Design Clinics

Beginning with Meeting 4 in the winter quarter, each Fellow gets a turn to engage the collective experience of their cohort around a question related to an ongoing or emerging campus-community collaboration.


We do this using a “design clinic” format we learned from Etienne and Beverly Wegner-Trayner, who recommend this method to communities of practice around the world.


Each design clinic should take about 30 minutes. Here is the format:


  1. Presenter gives enough context to be able to frame his or her question(s) - hints: visuals are helpful, and one central question is better than several.

  2. Group asks questions to get a better understanding of the context; presenter shares more context - reminder: group members should refrain from offering advice at this stage.

  3. Group members share related experiences and stories, saying what they did when in a similar position - note: presenter listens quietly during this time.

  4. Group members give advice.

  5. Presenter summarizes/reflects some of the valuable insights from the conversation.


We appreciate this structure because it:


  • Creates space to ensure we understand the real challenge(s).

  • Prevents group members from giving advice too quickly.

  • Prevents one voice steering the conversation too dominantly.

  • Lets the presenter focus on listening instead of always being on the spot to respond.




Our principles and practices for facilitating design clinics include:




The facilitators should model presenting for a design clinic before the Fellows are asked to present on their own question. This gives everyone a feel for the structure, and a sense of how to present in a way that will inspire a useful conversation and how to participate as group member.


Visuals help provide context.


Fellows are encouraged to post materials that will help provide context to their question on their personal page on our online workspace (Wikispaces). They can post pictures, links, diagrams, or whatever they think would be helpful.


Stave off advice.


Some Fellows find it challenging to not give advice right away, but this element is essential. Find a light-hearted but firm way to divert preemptive advice-givers.


Each design clinic is a learning opportunity for all.


Encourage Fellows to think about each design clinic as a chance to learn about a new context, listen for useful experience and advice, and to reflect on their own work. Discourage them from thinking that they will only learn when it’s their turn to present.


Capture the conversation.


Assign a notetaker (not the presenter) to write down the ideas and advice shared during each design clinic. These notes should be made available to all Fellows. We post notes on each Fellow’s personal Wikispaces page. This way the wisdom of the group is preserved for all to benefit from in the future.

"CE Fellows is a great way to build community! Not only is it a great way to meet a diverse group of people, but they become a support group that offer advice, trouble-shooting, problem-solving, and lots of laughs!"

- Irena Lambrou

 Irena Lambrou proposed a West African Dance study abroad course for Whatcom Community College students during her Fellows experience.



Our programming takes place on the ancestral homelands of the Coast Salish Peoples, who have lived in the Salish Sea basin, throughout the San Juan Islands and the North Cascades watershed, from time immemorial. We express our deepest respect and gratitude for our indigenous neighbors, particularly the Lummi Nation and Nooksack Tribe, for their enduring care and protection of our shared lands and waterways.

(For more information: WWU Tribal Relations)

Thank you to the numerous organizations that have empowered and continue to support this collaborative effort through co-sponsoring events and providing meeting space, expertise, and communication support. Special thanks to Eastern Washington University, Northwest Indian College, University of Puget Sound, Whatcom County Library System, and Whiteswan Environmental for their ongoing dedication to the work.

©2020 Community Engagement Fellows