$1k to $5k
estimated cost of external help
  • Explore options
  • Deliberate
  • Collaborate
0-2 weeks
estimated run time
3-5 weeks
estimated lead time
Confident facilitator
recommended experience
An intensive collaborative workshop focused on delivering a specific output, often design specifications or concepts. A charrette process requires the prior identification of issues that stakeholders view as priorities. These are used as inputs to enable participants to work together to find, explore and design solutions.

Charrettes are commonly used in urban planning to facilitate input from the community. They are similar to rapid prototyping-type workshops in that they focus on bringing a vision to life through active involvement in generating a solution – often through sketching, mapping or other prototyping techniques.

In 5 steps...

  1. Establish the purpose of the session with the participants and lay down the ground rules.
  2. Have participants work in groups to sketch, make or otherwise design a proposed solution concept.
  3. Run multiple ‘rounds’ of design, giving participants a break between each to reflect on each other’s work.
  4. Rounds might start from scratch, improve a previous design based on feedback, or build out a new part of the solution, depending on the time available and the outcome required.
  5. Try to end with a discussion of the best aspects of all the output ideas, in order to best inform your final design.

When to use it

Because of their output and design focus, charrettes are best used in an early phase as an input to implementation plans and/or research proposals. They are especially useful for land-use planning and other issues that require speculation about the future.


  • Many different ideas and a visual process can spark creative, original solutions.
  • Builds partnerships and positive working relationships with stakeholders.
  • Facilitates efficient decision-making.
  • Fast generation of many design options.
Long term
  • Higher degree of participant satisfaction and trust.
  • Higher-quality, better-aligned solutions.
  • Increased levels of support and enthusiasm for the project.
  • Better relationships between the project team and key stakeholders.


  • Generally, the output will not be in a final useable form, so communicate that you will be taking all the best ideas, rather than singling out a solution. This will ensure that expectations are set at the right level.
  • If the instructions are not clear enough, participants may feel confused and that their time is being wasted.



  • Complete scoping and mapping work to discover and prioritise stakeholder issues and key risks.
  • Consider whether a facilitator is required – they are not strictly necessary but are more important for larger groups, or projects with diverse stakeholders, or when conflicts are more likely.
  • Identify the issue the charrette will focus on and key this to one or two central design challenges to get the most useful outcome.

During the process

  • Ensure there is plenty of fuel for the process, both in terms of solid research inputs and food for participants.
  • Try to keep good energy going through regular breaks and check-ins.
  • If conflicts arise, stop and refocus using research – and identify the further research required if going back to the data doesn’t help resolve the argument.


  • Once the output of the session is finalised into a shareable form (usually the responsibility of the facilitator or convener), be sure to distribute this to the participants, specifically drawing out where their input was incorporated. Even if you are not inviting specific feedback, this will ensure that participants feel like they have contributed and their time was valued.