– photo by David Funes Fuentes via unsplash

The following is an update from Michael Zaretsky, AIA, who has chaired the Community-Engaged Design Committee for the past two years. Zaretsky discusses the formation of the committee, development of the charge, and plans for 2021 and beyond. All interested members are invited to get involved.

At the Fall 2018 TxA Conference, the TxA Urban Design Committee officially ended, and, based on input from committee members, there was a pivot towards community design. I was asked to lead that committee, which initially was known as the Community Design Action Team (CDAT). 

In January 2019, we held a very well-attended event at the TxA offices. The event was met with much enthusiasm from TxA members from across the state who recognize the importance of engaging with communities throughout the design process. More than 50 people attended, and subsequent follow-up meetings led to the creation of this Community Design blog series.

The CDAT became an official TxA committee in January 2020 — the Community Design Committee. We developed a core group of 10 members and had a distribution of over 100 members. The core group included: Kate Aoki, AIA, Janis Brackett, AIA, Dennis Chiessa, Assoc. AIA, Bang Dang, Benje Feehan, Oswald Jenewein, Assoc. AIA, Hyesun Jeong, Assoc. AIA, Nicole Joslin, AIA, Melvalean McLemore, AIA, Christine Viña, AIA, and Michael Zaretsky, AIA.

As we began seeking to define our committee “charge,” I asked Nicole Joslin, AIA, of Community Powered Workshop to assist, as I knew she had great experience with strategic planning. Together, we worked with the committee to understand who we are and what brings us together, and to define our mission, objectives, and goals. 

Through that process, we realized that our committee would benefit from shared leadership, and Nicole agreed to be the co-chair (Thanks Nicole!). Our core group held several meetings during which we realized that our committee name didn’t actually match our charge. As a result, we are now the Community-Engaged Design Committee.

Community-Engaged Design Committee Charge: The Community-Engaged Design Committee is committed to addressing the role of inclusive community engagement in all aspects of the architectural design process. We focus on collaboration, education, and advocacy towards effective community engagement processes across all Texas communities, in alignment with the strategic plan for the Texas Society of Architects.  

We are addressing community engagement in three areas: collaboration, education, and advocacy. We have sub-committees for each area and we are currently working on plans that address each area. 

For collaboration, our goal is to provide tools and resources that will link those who are doing community engagement within the built environment to anyone from the profession or from a community who may be seeking assistance on community engagement in a project. We envision an interactive map that highlights those who are doing community-engaged design work across the state. 

For education, we are planning upcoming webinars that will highlight practitioners of community engagement and their best practices. 

For advocacy, we are looking to promote community-engaged design practices within TxA, within the architectural profession, and within governmental entities across the state.

We have so much to learn from those who are embedded in communities who have developed effective practices for including the local community members in a meaningful design process. We are looking beyond the traditional charrette process. We want to know more about how you are identifying who defines your given stakeholder group. How do you make sure everyone who is impacted is being invited to the table? How do you incorporate differing perspectives throughout each stage of a project? How are you assessing the successes and challenges of your projects?

We invite those of you who are interested to reach out to us to get involved. There is a lot to do, and we welcome participation from anyone involved in community engagement within the built environment.

Lastly, I will be leaving Texas later this year. Nicole will continue as chair and another co-chair will be identified soon. I want to thank everyone who has shared their stories with all of us. This has been a fantastic group to work with, and I am truly astounded at the amazing engagement work going on across Texas.

Wishing you all a fantastic 2021.


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