Workshop with CPA


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.

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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.

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The Griot’s inner circle provides insight

This first feedback session was a small group of people very familiar with The Griot. We selected these participants because they know the museum well and we thought a first round workshop would be a productive way to ensure that our new twists on the Griot story is true to A.) what people love about The Griot and B.) accurate. We had two attendees join us, and though video chat, and though our group was small, the conversation was incredibly rich and we could have even used more time. The intimate nature of the workshop allowed us to review each section of the proposed crowdfunding campaign page in detail.

Our agenda took us through each section of the early draft campaign page where we inquired from our experts to share elements they would add, take away, or definitely keep. We also gathered their immediate reactions to language and photo as well as minute details such as specific tweaks in language. The group setting allowed for our participants to react to each other and build off of one another. Through our screen share video chat, we were all able to view the same elements at the same time, which allowed for a very focused conversation.

This session was incredibly helpful. Key takeaways included:

  • Because our point person for the project is the sole employee of the museum, her inner circle (including those at the workshop and others) truly are the experts of the museum. They have been key to gaining insight into The Griot and it’s context, as well as refining our campaign

  • A request for language to not appear imploring or to highlight deficiency, but rather to orient our fundraising campaign around ‘opportunity’ and positive language

  • The inner circle is eager to connect us to other resources and supporters

  • The message of the campaign can be further focused

  • There is a need to balance the story as its always been told with a new way of telling the story to a new audience

  • There is a need to balance meticulous accuracy and audience-specific linguistic appeals in the campaign. This is always the fine dance of marketing, and an important balance for us to strike in this project

  • We should embrace the justice platform of the institution through the crowdfunding campaign

We will ensure that in our next workshop we are testing these changes with a group who is unfamiliar with The Griot, to ensure that this story resonates with folks outside of The Griot’s inner circle. We are also considering testing two different messages to see what is resonating more with people unfamiliar with the museum. We are also adjusting out language to be more opportunity-oriented, as well as language that centers around the justice-based ethos of the museum and its inner circle.


Student Documentary Planning Workshop

I held a workshop with two of my codesigners/high school video club members to work out the structure of the school gun violence documentary as well as to discuss what material we had and what we still needed to get. The workshop was extremely productive! It resulted not only in a clearly defined “flow” for the film, but also provided a space to parse out the aesthetic of the film. We discussed possible graphics, camera shots, and how we can use audio to convey transitions between the various sections of the piece.

In order to allow space for my students to voice their opinions about where they see the direction of the film going, I made sure to structure the workshop in a way that would be more fluid than rigid. Although the workshop guide divides out the workshop into three sections, the actual workshop I facilitated was more of an organic conversation and planning session rather than a rigidly timed workshop.

Going forward, we will be meeting twice a week along with regular check ins to make sure we stay on task. The two students will schedule additional interviews, gather footage from other local and national protests, assist with filming B roll, and edit together footage. We will continue to define roles as the process continues and make this experience as collaborative as possible. I’m very excited to see how all this turns out!

Our "storyboard flowchart" for the documentary.

Our “storyboard flowchart” for the documentary.

Our first workshop!

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.

Learning Goals Reflection

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.

Learning Goal Reflections – William Wu

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.

Reflection on Learning Goals

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.


Reflection on Learning Goals

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.

Catching up — Talent Beyond Boundaries revisited

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:

Reflecting on my Initial Learning Goals

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?