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. 

Designing Innovation: Stakeholder Mapping, Interviews & Project Planning

Identify Stakeholders

Our team started to map out our initial list stakeholders and came up with an initial brainstorm or “map” of people we believe would have a vested interest in any solution that addressing food security.

whiteboard mappingSince that meeting, we met via Google Hangouts to identify more people to interview and determine what questions to ask. We also decided to create a group of questions that we would ask each person; something that might reveal some insight we wouldn’t be able to capture by asking different questions to each person.

Individually, we did our own research and discovered some surprising people to interview, including a Top Chef and a roommate who lived in a food desert.

Here we created a “working” list of people we would love to interview (below) and we expanded on the stakeholder list as we learned more about the larger community.

After creating a working list of people to interview, we created another draft of questions to ask our interviewees. We also agreed to ask our interviewees a small number of the same questions to identify and determine if there are any patterns or contradictions. These are the questions (subject to change):

  • What is your definition of a food desert?
  • How can social media and technology play a larger role in raising awareness of food deserts?
  • What kind of cultural barriers exist to addressing food deserts?
  • Please tell me about how food access impacts one’s health?
  • What do you think is missing to help address food deserts?
  • How does your work help to address the food desert issue?
  • Who or what organizations are successful in addressing food deserts? How are they accomplishing it?
  • What is the biggest change that you would like to see within your community, in order to help eliminate food deserts?

Since we have four people in our group and tasked with interviewing 3 each, we also opted to ask questions specific to each person:

For the pediatrician:

  • Do you have patients who live in food deserts?
  • What common diseases do they have? Are these diseases directly related to unhealthy diet? Does other family member suffer from the same diseases as children?
  • Who are the main source of health education (parents, school, friends)? How would you help your patients to engage in health education?

For the registered dietitian:

  • How does the diet of someone live in a food desert affect their overall well-being and health?
  • What are the factors that contribute to dietary behavior at a household or ‘family’ level?
  • How would you help someone change their lifestyle habits who has lived in a food desert?

For school administrators:

  • How many students are affected by food deserts within your school?
  • How does being located within a food desert affect students? Does it affect their learning/focus or health/attendance within the classroom setting?
  • What is the school’s outreach for those families that are affected by lack of access to healthy food?

For parents:

  • What are the biggest challenges of living within a food desert?
  • Tell me about where you buy fruits and vegetables. How far do you travel and how long does it take you? (Follow up: Why? Or I’d love to hear more about your transportation.)
  • Are there programs or Urban Gardens that you may participate in? What is the community outreach for living within a food desert?
  • What kind of fresh foods do you try to incorporate into your daily routine that are more nutritious, if any? How do you get access to those foods?
  • What is the biggest change within your community that you would like to see in order to help eliminate food deserts?

For a student: (If possible)

  • Do you provide your own meals for school? “Pack a lunch? Or eat at school?” Why?
  • What kind of meals are you provided with?
  • What kind of education is being provided on food, health and nutrition?
  • Are there programs or Urban Gardens that you may participate in? Would you be interested in being a part of an Urban Garden within your community of school?

For chefs Jeremy Ford and Michelle Bernstein:

  • What inspired you to join the #DrinkGoodDoGood social media campaign?
  • How can restaurants play an active role in raising awareness of food deserts?

For friend who lived in a food desert:

  • What was done to improve the situation while you lived there?
  • If you wanted fresh groceries, how did you go about getting them?
  • Did you know you were moving to a food desert?

For holistic health practitioner:

  • Do you have patients who live in food deserts?
  • How does the diet of someone live in a food desert affect their overall well-being and health?
  • How would you help someone change their lifestyle habits who has lived in a food desert?

For Health in the Hood:

  • What makes your program unique from other food desert outreach efforts?
  • How has your program affected the food desert population? Did raising awareness about food deserts lead to other benefits as well?
  • How were the head gardeners selected?

For Urban Oasis Project:

  • Describe your long-term vision for Urban Oasis.
  • What motivated you to start Urban Oasis?
  • What makes the Urban Oasis Project different from other food desert organizations?
  • Tell me about some of your most successful campaigns. Why?
  • Tell me about a failure. What did you learn?
  • What barriers do people face to access healthy foods? (transportation is a big hurdle)
  • What challenges do you believe face food desert communities in the near future?
  • I’d like to hear more about your Urban Farmer Incubator Program.

For a food systems specialist:

  • Tell me about your job as a Food Systems Specialist
  • What are the challenges for underserved communities at the policy level?
  • Tell me about SNAP and how it can help?
  • What programs—outreach initiatives, education, etc.— are doing well and what more would you like to see? (around the state, the country, the world.
  • What non-U.S. solutions are working in the world?
  • What challenges do farmers and organization who wish to help underserved communities face?
  • What are some of the psychosocial factors that may prevent people from going to a farmer’s market, a new grocery store, etc. in their neighborhoods?

