Mallory and I conducted a video conference call workshop with some of the Griot’s key fans. We asked them to review the photos, text, and layout we had drafted for the GoFundMe page and I am so grateful for their critical feedback! I was worried that people would be shy about feedback. People in our workshop definitely still prefaced any negative feedback with lots of positive caveats and support, but I loved that they did not hold back on giving us meaningful suggestions and insights for improvement.
Here’s a link to our Workshop Agenda. We followed it for the most part, but definitely made some changes on the fly and didn’t send out the website ahead of time.
We learned that our workshop attendees wanted the GoFundMe to have a more narrative flow, include more about the wonderful founder (Lois) who they all love, and wanted to think about how to shape the language of the GoFundMe to be urgent yet positive. We also got feedback about the feel of the museum. Our attendees talked about the immersive experience being in the museum, how the museum generates empathy, how the museum has taught them so much. This was really amazing for me as someone who’s never been to the museum. I feel like I got to understand what makes this museum so special to so many people, and what makes it unique. Which is perfect for building out content for a crowdfunding campaign! It was reinvigorating to be with a group of people who believe in the museum, believe in Lois, and believe in our project so much.
In addition to getting this critical feedback, I was inspired by how the workshop accomplished other goals that I wasn’t completely expecting. Our workshop participants didn’t know each other, despite both being loyal fans of the museum and Lois — so the workshop gave us an opportunity to connect two people who share a passion and build relationship between them. We asked our workshop participants to suggest names of people they would forward the campaign to — so the workshop gave us an opportunity to drum up excitement and support, getting key fans excited about the forthcoming opportunity to share our campaign. Moving forward, I am eager to work to make sure that our co-designers know that they are co-designers. I want all these people who have built this campaign with us to feel like they own it and its their success when (hopefully) the Griot reaches its fundraising goals.
The project I had in mind at the beginning of the codesign studio has completely transformed, however, it has definitely changed for the better. Initially, I had hoped to do a project that would engage students in town government and help them understand what articles/issues are discussed at town government meetings. Primarily, though, the goal was to allow a space where students could not only learn about local processes, but also voice concerns they have as citizens of Billerica.
The project quickly shifted after the Parkland shooting. Many of the high school students I work with at BATV were interested in discussing gun violence and gaining a better understanding about this topic. It became clear that they were looking for a space to talk about their opinions and feelings around gun violence and adult responses to school shootings. This has since developed into a short documentary film featuring footage from the walkout BMHS students did in March as well as a variety of interviews, social media posts, and other forms of student discussions. Several students have also become heavily involved in the planning process and will be assisting with editing as well.
Although the subject matter of the project has shifted, the general concept of the project has remained the same: engaging Billerica youth in local issues and allowing them space to be heard. I am excited to see where the documentary goes and how this process can not only benefit my understanding of codesign, but also benefit the students I’m working with as well.
In terms of lingering questions, I continue to struggle with how to get more students involved in the project (particularly walkout organizers) and how I can best support the growth of this documentary without stepping on the toes of the students I’m working with.
Going into class, I came in with a relatively straightforward learning goal: I wanted to learn more about communities and how they are formed, sustained, and modified. Communities are easier identified than defined, which makes me want to learn or explore these the social processes that shape communities in more depth and detail.
Over the course of the semester, I feel that I’ve learned about design thinking tools, observation techniques, writing project proposals, and working with organizations. Perhaps through the application of these practical tools in upcoming workshops and design project will help me meet the relatively abstract, theory-driven learning goal I’ve set out for myself.
I hope to learn how to better engage with the community, promote trust, and collaborate in a positive way.
With repeated visits, steady communication, and deep, active listening, trust between Project Hope, the wider community, and myself seems to have grown. With repeated visits, individual interviews have gone deeper and novel ideas brought up. Concepts we’ve learned in class have helped me be more conscious of the amount of space and time I take up. In particular, by prioritizing the nonprofit and stepping back as a designer and being lead by the nonprofit is a method I’ve deeply valued.
I hope to better learn how to constructively and holistically collaborate with a community that was not mine originally without contributing to or perpetuating the white savior narrative.
Similarly to my answer above, I think Codesigning as a concept promotes authentic collaboration and design that prioritizes the community over everything else.
I hope that through much iteration and deep collaboration, we can find a system that compliments the community.
This is the learning goal I am still working towards. Project Hope is incredibly busy, and to engage in Codesign seems as if it is one more responsibility to throw on their already loaded plate. They are excited about the work and are eager, yet it seems to be burdensome, which is problematic and can halt collaboration and iteration. I am working to find a balance now to properly contribute to their work with them as leaders without unloading too much work or responsibility onto them.
This class has been very rewarding in that it has guided us through a process that I hope to continue to go through after graduating when working with community partners. It has helped me reflect on how to position myself in relation to community organizations, and ways in which I can be more intentional with collaboration and relationship-building. I appreciated the ways in which listening methods, writing the design brief, and crits on our design brief presentations were integrated into the process. The weekly progress report to the class also helped push the work forward. Overall I have appreciated the opportunity to get more involved with CPA Boston through the class, and to get more connected with Boston, which was important to me coming here as a graduate student.
Questions I continue to have include 1) how to design with the community in a way that balances their needs with our skills and interests, and 2) how to facilitate collective creative processes instead of being narrowed down into a specific project at the beginning of our relationship with the community organization.
My concern is that we may be a little behind the class schedule (still have to power map and write a project agreement!) but I think we have a good idea of how to move forward.
I am reverting to my past idea — refugee relocation. I am looking forward to working with Talent Beyond Boundaries in late April and seeing if there is support in that organization for using a design approach with more engagement of refugees.
