February 19, 2013

CIRD Community-Centered Project Design Call

CIRD Staff

In 2010, a Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design workshop in Taos, New Mexico helped reinvigorate a public plaza and create a new network of pathways and sidewalks.  At an Elk Horn City, Kentucky workshop in 2011, attendees identified creative solutions to connect the community with its riverfront.  In dozens of communities across the country, similar workshops have helped rural communities use design to solve challenges like improving walkability, curbing sprawl, and attracting tourists by enhancing local heritage.

The Citizen’s Institute for Rural Design (CIRD) hosted a Community-Centered Project Design call last week. Shelley Mastran, former Co-Director of the CIRD program, shared these community stories and explored lessons and tools for creating design projects that support and involve the local community – and, of course, get great results.

So what’s the key to success? Ariana McBride of the Orton Family Foundation highlighted three principles of effective community-centered project design:

  1. Design with the end in mind: Clarity on the front-end of projects helps ensure the project heads in the right direction.  By setting clear project goals, defining the project scope, and asking what success might look like, you can develop a strong foundation to guide project development.
  2. Design for diverse community participation: Diverse community participation is essential to a successful project because local people know their community best, and having a diversity of perspectives leads to a more creative and inclusive solution.  Plus, when there is broad ownership of shared outcomes and action steps, there is greater likelihood of success.  Conducting a Community Network Analysis can be a powerful tool for understanding who lives, works and plays in your community and how best to reach them.
  3. Design for your community: If your community hasn't yet clearly identified community values and a vision, defining them will be a necessary step for discerning relevant issues and feasible solutions.  The members of your CIRD project team can play an important role in weaving together complementary community efforts to increase the number of people invested in a project’s outcome.  

Find additional resources related to community-centered project design on our google doc, and be sure to listen to the podcast below for additional insight from our speakers.

(Listen to a recording of the call here)

CIRD will be offering additional application assistance for the 2013 RFP through our Office Hours call on Thursday, February 28th from 3:30-4:30 pm EST.  CIRD staff will be available on the line to answer questions relating to the workshop RFP and application. Applications are due March 5, 2013. Call registration and additional information can be found on the CIRD website at

The Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design is a National Endowment for the Arts leadership initiative in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Project for Public Spaces, Inc., along with the Orton Family Foundation and the CommunityMatters® Partnership.