Designing Innovation: Rose, Thorn, Bud and What if …?

In an effort to gain greater understanding of our stakeholders, the barriers affecting populations who lack food security and how these intersect with the many ideas our team has put forward, we did an exercise in class last week from Luma Institute’s, Innovating for People: Handbook of Human Centered Design Methods called Rose, Thorn, Bud. According to Luma, it is a process adapted from the Boy Scouts of America [1].

The exercise is best executed in person with a team using different colored post-it notes as a key. It helps to have the key visible from every part of the room especially if there is more than one group moving through the exercise.

Red = ROSE  = Positive
Blue = THORN = Negative
Green (or yellow) = BUD = Promising

Rose Thorn Bud Example
Image capture from the book, “Innovating for People: Handbook of Human-Centered Design Methods” by the Luma Institute

Design Precedents

Prior to our class, our team did some research to audit and review design precedents that could inform our decisions as we narrow down our concepts and solutions.

A few precedents stood out for us:

Food subscription kits and delivery services:

  • Thrive Market
  • Hello Fresh
  • Blue Apron
  • Gousto (UK)
  • Plated

Fetch Rewards App

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Augmented Reality Apps

Arloon Plants

Kabaq

Based on these design precedents, we decided to take those ideas through the Rose, Thorn, Bud method based on our interviews, research, and personas. Below is our exploration for Apps, Rewards App, Meal Subscription Kits, and a print campaign.

What if … ?

Professor Tran came by while we were exploring the rewards idea and as the conversation continued, the ideas started to merge together. We started to ask ourselves questions … “What if … ”

Our big “What if …” included merging the kit with the app idea modified to accommodate the fact that smartphones are most likely not common in underserved areas. Even then we asked ourselves, “What if we considered the evolution or progression of technology into the home?” Meaning, what if, at some point, technology entered the home. Could our idea, our solution, address interaction over time?

Meeting! Google Hangout

The RBT exercise gave us a bit more direction so I decided to get some thoughts out of my head and on paper.

I shipped this off to my team mates and we scheduled a meeting to figure out next steps.

We knew we wanted to focus on health literacy but given the depth and breadth of the problem, how do we narrow it down? We knew students and teachers (schools) would be our core audience.

Storyboards

We came up with three storyboards based on our three personas:

  • Teacher
  • Student
  • Urban Farmer

1. Anna, an urban farmer, gives a group of students a tour of her urban farm and shares with them all the different types of food she grows plus fun facts about how food gets to the store.

2. Inside her barn, Anna teaches the kids about food choices and how these foods help different parts of the body.

3. After, Anna offers students a taste test of the produce she grows, giving them a sense of all the different types of food that can be made with produce.

4. Anna gives their teacher an Education Kitchen kit (our working title). This version has an activity book, seeds, mini planters, recipes. She informs the teacher that there is an interactive layer to the activity book for use with a smartphone. As a bonus, Anna gives the teacher a basket of various foods.

5. The next day, the teacher gives her students a chance to plant the seeds from the Education Kitchen kit Anna gave her. They get dirty, plant seeds, and the teacher tells them one day they will take them home.

6. The students who are most excited about what they have learned share with their parents about planting seeds and give them recipe cards from the Education Kit asking them to cook together and passes along what they learned about healthy eating and food choices.

These storyboards are helping us gain more clarity about how people would use our kit which we have temporarily named, “Education Kitchen”.

We’ll see where this takes us …

This is Part 7 in a series documenting my learning experiences developing a solution to address food deserts, food security, health literacy, and health for populations. This project is part of our Designing Innovation course with Professor Lien Tran at the University of Miami, School of Communication. I am an IMFA (Interactive Media Master of Fine Arts) candidate.

Designing Innovation: Empathy Maps and Personas

Modeling

Modeling is a great way to bridge the information and observations you discover while speaking with the people you are designing for but also with. The people we interviewed continue to invest a lot of time and energy and inevitably have different experiences, opinions, and suggestions for how to move forward and what solutions they think and feel would be or work best.

