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Design Charrette and other Farm Hack Event Components

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A component of the Farm Hack events since the project's start has been the Design Charrette - a small group brainstorming/design process, around a specific tool or topic. As we hold more events and think about the needs that Farm Hack events can best serve, there has been discussion within the Farm Hack core group about what use this activity serves, and how we can improve it. Here we want to invite comments and reflection from other Farm Hackers, whether you have attended an event and participated in the charrette or not. Some would argue that trying to design a tool as part of a one day event, with a group of people just assembled on that day, is ineffective or difficult to follow through with. On the other hand, the opportunity for guided, specific discussions and problem solving still may be of use and can trigger a future collaboration, even if it requires one or two people taking leadership after the event.

  • Is it a “failure” if notes are posted to the forum, and not necessarily followed up on? How can we help with follow through, either by how we structure the activity during the event, or through the online platform?

Other thoughts - Ben Shute: Brainstorm / charrette piece of events definitely would benefit from refining, and it might not be right for all attendees. But, it has led to some good projects that wouldn't have happened otherwise- Fido, Farm Item Locator / Cow Tracker project, etc. At future events, maybe a choice between some demos or a workshop, and a more focused tool design session based on taking a couple of projects to the next step (or getting them off the ground) as selected through community input ahead of time.

Dorn Cox: I echo many of Ben's comments/sentiments. I think the design charrette has been very important in pushing some boundaries and making cross skilled connections. I think the farmer to farmer exchange is a nice thing to add, but has little for bringing in and using a diverse skill set, and that cross pollination is what I think is so powerful about the community we are building. The tool demos and farmer exchange portions of the program help for inspiration and a way to connect in different contexts. I found the Ithaca charrettes themselves excellent and very productive, however, It was a significant weakness of the event to miss the group presentations and critique. The critique and presentations at the Brown/RSDI event I thought were a great model to refine and push the groups thinking and should be a priority to emphasize almost as much as the documentation.

My opinion is that we should continue to work on how documentation is done to make it as seamless as possible - perhaps having portable scanners there on site to upload documents as we go as part of the culture.

What thoughts do other people have? What do you most want to get out of farm hack events, and how would the design charrette serve to address your needs (or not)?

DGrover's picture

As farmhack moves forward, different kinds of events are appropriate for different groups in different places. We should think of design charrettes, showcases, social events, build days, etc. as tools which the designers of a specific farm hack event should employ to accomplish the goals of a specific hacking event.