This afternoon TheAnthroGuys are giving a presentation about our core competency: Analytic Induction.  Our objective is to introduce entrepreneurship students to Analytic Induction in search of opportunities to “add value“.

We will be in a lecture hall of entrepreneurship students at Fresno State.  Incidentally, the name of the lecture hall is, “Pete P Peters”.  As I often tell students of ethnography, reality is usually far more interesting than fiction once you start actually noticing it.

Elsewhere, we have observed that our world is utterly overshadowed by ignorance, yet few people notice this.  Ethnographers and entrepreneurs share a reliance on inductive skills to accomplish their goals.  Once this is understood, we can learn a great deal from each other.

Here is our Presentation Slides

It is importnat to note that the similarities between anthropologists and entrepreneurs are numerous. The table below illustrates this point:

Anthropologists   Entrepreneurs Application
Trained to think holistically Intuitively holistic visionary, iconoclastic
Take an evolutionary approach Forward-looking know future demands
Seek the insider perspective Intuitively know consumers wants know when something will have value to others
Trained to be inductive Intuitively inductive keen observers, see openings

Other helpful guides include:

Read this article http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2013/03/anthropology-inc/309218/?single_page=true from The Atlantic entitle, “Anthropology Inc.”.

Or, Watch the clip that was attached to the above article  http://bcove.me/k6szvgkh from The Atlantic.

-Check out: “A Crash Course on Creativity” (Tina Seelig, Executive Director, Stanford Technology Ventures Program)

-View the following 3 min video entitled: Field Observation with Fresh Eyes by Tom Kelley | IDEO

-View the following 4 min video entitled: Thinking Like a Traveler by Tom Kelley | IDEO

-Read: “Can’t You Just Ask People?” (Delcore)

-Watch: Parc’s use of these techniques.

-Define: The notion of “workarounds”

-Define: Ethnography

Observation Assignment:

1) Conduct some sort of “inductive observation”,
2) analyze your notes, then
3) expand those notes into a brief report about what you found. DESCRIPTION
–Rather than looking into a completely innovative idea (service or product), the goal is to 1) observe something that already works; 2) observe it in great detail; then 3) begin to understand it in such detail that you can 4) make concrete suggestions about improving it.
Steps
–1. Find a routine, taken-for-granted task/service/product,
–2. “Hang out” and “thickly describe” it in a notebook,
–3. In a one page pitch, suggest some sort of innovation that will add value. DUE: next Wednesday March 19th by 3:00pm in class.
–The best observations will be published on our blog and presented in class on March 26th.

We will return to their class to continue this discussion.  Our hope is that some – if not all – of these students will see the value of this skill set and in so doing, realize that “thinking out of the box” can be learned.

Assessment

We have included how the assignments are evaluated but the the main point is that this is NOT rocket science. Rather , it’s social science!  Applied systematically, humans’ natural observational skills can notice things that are typically ignored.  With some analysis, suggestions can be made to improve lives, products, profit margins, whatever.

If you have further questions about the assignment or the course, feel free to contact us at:  jmullooly@csufrenso.edu

Note; the following table is used to evaluate these assignments.

Ethnographic Opportunity Analysis Assignment Rubric (Mullooly & Delcore)

Observation Analysis Suggestion
Accomplished (18-20*) Solid evidence of a period of observation provided. Sufficient details were included to clearly illustrate the problem under investigation. Clear, concise description of the observed problem. The report illustrates a keen understanding of the problem. New, clever suggestion for a product or service that directly solves the problem.  The solution is novel for the context and sounds practical in terms of resources.
3Competent(16-17) Some evidence of a period of observation provided. The problem under investigation is evident. Concise description of the observed problem. The report illustrates an understanding of the problem. Clever suggestion for a product or service that solves the problem.  The solution is novel for the context but impractical.
2Satisfactory(14-15) Some evidence of an recent observation provided. The problem under investigation is not evident. Some evidence of an understanding of the observed problem is provided. The product or service suggestions is not new or does not solve the problem defined or is highly impractical.
1not Satisfactory(12-13) Little to no evidence of a recent observation done for this project. Little evidence of analysis or of a problem is provided. Little evidence of a novel or practical suggestion.