Personas can help designers to understand how our stakeholders are connected; where their interests and goals intersect. They can also help designers and other team members get on the same page. It is a form of documentation and exercise that encourages agreement as well as a foundation for future design decisions. I think of it as a way to minimize the “I like this” (personal opinion) layer to discussion and feedback that always goes back to the people who would be affected by any design solution. It helps to build consensus, effectiveness, and direction for others who are not directly involved in the design process but are closely related to its outcome.

So, last week we ended class last week split into our teams and engaged in creating empathy maps. Our team decided to stay a bit longer and finish up in real time, taking advantage of the whiteboards available to us.

What is an empathy map?

It is a method or tool to help designers spend some time in another person’s shoes; to literally empathize with what a person is feeling, thinking, seeing, doing, and even understanding their motivations and goals. They can help create the foundation of personas, an expressive user model that are ideally based in sound research. Personas shape the narratives around a potential design solution and help designers be more specific about audience — the individuals using and interacting with a physical, digital prodct or service.

Empathy maps and personas can also help focus and shape conversations, ease communication and build ideas internally between various team members and departments. It also helps designers from naval gazing and designing for designers.

For this project, we were tasked with creating at least three empathy maps and three personas given the size of our team.

Personas

Based on our interviews and research, we determined that we would start with a student, a teacher, and an urban farmer. I volunteered to create one of them.

 

persona urban farmer
An “ad-hoc” persona of Anna, an urban farmer.

Anna is based on our interviews with people from Urban Oasis, Urban GreenWorks, and public health professional with experience in community health, planning and development, among others. She is the type of person who energizes with her passion and commitment to helping underserved communities.

Combined with the student and teacher personas in addition to more interviews and research, we are feeling a bit more confident and clear about a direction. Figuring out a solution still feels like an we’re swimming in the Atlantic but perhaps now, we see a bit of land.

Persona, Patrick, an English Professor
Persona, Anna, a 12-year-old student

This is Part 6 in a series documenting my learning experiences developing a solution to address food deserts, food security, health literacy, and health for populations. This project is part of our Designing Innovation course with Professor Lien Tran at the University of Miami, School of Communication. I am an IMFA (Interactive Media Master of Fine Arts) candidate.

Voice Recorder for Interviews

There was a time when I interviewed several people about photographers’ websites (another time, another story) and used my iPhone 6S with a Sennheiser ClipMic digital microphone (lightning connector). It worked pretty well under the right conditions but the software is clunky and perhaps better suited for someone who much more well-versed in audio.

voice recorder
Sony UX560 Stereo Digital Voice Recorder

I wanted an easier recorder. So, after some research, I decided to go with a small voice recorder that was under $100: the Sony UX560 Stereo Digital Voice Recorder.

Wirecutter recommended this voice recorder for students who wanted to record lectures and based additional reviews on Amazon, I decided to go for it.

It worked great and I highly recommend getting one. Be sure to get a case and a microSD card. Eventually, I hope to purchase a microphone to attach to the recorder but for the moment, the recorder works great as is. It does capture some ambient noise so ideally, future interviews will take place in a quiet location.

Transcription

My friend Andrea pointed me to Rev for transcriptions and overall I’ve been impressed by their professionalism, accuracy and turn-around. It beats having to DIY. This time, I was fortunate because our teammate, Mackenzie, is a transcription goddess.

Designing Innovation: Stakeholder Interviews & Summaries

“Design is a conversation with materials.”

I love that quote by Donald Schön, highlighted in our book, About Face.

I’ve done interviews in the past and I’ll be the first to admit that I get nervous every time. Not the kind of nervous I get when I’m speaking to a large audience or even the nervous feeling I get before teaching that first week but still nerbous. No matter how many times I’ve done it, it still happens.

Perhaps because I feel pressure to ask the right questions; to be present and listen carefully; to pick up on clues; to be compassionate … I think because the people you interview are being extremely generous with their time and more importantly their stories and lives. There is a vulnerability to being interviewed.

