Community engagement – listening intentionally and carefully to everyone who will be involved in and impacted by a project – is an emerging field of practice. Thoughtful listening is essential to great and lasting design, and it’s at the heart of all of our work at Caddis Collaborative.

Whether we’re working with a municipality, a cohousing community, an urban infill neighborhood, owners of a private residence, or a large institution such as a university, Caddis Collaborative excels at using community engagement practices to create community-based design. We adapt community engagement to every single project we undertake – it is common to all of our work. Rather than coming into a project with a preconceived solution or a cookie-cutter approach, we enter joyfully and with curiosity into the possibility of each unique project.

Through this process, we reach into a community (or potential community) to draw out what makes the residents tick and what elements of architectural design would help them thrive. Working from an assets-based frame, we help communities discover what they really want as they live together with intention, creativity, joy, and love. Nothing equals the excitement of being part of changing people’s lives for the better. We listen to our clients – and we bring all of who we are to our work with them.

Community engagement is about using new, innovative techniques to solve problems that have always been there. In the past, architects, designers, developers, and others who contribute to building projects haven’t always done a good job of addressing these problems. Nuanced problems that are hard to define have often festered underneath the surface.

That’s why has been so much rancor in the development world – because people were doing a bad job of addressing these underlying problems. This has led to NIMBYism, governments that are siloed from their own departments, dysfunction inside institutions.

When we apply community engagement techniques and put the emphasis on listening to all stakeholders and constituents, we can help address and resolve those old problems and patterns. The key is to really listen to what members of various publics want and then look for solutions that have been hidden or suppressed in the past.

Caddis Collaborative is both skillful and innovative in the practice of listening to our clients thoughtfully and carefully. We bring our communities along with us as we take our specialized expertise to the warm human level. We are approachable and listen to people.

We are nimble and agile as we learn new techniques and apply them in a wide variety of situations. Affordable housing projects. Cohousing communities. Urban infill neighborhoods. Private developers. Complicated, complex institutions such as city governments or universities. Even individual homeowners who may need to engage more deeply with their own desires and goals for their homes.

In addition to working with our clients, Caddis Collaborative members are active in volunteer positions in the community. Bryan serves as chair of the City of Boulder Planning Board, Stephen has been on the board of directors for Boulder Housing Partners, and others have been members of homeowners’ association boards. Bryan’s experience with the Planning Board has been especially instructive for all of us at Caddis, as it puts us on the other side of the planning process. When we work with a client on the permitting process, we are adept at seeing a project from the municipality’s and neighbors’ perspectives as well as from our client’s viewpoint.

We believe that the best solutions come out of listening to all of the people who are involved and authentically finding solutions that meet a majority of their needs. The goal is to separate out and elevate the essential from the misleading “concerns” some people raise simply to thwart progress.

The community engagement process lifts up the collective rather than the individualistic. What’s more, by designing collectively, the final building or project that results can ultimately be an example of great design and even be more affordable.

From “us versus them” to “us and we.” Great design for everyone. That’s community engagement as Caddis Collaborative practices it.

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