If you would like examples of well written assignments, send an request to Jmullooly@csufresno.edu

TIMELINE:
In a one to two page pitch, suggest some sort of innovation that will add value.
DUE: next Wednesday March 19  in class.
The best observations will be published on our blog and presented in class on March 20th.
Here are examples of A papers from previous students.

Ethnographic Opportunity Analysis 

IMG_0286

This afternoon TheAnthroGuys are giving a presentation about our core competency: Analytic Induction.  Our objective is to introduce entrepreneurship students to Analytic Induction in search of opportunities to “add value“.

We will be in a lecture hall of entrepreneurship students at Fresno State.  Incidentally, the name of the lecture hall is, “Pete P Peters”.  As I often tell students of ethnography, reality is usually far more interesting than fiction once you start actually noticing it.

Ethnographers and entrepreneurs share a reliance on inductive skills to accomplish their goals.  Once this is understood, we can learn a great deal from each other.

Our presentation can be found here: Ethnographic (Inductive) Opportunity Analysis.

It is importnat to note that the similarities between anthropologists and entrepreneurs are numerous. The table below illustrates this point:

Anthropologists   Entrepreneurs Application
Trained to think holistically Intuitively holistic visionary, iconoclastic
Take an evolutionary approach Forward-looking know future demands
Seek the insider perspective Intuitively know consumers wants know when something will have value to others
Trained to be inductive Intuitively inductive keen observers, see openings

Other helpful guides include:

-Check out: “A Crash Course on Creativity” (Tina Seelig, Executive Director, Stanford Technology Ventures Program)

-View the following 3 min video entitled: Field Observation with Fresh Eyes by Tom Kelley | IDEO

-View the following 4 min video entitled: Thinking Like a Traveler by Tom Kelley | IDEO

-Read: “Can’t You Just Ask People?” (Delcore)

-Watch: Parc’s use of these techniques.

-Define: The notion of “workarounds”

-Define: Ethnography

Observation Assignment:

1) Conduct some sort of “inductive observation”,
2) analyze your notes, then
3) expand those notes into a brief report about what you found. DESCRIPTION
–Rather than looking into a completely innovative idea (service or product), the goal is to 1) observe something that already works; 2) observe it in great detail; then 3) begin to understand it in such detail that you can 4) make concrete suggestions about improving it.
Steps
–1. Find a routine, taken-for-granted task/service/product,
–2. “Hang out” and “thickly describe” it in a notebook,
–3. In a one page pitch, suggest some sort of innovation that will add value. DUE: next Wednesday October 17th by 3:00pm in class.
–The best observations will be published on our blog and presented in class on October 24th.

We will return to their class to continue this discussion.  Our hope is that some – if not all – of these students will see the value of this skill set and in so doing, realize that “thinking out of the box” can be learned.

Assessment

We have included how the assignments are evaluated but the the main point is that this is NOT rocket science. Rather , it’s social science!  Applied systematically, humans’ natural observational skills can notice things that are typically ignored.  With some analysis, suggestions can be made to improve lives, products, profit margins, whatever.

If you have further questions about the assignment or the course, feel free to contact us at:  jmullooly@csufrenso.edu

Note; the following table is used to evaluate these assignments.

Ethnographic Opportunity Analysis Assignment Rubric (Mullooly & Delcore)

Observation Analysis Suggestion

Accomplished

 (18-20*)

Solid evidence of a period of observation provided. Sufficient details were included to clearly illustrate the problem under investigation. Clear, concise description of the observed problem. The report illustrates a keen understanding of the problem. New, clever suggestion for a product or service that directly solves the problem.  The solution is novel for the context and sounds practical in terms of resources.