But I digress.

Our interviews for this first project went well. Art, Roger and Jeannie were welcoming, kind and clearly passionate about what they do. We gathered a load of intel about food deserts, nutrition, farming, policy, perceptions, challenges, and most of all, information that caused us to think about our own biases and assumptions.

Below are summaries of our interviews with Urban Oasis Project and Urban Greenworks.

Urban Oasis Project

As I mentioned in my previous post, I was surprised to learn that the term “food desert” is frowned upon by some people who work with underserved communities unless they are speaking with policymakers or writing grants. In fact, the term, “food desert” further stigmatizes the people living in underserved communities. (There’s a psychological term for this but I can’t recall at the moment.)

The efforts they have made to help those using SNAP with EBT cards at farmers’ markets is quite an accomplishment. We also discovered that there are not a lot of farms in the Miami area. Land prices and development pressures are too high to entice young farmers to produce. Art emphasized how knowledge and skills about growing food or to scale up to be a farmer is missing. There are groups that have farm incubator programs but most agriculture schools/education don’t focus on practical skills. (Jeannie refers to the knowledge and skills as part of the Spectrum of Prevention Toolkit).

Behavior change is difficult which requires a cultural shift; proximity to grocery stores isn’t always the solution. Cultural barriers exist. Further, interventions need “buy-in” and that can only come with trust. (Designing WITH a community versus designing for a community). There is an incredible disconnect between people and food. We’ve lost touch with where and how our food is produced; take so much of it for granted (Roger hit on this as well, below).

Technology is supposed to enhance and improve our lives. We should not [be living] in a country without access to healthy food.

I would like to follow-up with Jeannie since she had some interesting things to say about health literacy; that health literacy is critical to helping people within communities understand why eating healthy, fresh food is important. She shared how campaigns don’t work with most communities mainly due to the language used (“infant mortality” vs “infant deaths”). Similar to how web page content reaches the most people when written to, I believe, a middle-school level, any intervention must use words that most people understand. Compounding this are the cultural and social differences within each community. “People don’t understand what they are being told.”

Note: I followed up with Jeannie today (9/9/18).

She shared a bit of history of SNAP and mentioned how important it is to keep an eye on what is shaping up at the USDA (she lost her last job due to funding being cut off). She shared with me the “Spectrum of Prevention”, a toolkit for public health practice that works from the bottom up to creating more lasting change. The steps are as follows:

  • Strengthen individuals with knowledge and skills (education)
  • Work with providers to create nudges (e.g. stickers on vending machines that say, “make sure to check the calories”)
  • Foster coalitions and networking
  • Change policy and legislation to backup interventions and goals

She is skeptical about the effectiveness of social media but is open to investigating more. Her main question: For organizations such as the Mayo Clinic, are the 1+ million followers legit? Who are they? She’d like to know and understand their demographics. Her main priority is literacy. What language to use to best communicate health and wellness? For her, much of change is in education; communicating in a way people understand.

Organizational coalitions are full of politics and agendas; sometimes hidden but persistence can pay off albeit very slowly. (Roger talks about breaking down silos and how organizations need to change how and what they do …). There are lots of personalities, efforts to claim credit and even more so today, limited funding. (Art also spoke about how many applications for grants have skyrocketed due to changes at the Federal level.)

Urban GreenWorks

Speaking with Roger is energizing and enlightening. We hope to follow-up with him as well. His view about “food deserts” is holistic; similar to how a naturopathic doctor or an integrative health practitioner looks at the whole person and not just the disease. He emphasized how important it is to design with the community; not just come up with ideas, gather people at a town hall and get feedback in an hour (this is how policy that affects people gets implemented). Establishing trust is mission critical to the success of any intervention. He also mentioned how the youth are critical to change. According to him, they are the change agents of any community.

There are many “problems” but funding is problematic in many ways. Apparently, there are “favorites” rather than need-based. Also, giving stuff (a.k.a. “entitlement”) such as backpacks, is also a problem. Farmer’s markets, he says, are “both the solution and the problem”. Evidently, a farmer’s market is a signal that gentrification is coming, which can demoralize a community.

