new bayfront walkway which would facilitate better access to their waterfront and a multi-service center that would facilitate health services.

At the end of the process, Rebuild and partners worked with the residents to review their original goals and determine if any were unmet by the five proposed physical projects. For those which were unmet, a workshop was facilitated to brainstorm and determine how the community could work together to meet those goals.

Read more on the Rebuild by Design website.

© Rebuild by Design