On Friday, April 20, we facilitated a workshop at CPA Boston from 5-6 PM. The attendees of the workshop were members of the CPA Steering Committee. There were approximately fifteen people in attendance by 6 PM. Our primary question for the meeting was: How might CPA use Wechat more effectively to influence more Chinese Americans in Boston?
Here is our workshop presentation. Here are our agenda and meeting notes.
The meeting was held in Mandarin and Cantonese, with some simultaneous interpretation into English. CPA staff and members described their experiences with Wechat. Generally, the Chinese-speakers were more knowledgeable about Wechat and were involved in more private group chats. Mrs. Tang, the most knowledgeable about Chinatown WeChat groups, noted how whenever she disagreed with right-wing opinions in group chats, she would feel attacked. Fiona, the workers center organizer, expressed the need to create much more educational Wechat content to be able to respond to the daily articles by right-wing Chinese. Lydia and Karen, former and current executive directors of CPA, discussed the need for long-term planning for content-creation and gave us feedback for utilizing existing material such as the Asian American Racial Justice Toolkit created by CPA San Francisco.
Through the workshop, we were able to get quick feedback on our Wechat infographic prototype and we were able to crowdsource a list of future content topics and resources to continue making content. We were also able to connect with others in the Chinese American activist community who are organizing a more extensive effort around utilizing Wechat. Our next steps include 1) continuing to create content and to share with our new Wechat group for further feedback, and 2) conducting research on right-wing Chinese WeChat mobilization strategies.
Initial Learning Goal #1:
Exploring innovative and design-driven methods of approaching issues that are difficult to communicate…
Collaborating with Chinese Progressive Association itself requires a lot of learning, because their expertise is so diverse and layered. As a designer with no previous knowledge about the organization, I am approaching issues that are difficult to communicate and even understand myself, such as land trusts, public parcels, and data disaggregation. Nonetheless, this experience helps me see where others can feel stuck when interacting with the missions of the organization.
Creating power maps and utilizing listening methods have been immensely helpful, because these tools allow me to see the bigger picture while not ignoring the individual narratives and pain points.
Initial Learning Goal #2:
I actively seek out joyful moments in my design process…
Because a lot of my interaction with the organization and the potential of the project requires intense learning, there hasn’t been many delightful moments in co-designing with them. The dynamic of the organization is also very tense, and sometimes I don’t feel entirely comfortable with approaching strongly opinionated characters. The short time frame is also one of the challenges we must overcome. How do I co-design with people who don’t have the bandwidth, or with those who want quick answers to their questions?
Project Title: Expanding the Notion of Public Good (Presentation Link)
The Chinatown Progressive Association (CPA) organizes working-class Chinese/Chinese-Americans in Boston around issues of housing and workers rights. Civic action and political education around economic and racial justice are embedded in their organizing model. Currently, CPA is fighting for community control and ownership of public land alongside other work around Chinatown Stabilization, including affordable housing preservation and helping tenants fight eviction and displacement from development. The Public Good Campaign at CPA is centered around this fight over community land ownership, specifically with Parcels 12, 21, 25-27.
We discovered after further conversation with Mark at CPA that the Public Good Campaign is linked to a larger 10-Year agenda effort led by Massachusetts Community Labor United (CLU), a coalition of community and labor organizations around Massachusetts. It is centered on pushing back against the increasing privatization of essential social services such as healthcare, and public transit.
During the weekly CPA staff meeting last Friday, Karen Chen, the director of CPA, voiced the lack of a deeper understanding of what is “public good.” Utilizing our skillset—urban design, art, graphic design—and co-design framework, we plan to help expand the notion of “public good” through public education. We hope to explore and engage with CPA members (including residents and workers) around what is at stake with increasing privatization for the working class Chinese/Chinese-American community, and how to mobilize and take action against it.
At the Right to the City Coalition meeting at the Asian American Resource Center, neighborhood leaders and residents from around Boston explored the definition and potential of collective power. They discussed how with collective power, Boston neighborhoods can resist the privatization of land, education, transportation, and labor markets. We hope to connect the notion of public good with community members’ everyday lives, expanding their understanding, aligning them with CPA’s mission, and ultimately mobilizing them to learn, build and take action collectively.