My design brief and presentation are here: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1VROKmld8Gshya5zLS3b_Tc8ISyUuORPM
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?
My initial learning goals included:
- Uniting administrative and creative practices — thinking about all assets of the project as creative. I think this helps stretch the boundaries of possibility through each element of the process. This has been a challenge, because communication with our partner has been sporadic based on limited capacity of the museum director. As a result, there has been much time dedicated to basic scheduling and administrative tasks that really haven’t felt creative. Perhaps my initial learning goal was a pipe dream and what I learned is that you can’t always unite the admin and the creative.
- Better insight on how to leverage technology & media in my practice. What might be helpful at this point is spending some time refining the muscle of how identity creative solutions to challenges & opportunities. I’m imagining almost a mock situation in class where we have to come up with creative solutions together for different orgs challenges, or maybe we do a rapid brainstorm for each of the other students’ projects. I feel like I’m still accessing my comfort zone of possible solutions for to address The Griot’s needs, rather than accessing new bodies of knowledge in terms of an ever more expansive and refined ability to help partners address problems in effective, sustainable and refreshing ways.
- Have better command of the north star within my practice (I called it my ‘nucleus’, which would be why I do the work, and to what end do I think it matters). One challenge of co-design is to have a strong sense of your contributions and expertise, but also be a deep listener and collaborator with your partner. Preferencing the voice of our partner over our own sometimes makes it hard to have our own voice. For example, right now we are having an interesting situation where one of our interviewees has said something somewhat contradictory to our central partner’s insight — how are we as an outside partner supposed to navigate and critically examine this? What guiding principals do we use — our own, our partner organization’s, our individual partner’s?
Other Lingering Questions
I’m still wondering what the best tactics are to be able to address the needs of a co-design partner when you do not possess the skills needed to address their challenge. If, for example, Lois chooses to work with 3D printing, should Aki & I master 3D printing and work with her, should we bring in a new partner who is more knowledgable, or should we try to find a different tactic that addresses the need? My gut says the first, that we collectively learn to use the tools that the work is calling for. But this still remains a question! Especially with the limited time of the class it is hard to accomplish mastery of a new skill and then also apply to a real life partner where there are real stakes.
It may be helpful for me to practice in class some of the methods we have discussed, like listening method, before trying them with partners. This will give a better sense of familiarity with some of the new tactics involved in co-design that will allow us to present these methods to our partner with a deeper understand of how to enact them and what mutual benefit we will gain from engaging with them.
I looked back at my first post for this class to refresh my memory about what my learning goals were. This sentence that I wrote jumped out to me: “I am excited to learn more tools and use my curiosity and desire to find connections as a way to co-design new solutions.”
I am realizing this sentence sounds pretty vague! And one reflection is I’m wishing I had written more concretely what my goals were so I could see if I was reaching them (or at least orienting to them).
Another thing I noticed is that my goal is “tool” oriented. I have SO appreciated the tools I’ve learned from this class. The listening methods, Daphne’s research on power mapping, writing a design brief, etc. I have felt like I am learning some pretty specific tools that I hope to implement in my work going forward. I also think that “tools” is just the tip of the iceberg of what we’re learning. I feel like most of our work has been about giving me the chance to practice the framework of design justice. I have been trying to be really intentional about thinking about my approach to life and work (in and out of the CoDesign Studio class) through Design Justice Principle 1: We use design to sustain, heal, and empower our communities, as well as to seek liberation from exploitative and oppressive systems. The idea that our work can be a tool for collective liberation really speaks to me and I keep thinking about how to implement that well.
I have also been reflecting on how much I wish we could speak with our partner more. It’s hard to walk the line between showing her respect by diligently reaching out to communicate with her versus showing her respect by not burdening her too much with our outreach because she has so much to do. I’m grappling with how to show up best for our partner and thinking about how much easier it is when you know your partner well. Thankfully I have Mallory to help guide me! And it’s reminding me that when I do any sort of design work in the future (for me, that will likely be policy design work), I need to make sure I bring the community based organizations I’ve worked with before into the room. I’m better positioned to bring them into the room because I think I have a positive, developed, trusting relationship with them and I know them well enough to have a better sense of the cues that suggest whether I’m reaching out enough or too much. And if I have that positive relationship with them and I can help bring them into rooms with my fancy Harvard degree, then hopefully there are other organizations that they know that I don’t know and they can bring those people into the room too.
Not being able to reach out to our partner more and not knowing more about how our partner is perceived has also been something I’ve been thinking about in terms of how to best show up for our partner. I love getting to know new people, and it’s really hard to know how to support someone when you don’t know them. So I think this is good exercise for getting to know a partner through what they say and what others say about them. I think Mallory and I will be working to get more information on what others think about our partner to help build out our knowledge. I wish we had done that a little bit sooner.
Design Brief: Paper and Presentation
Fascinate, Inc. is on a mission to bring cutting-edge technology to underrepresented students nationwide, while exciting them about STEM. During the course of the studio, we will be working together to create a cohesive process that will be used to have tech showcases on a consistent basis. We will also reach out to communities in order to get at least 500 people of color committed to being mentors to students of color where they reside.
For this design brief, we used the Activity Analysis and Affinity Diagrams listening methods. We believed the Activity Analysis method would be helpful in detailing what worked well and not so well during past showcases. The Affinity Diagrams method will foster creative ways to pitch the impact of these showcases to prospective partners.
The challenges we anticipate include generating quantifiable results and finding the financial resources needed for these projects. Nonetheless, we will be hopeful moving forward.