Cohort Curriculum

The Design Learning Cohort program brings together diverse leaders from approximately 20 rural communities to learn and share how design can address their particular community needs. The program includes interactive online learning sessions led by nationally-recognized design experts, inspiring and informative webinars, and one-on-one technical assistance to address a cohort community’s specific design challenge. Training sessions are supplemented by opportunities for communities to learn from one another through breakout groups, social activities, online resources, and remote site visits.
The inaugural Design Learning Cohort, resource team members, and CIRD staff at the Summit in Thomas, WV.  

Curriculum Plan

The curriculum for the Design Learning Cohort combines relevant design training and customized technical assistance, exposure to case studies about real-world, successful design projects, and engagement with peer rural communities to share experiences and ideas about design challenges. The curriculum is delivered through three main program elements: cohort-exclusive learning sessions, public webinars on rural design, and community-specific technical assistance consultations.

Learning sessions

Serialized, interactive, virtual learning sessions cover a wide range of rural design topics, led by nationally-recognized architects, landscape architects, community and transportation planners, and community development experts. These sessions utilize a “split lesson” approach, starting with curated presentations and followed by small breakout discussions. This approach allows for high-level knowledge combined with actionable takeaways and peer engagement.


Webinars led by design field experts and CIRD resource team members will explore a special topic of design, community planning, or architecture. Webinars are open to the public and archived on the CIRD website, often with a cohort-exclusive debrief session afterward to give cohort members the opportunity to interact directly with experts. Webinars address topics such as historic preservation and adaptive reuse of community buildings, creating public space that integrates local culture, or leveraging design to revitalize Main Street.

Resource Team One-on-One Coaching

Resource team members are available throughout the cohort program period for community-specific coaching, to provide inspiration and advice, and to help troubleshoot issues in your design challenge.
Resource Team Office Hours
On a regular basis, resource team members host on-line Office Hours - an informal time for cohort members to connect with experts and discuss their projects, seek advice, and talk through ideas.
HAC National Conference
This bi-annual national conference includes a track on rural design, architecture, and other topics alongside its rural affordable housing agenda. The conference is an opportunity to connect with rural housing and community development thought leaders, government officials, non-public funders, lenders, and peers.
Online Site Visits
Outside of the Design Learning Cohort, CIRD works with additional communities to hold a Local Design Workshop, which may include virtual focus groups, livestreamed site visits, or presentations. Interested cohort members can “audit” Workshops to learn more about community design planning in real time.
Peer Learning
The design learning cohort communities have opportunities to connect with each other through peer-to-peer project reviews and informal conversations. This element of the program is reported to be one of the most satisfying, where rural communities can work together to put their own best ideas into practice.