SPACES User Research Workshop
In November 2014,  I worked with a non-profit organization and school. Together with my organization, LearnDoShare, we hosted a collaborative workshop with neighborhood residents to discuss and design opportunities for the neighborhood. The main goal for the day was to discuss, share, and explore how to improve the SPACES program, which is a social impact Artist-in-Residency program. Participants were further invited to stay involved and help to shape the future of the organization and how it can better serve the community. 
 
The structure of the workshop involved a number of activities, including conversation prompts, active listening, and collective map-making. The output was generally written down, as a means of collecting data. This data was used both as documentation and as a baseline for understanding the changes that will be enacted by the community over time. 
 
The workshop also helped us to craft design principles that will guide the selection of incoming artists, and will furthermore help guide the projects they create. 
These post-its are the results of an active listening exercise in which participants listened to an oral history of the area, and wrote down ideas or phrases that struck an emotional chord. We then asked participants to categorize their post-its on a board as either positive, neutral, or negative. 
Participants went through three rounds with the maps. They answered the following prompts: 
1) Where’s a point the neighborhood where you feel connected and why? 
2) What parts of the neighborhood need to change and why?
3) Were are 10 years in the future what do you think the neighborhood is like and why?
Teams took different approaches, with one team wayfinding as they drew based on where friends and family work. One of the current artists in residence, was prompting others on his team for landmarks based on questions of activism, such as “where’s the closest grocery store?” and “Are there any barbershops?…it’s where people hang out and share information.” 
The final phase of the workshop focused on solution spaces. We asked participants, “What do you want to see in the next 10 years?” Everyone wrote down their answers on post-its, then presented them to the group. 
 
To check out, we asked participants one final question—“What’s the one thing you want to see in the next year?”
 
After three hours of collaborative design and thoughtful discussion of the community, participants had clear, strong, opinions for change. All of these post-its were transcribed, and synthesized later into design principles, or guiding themes that artists should incorporate into their work with the community. The community's discussion formed the basis of the RFP that was later sent to the arts community. 
 
In retrospect, I would like to have tested the methods we employed in this workshop against the methods employed during Participatory Budgeting. I'm curious as to whether having a map, or a birds-eye view of one's neighborhood, prompts more social considerations or shifts the way we prioritize needs. 
 
SPACES User Research Workshop
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SPACES User Research Workshop

A collaborative workshop with neighborhood residents to discuss and design opportunities for the neighborhood. The structure of the workshop in Read More
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