3

Competent

(16-17)

Some evidence of a period of observation provided. The problem under investigation is evident. Concise description of the observed problem. The report illustrates an understanding of the problem. Clever suggestion for a product or service that solves the problem.  The solution is novel for the context but impractical.

2

Satisfactory

(14-15)

Some evidence of an recent observation provided. The problem under investigation is not evident. Some evidence of an understanding of the observed problem is provided. The product or service suggestions is not new or does not solve the problem defined or is highly impractical.

1

not Satisfactory

(12-13)

Little to no evidence of a recent observation done for this project. Little evidence of analysis or of a problem is provided. Little evidence of a novel or practical suggestion.

If you would like examples of well written assignments, send an request to Jmullooly@csufresno.edu

TIMELINE:
In a one to two page pitch, suggest some sort of innovation that will add value.
DUE: next Wednesday October 17th by 3:00pm in class.
The best observations will be published on our blog and presented in class on October 24th.
Here are examples of A papers from last semester.

Here we go again!  A few years ago, we (with our students) conducted an ambitious ethnographic research project on student life at Fresno State, with a focus on informing library services.  The Library Study ended up as a major statement about student life on campus at the time (2009).  Three years later, we’re embarking on another ethnographic study of students on our campus, this time focused on student IT use.  The study was inspired by some recent research by anthropologists at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.  That study caught the eye of our VP for Administration, Cindy Matson, who also happens to be TheAnthroGeek’s student in the doctoral program in educational leadership here.  Seeing an opportunity to inform looming decisions about how to invest scarce IT resources with data about actual student behaviors and attitudes, Ms. Matson asked us if we could do something similar to the Milwaukee study.  Just a few months later, we have the skeleton of a research plan and we’re meeting with various campus stakeholders to nail down the details.  The study launches this fall.

The way it’s brewing right now, mobile computing will be a major concern of the study.  Our campus is developing its approach to web presence, social media, data storage, software access and mobile apps, among other issues.  What do existing student practices tell us about the demand for proprietary Fresno State mobile apps?  Does the virtualization of software access make sense for student users?  What do students take away from Fresno State’s existing social media efforts?  What do they want to take away?  Stay tuned for updates on how the study evolves and what we find!

TheAnthroGuys returned to Entrep 81 with good news: We found that many students got the idea we were trying to describe.

We have included below how the assignments were graded but the the main point is that this is NOT rocket science. Rather , it’s social science!  Applied systematically, humans’ natural observational skills can notice things that are typically ignored.  With some analysis, suggestions can be made to improve lives, products, profit margins, whatever.

It is importnat to note that the similarities between anthropologists and entrepreneurs are numerous. The table below illustrates this point:

Anthropologists   Entrepreneurs Application
Trained to think holistically Intuitively holistic visionary, iconoclastic
Take an evolutionary approach Forward-looking know future demands
Seek the insider perspective Intuitively know consumers wants know when something will have value to others
Trained to be inductive Intuitively inductive keen observers, see openings

For those wishing to continue on this path, you have the opportunity to take our ethnographic methods class (Anth 111, Delcore & Mullooly) in place of ENTR 151 in the Fall 2012 semester.

Fall 2012 Anth 111 will be offered on Tuesdays 6-9pm.

If you have further questions about the assignment or the course, feel free to contact us at:  jmullooly@csufrenso.edu

Note; the following table was used to evaluate your assignments.

Ethnographic Opportunity Analysis Assignment Rubric (Mullooly & Delcore)

Observation

Analysis

Suggestion

4

Accomplished

(18-20*)

Solid evidence of a period of observation provided. Sufficient details were included to clearly illustrate the problem under investigation. Clear, concise description of the observed problem. The report illustrates a keen understanding of the problem. New, clever suggestion for a product or service that directly solves the problem.  The solution is novel for the context and sounds practical in terms of resources.