Photo credit: Chinese Progressive Association (http://cpaboston.org/)
We plan to work with CPA on either the Workers Center pro-union education initiative or the Chinatown Stabilization Public Goods Campaign. This will be decided by Friday of this week after a general staff meeting we are attending. Depending on which project we work on, we will have to draft a project agreement and schedule meetings with varied stakeholders, including CPA staff, workers in the Home Health Aid union and Hotel Workers Union, and/or Chinatown youth.
Method 1: Fly on the Wall
We were not able to attend the general staff meeting at CPA this week but we are scheduled to sit on their weekly staff meeting on Friday, March 16 at noon. This will help us gain a better understanding of current workflows and dynamics within the CPA office, and challenges the staff are facing.
Method 2: Flow Analysis/Ecosystem Map
We plan to create a flow analysis map with a CPA staff member who runs the specific project that we decide to work on—pro-union education (Fiona and Yusin) or public good campaign (Lydia or Mark). This exercise will help identify bottlenecks, opportunities, and stakeholders.
Method 3: Guided Tour
We plan to join one of their guided tours or ask them to take us on one within the next two weeks. Going on a tour will help us understand the spatial dynamics of the issues we will work on, including the public parcels in contestation or the workers’ places of work and community hubs.
“While the effects of public policies can be widespread, the discussion and understanding of these policies are usually not. CUP’s Making Policy Public (MPP) poster series aims to make information on policy truly public: accessible, meaningful, and shared. We want to create opportunities for advocacy organizations to reach their constituencies better through design and for designers to engage social issues without sacrificing experimentation.”
I collaborated with the Center for Urban Pedagogy and the Public Utility Law Project last year to create a visual guide that teaches New York State’s utility law. People who face hardships in regards to utilities are mostly low-income families that are highly vulnerable. Because many of them are older citizens, they might not have internet access or have difficulties reading small types. My project hasn’t been announced on CUP’s website—I will share it once it does!
The helpful—at times life-saving—utility policies are largely unknown and hidden to the public. Therefore, this project is successful in sustaining, healing, and empowering the constituents (principle #1)—because it educates the public about how to deal with exploitative utility companies and hold them accountable. As a designer, I also respected the design constraints (i.e. type size, color choices) in order to prioritize design’s impact on the community rather than value my aesthetic preferences (principle #3).
Because PULP is an advocacy group and not a community organization, we didn’t have a community member present in all of our meetings. During our testing sessions, we asked a set of questions to the constituents and reflected their comments on the next iteration but didn’t share design knowledge and tools with them (principle #7). Although it wasn’t part of the process, a research on what is already working within the community (principle #10) would have been insightful—how did people actually communicate with aggressive utility companies? What kind of utility programs or policy was the easiest to understand and implement? In hindsight, these are the type of questions that I wish I had asked.
My name is Hanna and I’m a first-year Master in Design Studies (M.Des) student in the Art, Design, and the Public Domain program at Harvard Graduate School of Design. I have a BFA in painting and concentration in graphic design from the Maryland Institute College of Art. For four years after college, I worked with a wide range of clients from fashion to tech startup as a graphic designer and illustrator.
I came back to school because I hit a wall. I became aware that I made the few already-rich richer, those who don’t really need my help. So I set out to find a more meaningful purpose, where my service could truly benefit as many people as possible. To my relief, I found it at the intersection of design and policy, which is the current focus of my study.
Last year, I collaborated with the Center for Urban Pedagogy on an issue of Making Policy Public as a graphic designer. I created a visual guide that educates the public on New York state’s utility law with CUP and the Public Utility Law Project. Through this class, I hope to continue exploring innovative and design-driven methods of approaching issues that are difficult to communicate. I thoroughly enjoy translating complex and abstract information into friendly visual communication—and I’m good at it 🙂
I don’t have a partnering organization this semester, so I am all yours! I work intuitively, iteratively, and collaboratively, just as any moderately successful designer would. While I don’t shy away from the mess—as my class exercise shows—I actively seek out joyful moments in my design process. I would like to work with someone who wants to work with a visual communicator, tool-kit maker, and an all-around artist to spice up their project. I would love to work with someone who can help me become passionate about their project. Here’s my portfolio site if you are interested in the work I’ve produced over the years.