The number of stakeholders engaged in this project, including residents, non-profit organizations, and City of Austin departments, provided an opportunity to study communication among our partners and identify any communication gaps or barriers.

Research suggests that communication problems between citizens and professional planners can arise from language barriers or reliance on technical terminology (Umemoto 2011). We aimed to alleviate those strains by working with our resident partners to give them confidence in planning contexts, and by working with our planning partners to recognize and respect the depth of our resident partners’ local knowledge of the Dove Springs community.

Discussing communications challenges with Frances

One method included observing and documenting important words, phrases, and concepts that came up in our workshops and meetings with residents. Using a note-taking template that we designed, we noted moments when participants asked for clarification about a word, phrase, or concept and recorded our observations about how workshop facilitators resolved those gaps in understanding. A related method was holding structured debriefs with participants about words, phrases, and concepts that we captured during each workshop.

Holding a debrief session with Urban Roots youth

Semi-structured interviews complemented these observational methods by allowing us to ask specific questions about communication, knowledge, and understanding to our partners, and to provide our partners an opportunity to direct this inquiry in ways they found valuable.

The Creek adopters suggested pursuing a storytelling approach to relate the efforts we had all put in to make this project possible. The goal would be to demonstrate the agency and knowledge of residents and the creative solutions that developed from working together across epistemological, linguistic, and cultural differences.

Following this discussion in the late fall semester, we began to focus on using video to document the process but also to record interviews and conversations led by project participants. These interviews and a series of short video clips illustrating different aspects of our co-productive process can be found on the Reflections page.

Video recording interviews to illustrate the process

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