3

Competent

(16-17)

Some evidence of a period of observation provided. The problem under investigation is evident. Concise description of the observed problem. The report illustrates an understanding of the problem. Clever suggestion for a product or service that solves the problem.  The solution is novel for the context but impractical.

2

Satisfactory

(14-15)

Some evidence of an recent observation provided. The problem under investigation is not evident. Some evidence of an understanding of the observed problem is provided. The product or service suggestions is not new or does not solve the problem defined or is highly impractical.

1

not Satisfactory

(12-13)

Little to no evidence of a recent observation done for this project. Little evidence of analysis or of a problem is provided. Little evidence of a novel or practical suggestion.

IMG_0286This afternoon TheAnthroGuys are giving a presentation about our core competency: Analytic Induction.  Our objective is to introduce entrepreneurship students to Analytic Induction in search of opportunities to “add value“.

We will be in a lecture hall of entrepreneurship students at Fresno State.  Incidentally, the name of the lecture hall is, “Pete P Peters”.  As I often tell students of ethnography, reality is usually far more interesting than fiction once you start actually noticing it.

Ethnographers and entrepreneurs share a reliance on inductive skills to accomplish their goals.  Once this is understood, we can learn a great deal from each other.

Our presentation can be found here: Ethnographic (Inductive) Opportunity Analysis.

Other helpful guides include:

-Read: “Can’t You Just Ask People?” (Delcore)

-Watch: Parc’s use of these techniques.

-Define: The notion of “workarounds”

-Define: Ethnography

In a few weeks, we will return to their class to continue this discussion.  Our hope is that some – if not all – of these students will see the value of this skill set and in so doing, realize that “thinking out of the box” can be learned.


TheAnthroGuys were recently invited to the The Pulse.  Hosted by Timothy Stearns and Tammy Sears

The Pulse is a show about innovators and entrepreneurs who are reshaping the Central Valley….Join us each week as we take the innovative “pulse” of the region.

This week on The Pulse, the AnthroGuy and AnthroGeek, join us in a free form and rather chaotic discussion on ways to foster more innovation in Fresno and the Central Valley. Based on their cumulative work as Professors of Anthropology, Hank Delcore and Jim Mullooly identify several key features of innovation and how the community can expand and develop more. What are some of the most innovative events in Fresno? Find out by tuning in and treat yourself to some fun!

During the show, we mentioned a number of websites that we have listed below:

At these sites, you will find many innovative a fun ways to get involved in “The Pulse” of Fresno!

http://roguefestival.com Rogue March 1-10, 2012

Pecha-Kucha Fresno

http://thegerm.org/

Fresno Beehive Story on the first Germ Event (Mike Oz)

Center for Advanced Research and Technology (CART)

IMG_0286This afternoon TheAnthroGuys are giving a presentation about our core competency: Analytic Induction.  Our objective is to introduce entrepreneurship students to Analytic Induction in search of opportunities to “add value“.

We will be in a lecture hall of entrepreneurship students at Fresno State.  Incidentally, the name of the lecture hall is, “Pete P Peters”.  As I often tell students of ethnography, reality is usually far more interesting than fiction once you start actually noticing it.

Ethnographers and entrepreneurs share a reliance on inductive skills to accomplish their goals.  Once this is understood, we can learn a great deal from each other.

Our presentation can be found here: Ethnographic (Inductive) Opportunity Analysis .

In a few weeks, we will return to their class to continue this discussion.  Our hope is that some – if not all – of these students will see the value of this skill set and in so doing, realize that “thinking out of the box” can be learned.

Have you ever heard someone say, “No one goes to the Fulton Mall”?  Well, the data is in, and we can finally lay that one to rest.

For three days in October, my students and I counted and surveyed pedestrians on Fulton Mall.  Funded by the Downtown Association of Fresno (now PBID Partners of Downtown Fresno), the research sought to set a baseline of data about Fulton Mall pedestrian use so we can accurately measure the impact of any future urban design efforts in downtown.