It was interesting to note his example of a European model that is working: Foodscaping, where communities come together and decide which each person in the community is going to grow and then they share throughout the season. It is a “big farm” in the neighborhood. Everyone is invested and has an appreciation for farming. This is missing in the U.S. or rather, not popular. Again, it seems a disconnect between how food is grown and gets onto the shelf.

First-generation Farmer Upstate New York

David is a first-generation, small farmer based in Upstate New York. He admits he is not an expert on food deserts but took this interview as an opportunity to take a step back and think about food systems. His shares similar views to those of others we interviewed about health disparities; that because people lack access to fresh and healthy foods, there is a loss of traditions but also understanding of where our food comes from.

His view on farmer’s markets is an interesting contrast to others but his answers were more brief. There seems to be a disconnect compared to others we interviewed that farmer’s markets could simply be set up in food deserts, but this could be because he didn’t get into great detail.

An interesting idea that he offered was how offering precise instructions and exact quantities of food (Blue Apron does this) could help resolve the disconnect and cultural barriers surrounding food (e.g. unfamiliar produce). He also mentioned a food demonstration kitchen that runs in my hometown at the market downtown.

Interviews: Our Findings (so far …)

  • The youth in underserved populations are most willing to participate and be the change agents within their communities.
  • Design interventions must be created WITH the community. It is mission critical to the long-term viability of any solution. For example, starting a farmer’s market in a community without the support and trust of the people in the community will never take off or succeed.
  • “Food desert” leaves a bad taste and further discriminates.
  • Ideally, organizations who help these communities collaborate to address larger goals other than their individual missions.
  • Health literacy is a core issue
  • A holistic approach and view is critical to change; interventions in isolation are not effective.
  • People and communities in the U.S. (and a growing number of places worldwide) are sorely out of touch with how food is produced, where it comes from and how it gets to shelves. Cooking with fresh foods seems to be a skill that needs to be taught again.

 

This is Part 5 in a series documenting my learning experiences developing a solution to address food deserts, food security, health literacy, and health for populations. This project is part of our Designing Innovation course with Professor Lien Tran at the University of Miami, School of Communication. I am an IMFA (Interactive Media Master of Fine Arts) candidate. 

Designing Innovation: Interviews at Legion Park

Photo Collage Legion Park Farmer's Market
Clockwise: Roger Horne, Urban Greenworks; Fresh Food 4 design team, Urban Oasis Project

Interviews at Legion Park Farmer’s market

Today our team took a short road trip to Legion Park to meet Art Friedrich and Jeannie Necessary with Urban Oasis Project and with Roger Horne of Urban Greenworks.

I felt it was a great success. We first interviewed Art and Jeannie chimed in once so, I made a note to follow-up with her because she had some interesting things to say about health literacy and how campaigns really don’t work.

Art’s interview was revealing in that perhaps the term “food desert” isn’t the best term to use especially when talking with people who live in communities designated as such. He mentioned that it may further discrimminate. That brought to mind a term I read about while visiting the Smithsonian Cooper Hewitt Museum earlier this year. I’m still searching for the photo I made but if memory serves, it had to do with how labels can make a person start to believe they don’t deserve x, y, or z.

Roger Horne is quite a force. When he launched with how he approaches food security with a more holistic mindset, that resonated with me. Why? Because I don’t believe in things — good or bad — occurring in isolation. There are reasons why and it is important to understand them; including human behavior.

My teammate, Mackenzie was kind enough to offer transcription of the interviews so as soon as those are ready my next step is to read, synthesize, and ideally translate into a better understanding of the problem we are trying to solve.

This is Part 4 in a series documenting my learning experiences developing a solution to address food deserts, food security, health literacy, and health for populations. This project is part of our Designing Innovation course with Professor Lien Tran at the University of Miami, School of Communication. I am an IMFA (Interactive Media Master of Fine Arts) candidate.