For a local Farmer and activist:

  • What motivated you to start an urban farm and garden as well as all of your other initiatives?
  • Tell me about farmers’ markets in general.
  • Tell me about any challenges or barriers Urban Greenworks has faced in bringing community gardening, education and other health initiatives to people?
  • How can schools be an access point for change?
  • What more needs to happen at the policy level to help address food and health in underserved neighborhoods?
  • What challenges do you (or farmers and gardeners) face in growing and feeding your communities?
  • What do you believe is most misunderstood about food deserts?
  • How does geography impact food access?
  • Which aspects of the local food environment (e.g., availability, price, convenience) are most relevant to health

For a small farmer (New York state):

  • In what ways does food access impact one’s health and/or the health of a community?
  • Who or what organizations are successful in addressing food deserts? How are they accomplishing it?
  • Tell me about what motivated you to be a farmer and in what ways farmers can help contribute to the solution of providing healthy food to people who lack access?
  • What would be the challenges/barriers as a farmer in contributing to the solution?
  • What benefits might you see?
  • Please tell me about your thoughts about farmer’s markets and their relationship to food deserts.

For a public health professional:

  • What are some successful efforts to address the food desert issue?
  • Please tell me about policy and how it is affecting the disparity in diet and overall health.
  • What community relationships do you see would work best to help address public health? (Schools + local farmers? Food trucks + Doctors?)
  • What kind of solution would help to address food choices?
  • In addition to transportation and prices, what other barriers exist to access healthy food?

Note: We also decided that whatever solution takes shape, that we would want the intervention to be adaptable and usable in other states and cities; not just Florida. This is why we opened up the list of people to interview nationally.

Field trip! Legion Park Farmer’s Market this Saturday.

This weekend, we will be heading to Legion Park Farmer’s Market as a group to meet up with two people from the Urban Oasis Project — Art Friedlich, President of Urban Oasis Project and Jeannie Necessary, Board President and Food Systems Specialist. We may also meet Roger Horne, co-founder of Urban Greenworks and Cerasee Farm.

This is Part 3 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: Affinity Clustering and Teams

Identify and focus on a problem

This week, we spent some time in class mapping the multitude of problems and pain points within healthcare and the health and wellness of people/communities.

This process is known as affinity clustering; a way of sorting items based on similarity. It minimizes the overwhelm of big ideas, problems or when writing an important paper. This process also helps to identify themes and patterns. It is a wonderful group exercise.

Create Teams Around Health & Wellness

(Honestly, I could not have planned this any better as every topic was an interest. In fact, I had met with Maria just a week earlier to brainstorm ideas for a project. Education and health related problems were at the top of our list.)

I learned about food deserts while studying clinical nutrition at the Maryland University for Integrative Health in a class that gave us an overview of how food and politics in communities. It was eye-opening and infuriating; a definite wicked problem and one I wanted to investigate further now and perhaps in the future. I suppose it was in learning about the social determinants of health that planted the idea that I was meant to stay in design but shift the space in which I worked. Perhaps.

Reviewing and refining our work.

Thankfully, in addition to Maria, two other classmates — Mackenzie and Laura — were also interested in tackling this problem! I’m eager to work with them.

This is Part 2 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: Designing the Anti “Social” Network”

Today was my first class in the IMFA (Interactive Master of Fine Arts) program.

Designing Innovation is being taught by Professor Lien Tran and we were presented with a design brief titled, Designing the Anti “Social” Network. This will be our first project.

Project Objective

We currently live in an era in which we spend more time connecting via technology, social media, and social networks and more time physically away from each other than with each other. One might say that technology and social networks has made us artificially or superficially connected to each other rather than allowing us to genuinely connect as an authentic community or to develop authentic relationships with people. Ironically, technology and social platforms in general have made us more antisocial. Youth are more comfortable communicating via apps than they are talking to someone IRL (in real life).

Assuming the role of a designer, your objective for this assignment is work in small teams to research and analyze existing “social” networks and related products/features and to propose the design of a new system (or new feature to an existing system) to:

  • enhance an existing community;
  • enhance social interactions;
  • create a new community; and/or
  • enhance “how people weave together within communities and wider society as a whole” (CHI 2019 SDC)

First Exercise: Identities and Communities

How we as a class identify ourselves.

This exercise was incredibly fun and a first step in the process of defining a problem to address for our first project. While we learned about each other and our interests (I’m among kindred spirits!), we also learned how we identify ourselves but also how others might self-identify and in the broader sense, how we belong to communities within communities within communities and so on. It’s a fascinating way to look at how we relate to each other and the world in which we live.

The communities to which we belong
Problems we want to solve or pain points we experience.

 

This is Part 1 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.