I present some of the data below, but the biggest story is the extent to which the Fresno public radically underestimates the number of people who walk on Fulton Mall.  Whatever else is wrong with the Mall, we can say this for sure: there are far more Mall users than we think.

Here’s a summary of the count data:

The number of pedestrians who passed the Clock Tower at the intersection of Fulton and Mariposa Malls between 10am and 6pm each day on Oct. 5 (Tuesday), 6 (Wednesday) and 9 (Saturday) were 4516, 5228 and 4671, respectively.  (This was a study of use or load, so we counted passersby without regard to repeat trips; in other words, everyone was counted, even if they passed multiple times.  The counters estimate that about 5% of the passersby made repeat passes.)  Bicyclists numbered 143, 262 and 309 (Saturday’s number was buoyed by the DTA’s Bike Ride Through History event, which accounted for about 100 of the bicyclists that day).

I should note that the first week in October was chilly and rainy.  On Tuesday, Oct. 5, for example, it rained lightly all morning and temperatures were in the mid-50s.  Yet, 1048 people walked past the Clock Tower, in the rain, between 10am and 12 noon.

Count numbers peaked slightly around midday.  For example, 929 people walked past the count line between noon and 1pm on Wednesday, Oct. 6, compared to 674 from 10-11am and 324 from 5-6pm.

Why were the weekdays so strong compared to Saturday, a well-known shopping day on the Mall?  Wednesday’s pedestrian count was surely boosted by the farmer’s market, which drew people all morning and into early afternoon.  However, a broader explanation lies in the “purpose of visit” question on the survey we administered to every tenth passerby.  Shoppers are strongly present on the Mall during the week (27% of pedestrians on Tuesday, Oct. 5, and 33% on Wednesday, Oct. 6, were shoppers).  These shoppers, in combination with people walking to and from work and conducting personal business (likely at the various public buildings) account for the high numbers during the week.  On Saturday, the percentage of shoppers among the respondents increased to 52%, but work commute and personal business numbers dropped.  This means that the Mall during the week is a place for shopping, work commute and personal business, but on Saturday, it become more homogenous, with shopping as the main activity and other categories of use less prevalent.

We surveyed, in both English and Spanish, 157 people who passed the count line.  A summary of some significant findings is at the end of this posting.

The big story here, though, is the gap between the count numbers and public perception.

During the weeks after the count, DTA sponsored a “Guess the Pedestrians” contest in which the public was invited to guess the number of pedestrians who passed the Clock Tower during the count periods, with the closest guessers for each day awarded gift certificates to downtown businesses.  Seventy five people submitted guesses for the three count days.  The results are listed below.

Average guess:  1041

Median guess:  625

Lowest daily guess (submitted for Oct. 6):  55

Highest daily guess (submitted for Oct. 5):  7000

Obviously, the guessers vastly underestimated the number of pedestrians on the Mall, by an order of eight for the median guess and nearly one hundred for the low guess.  The person who offered 7000 for Oct. 5 also guessed a relatively high 6500 for Oct. 6.  These were the only guesses that over-estimated the number of pedestrians.  Interestingly, however, this guesser estimated pedestrians on Saturday, Oct. 9, at only 600, implying that even this optimistic weekday guesser was very pessimistic about pedestrian activity on the Mall on weekends.

Evaluating the “success” or “failure” of the Fulton Mall is a complex thing, involving issues like rate of economic activity, amount of city revenue generated by Mall businesses, and the Mall’s historical and aesthetic value.  These issues are up for debate, but, make no mistake about the numbers:  each day, over four or five thousand people walk the Fulton Mall.

