An important first step in improving a community is to conduct a visioning session. This can be done with a select group of leaders and/or a very large session where the entire community is invited to participate.  

Both approaches are acceptable but should include the large session where everyone is invited. We are a Democracy and our society works best when everyone is consulted and asked for their thoughts and ideas. And more people generate more ideas and expose more individuals to those ideas. And some of those individuals are the people who will actually implement those ideas.

The visioning process should develop a large number of ideas and proposals for the improvement of the community. Some of the ideas will not be workable or affordable, but some will be great ideas that can be implemented by individuals, civic groups, or government. The group process encourages creative thought and enthusiasm.

The session can run two to four hours. It begins with a short presentation about city planning and developing. All participants are informed that the process that evening should be fun. All ideas are encouraged.  There is plenty of time later to figure out what won't work.

The group breaks into subgroups of about ten people each.  They are provided with large sheets of paper, maps of the town, and magic markers. They are encouraged to propose all kinds of ideas to enhance the community.  This creative process helps generate new ideas.

The smaller groups write their ideas down on the large sheets of paper and/or maps.  They select one person to present the ideas to the larger group.

The large group is reconvened and each sub group presents their ideas and proposals.  The large sheets of paper can be taped with masking tape to the wall.

A summary of the ideas and proposals should be written and provided to the participants and Village Board.  Individuals, developers, organizations, and governments can then decide which ideas should become reality. The ideas that the Village decides should be developed should be formally adopted as part of the Village Comprehensive Plan.

What You Need

Enthusiastic people

Large sheets of paper

Large aerial photos of the town

Large base maps - black and white with streets and parcels

Color magic markers - black, green, red, blue, yellow

Masking tape to put the paper on the walls.


What is a Charrette?

A charrette is an intensive planning session where citizens, designers and others collaborate on a vision for development. It provides a forum for ideas and offers the unique advantage of giving immediate feedback to the designers. More importantly, it allows everyone who participates to be a mutual author of the plan.

The charrette is located near the project site. The team of design experts and consultants sets up a full working office, complete with drafting equipment, supplies, computers, copy machines, fax machines, and telephones. Formal and informal meetings are held throughout the event and updates to the plan are presented periodically.

Through brainstorming and design activity, many goals are accomplished during the charrette. First, everyone who has a stake in the project develops a vested interest in the ultimate vision. Second, the design team works together to produce a set of finished documents that address all aspects of design. Third, since the input of all the players is gathered at one event, it is possible to avoid the prolonged discussions that typically delay conventional planning projects. Finally, the finished result is produced more efficiently and cost-effectively because the process is collaborative.

Charrettes are organized to encourage the participation of all. That includes everyone who is interested in the making of a development: the developer, business interests, government officials, interested residents, and activists.
Ultimately, the purpose of the charrette is to give all the participants enough information to make good decisions during the planning process.

A Historical Note -- Origins of the Word "Charrette"

The term "charrette" is derived from the French word for "little cart." In Paris during the 19th century, professors at the Ecole de Beaux Arts circulated with little carts to collect final drawings from their students. Students would jump on the "charrette" to put finishing touches on their presentation minutes before the deadline.