When thinking about the questions of how to build a practice focused on people or that engages community I, personally, see a cross-over. People are what make a community, whether that be in the office on a small scale or broadening it to the city or town you are in. It depends on your perspective.
But regardless, you yourself within the practice are a member of the community. Because of this, as I’ve come to see from Architect Liz Ogbu, you can be a citizen expert and an expert citizen within both communities so that you can focus on the needs and wants of those you’re working with and for. It’s your duty as a professional to engage in a way that educates the people on what you know but to be a citizen in your care for the issues that are occurring in the community, bring forth what you know on the streets into the practice.
Starting from within you have to have a level of respect, mindfulness, participation, engagement, and communication with your coworkers. This “focus on the people” by “engaging” within your smaller community is how you build a strong network in your practice. You can then take these attributes and apply them outside of the office by engaging the community through attending events, meetings, sharing your work on various platforms and multiple methods so people feel involved. Engaging your client, communicating with them, and importantly listening to them shows care and focus. If you aren’t connect within how will you successfully contribute and provide for the extended community?
In the office as well as in the Community Build Studio we talk a lot about communication, how transformation is linguistic. Engaging the community involves having a conversation with the people. It’s a challenging thing to navigate and filter through at times, but it’s the first step in opening up the practice and the people to one another.