Fulton Mall at the Clock Tower, Tuesday, Oct. 5, 11:30am

Fulton Mall at the Clock Tower, Tuesday, Oct. 5, 3:15pm

Survey Results:

General

  • About one third of the respondents had homes in the three zip codes that include the downtown core and the neighborhoods just to its south and east.
  • About one third of those surveyed were walking on Fulton Mall for the first time.  Two thirds had visited the Mall five or fewer times in the last month.  Almost one fifth reported that they visited the Mall daily.
  • Over one third of respondents cited “shopping/doing errands” as their primary purpose on the Mall the day they were surveyed.
  • The Mall during the week is a place for shopping, work commute and personal business, but on Saturday, it becomes more homogenous, with shopping as the main activity and other categories of use less prevalent.
  • Whites and Asians were present on the Mall in fewer numbers and African Americans and Latinos in greater numbers than their presence in the Fresno County population.

Significant Differences

  • Individuals from zip codes with higher percentages of the population living in poverty are less likely to be first time visitors in the survey, i.e. more likely to indicate that they visit the Fulton Mall more frequently.
  • Individuals whose home zip codes have a median family income less than $24000 have the highest predicted probabilities across the most frequent visit categories as compared to other median income values.
  • Non-Latinos are more likely to utilize the Fulton Mall for work/school/commute purposes.
  • Individuals from higher income areas are less likely to visit the Fulton Mall for recreational purposes, for personal business, or to shop, and more likely to visit the Mall for work.
  • Individuals from poorer areas are more likely to shop and use the Fulton Mall for personal purposes.

More data and details on methodology can be found in the report submitted to the DTA (now PBID Partners of Downtown Fresno).

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 8,800 times in 2010. That’s about 21 full 747s.

 

In 2010, there were 11 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 41 posts. There were 10 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 15mb. That’s about a picture per month.

The busiest day of the year was January 7th with 226 views. The most popular post that day was No New Normal, Says McCracken.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were bb-app.csufresno.edu, en.wikipedia.org, bb-app-pilot.csufresno.edu, facebook.com, and twitter.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for fresno scraper, theanthroguys, teminator, the anthro guys, and anthroguys.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

No New Normal, Says McCracken December 2009
78 comments

2

The Meaningless Lives of Others March 2010
62 comments

3

Can’t You Just Ask People? September 2009
100 comments

4

The Fulton Corridor Charrette: Conspiracy or Crack-up? October 2010
30 comments and 3 Likes on WordPress.com

5

Lowell Community Meeting: Designing for Participation April 2010
22 comments

The idea that there was some kind of grand fix in on the Fulton Mall is a little far fetched.  Below, I explain why, and give an alternate explanation for why things stand the way they do.

Some people think the fix was in all along to get cars back on the Mall.  The Mayor’s letter to the state Office of Historic Preservation calls the Mall a failure.  Six of eight Mall options presented by Moule & Polyzoides (MPA) at the charrette include traffic on part or all of the current pedestrian mall.  The composition of the citizen’s advisory board has been criticized.  One version of the “it was all fixed” argument can be found in this hilarious video.

So, the Mayor has a preference, MPA put a lot of work into traffic-friendly options, and their economic team presented arguments that opening the Mall to traffic is virtually necessary for any decent retail-oriented development.  But do these things add up to a fix?  I don’t think so.  For it to all be predetermined, something like this would have needed to happen:  Mayor Swearengin goes to downtown revitalization chief Craig Scharton and tells him she wants cars back on the Mall.  Craig Scharton goes to MPA top dude Stefanos Polyzoides and tells him to make sure to spin everything so it turns out that cars take over the Mall.  Polyzoides and crew engineer a charade of a charrette that results in a citizen’s advisory board vote that favors traffic options for further study.

Well, I doubt it.   There are a few too many causal links there and it would all have to work as planned – indeed, it would take a diabolical genius to pull this off.

There are much more plausible reasons why the Fulton Mall seems to be careening toward traffic (or traffic careening toward the Mall?).

MPA did key stakeholder interviews at the very start of the process.  Key stakeholders include those with the power to make or break the plan, and of course, this includes the Mayor.  These are usually confidential interviews, a problematic practice from a democratic standpoint, but probably necessary to get some candor and ensure the plan doesn’t get torpedoed.  Mayor Swearengin has a record of being results oriented.  I seriously doubt she would have told MPA, “We need cars on the Mall, non-negotiable.”  I can fully imagine her telling them, “We need an economically revitalized downtown that delivers far more revenue to the city than it does now.  Non-negotiable: give us a plan that does that.”  MPA may have heard the Mayor’s charge through a new urbanist filter that makes a revitalized “main street” (Fulton Street) with cars more likely.  If so, then their charrette process would reflect a bias for cars on the Mall.  This is not controversial: we all filter things through our own personal, professional and cultural lenses.  Stefanos Polyzoides and company are not superhuman.  They too have a lens through which reality gets refracted.

And then there is the social, cultural, political and economic context of Fresno, which has certainly exerted conditioning effects on the charrette process, helping create what looks like overt, conscious bias toward cars.  North Fresno seems to many like a success, and in purely economic terms, it is.  So downtown property owners, including those on the citizen’s advisory committee want what north Fresno has – successful, relatively high-end retail.  They and other influential, politically active people disproportionately shape public discourse.  Those who voice alternative visions are in the minority and have less political and economic clout.  Those who walk the Mall daily hardly even show up in the public process – no conspiracy there, the city went crazy with outreach, especially during the late-September charrette.  They just didn’t show up in any numbers.  And of course culturally, Fresno is really all about cars, as transport, means of self-definition, status symbols.  MPA walks into this context and makes choices of substance and process that result in what seem like fairly clear choices between the past/failure and the future/cars.  After all, anyone who knows consulting can tell you that consultants tend to say and do things that make their clients happy.  And I think this usually happens without anyone consciously “plotting” some kind of fix.

Indeed, far from a display of diabolical genius, I’ve been struck by some of the miscues in the charrette process.  Certainly, many things went right.  The charrette was well-publicized and well-attended, and there were numerous points at which public input was central.  But, the MPA decision to walk into the Sep. 27 Fulton Mall discussion with eight options already developed was a major mistake from which the entire process may not recover.  They seem to have forgotten one of the major reasons you hold a charrette at all: to build consensus around a plan that can actually get passed and implemented.  Hence, one point of all the public participation is so people can walk away and say, “That’s the plan we came up with” (the experts merely polished it up for us), or at least, “I don’t like that plan but it’s the one some of my neighbors put together.”  MPA will never have this because they walked in with the options already laid out.  This means that it becomes possible to say, “That’s their plan, the one those out of town consultants foisted on us.”  I’m not saying I agree with this sentiment, but I am saying that this sentiment becomes possible when the consultant does too much, and forgets to let charrette participants get messy with the design process.  (By messy, I mean creatively and chaotically focused on good results.)

But the MPA charrettes have been anything but messy.  Stefanos Polyzoides and his firm’s consultants are without a doubt extremely expert at what they do, and I have thoroughly enjoyed and learned much from the various presentations I have seen at the neighborhood and Fulton charrettes.  But MPA desperately needs someone whose mastery of the participatory charrette process matches the firm’s technical expertise.  There have been far too few breakouts and almost no participatory designing.  At the Fulton Mall session on Sep. 27 I wanted to see us all around tables scrawling and drawing.  Instead, we were talked to, we did some talking, and we were half-heartedly invited to draw something on a back table (no one did).  This weight given to talk, much of it by the technical experts on the team, over messy and creative public input encapsulates the MPA approach to charretting.  The result?  The opening for an “us and them” attitude, whereby the resulting options and perhaps the final plan are seen as something someone else produced as opposed to the community led process that the city has (sincerely, in my opinion) tried to pull off.

(Kiel Famellos-Schmidt and Craig Scharton read and commented on a draft of this blog posting but the views expressed are those of the author only.)

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