This week, our group met with Adina and Elaine to discuss the first draft of our paper. This was our last in-person meeting with our stakeholders, excluding the oral presentation on Wednesday. Overall, they were impressed with our first efforts and gave us some insightful comments to refine the paper. We finished the Faces of Palo Alto project and are now entirely focused on the research paper. However, we are struggling to articulate the research in a coherent manner. There is a lot of jargon we are unfamiliar with, and are therefore relying on input from our stakeholders. If we complete a draft in the next few days, we may even be able to ask Hillary Gitelman for feedback. As for the data, we were told to isolate demographic groups by locality and employment. Adina and Elaine are interested in people’s shifting housing/transportation preferences as you move outward from Palo Alto. In response to these requests, we designed a commuter map showing the housing and workplace distribution of local and non-local workers.
Our team will submit a second draft paper to Adina and Elaine early next week. Hopefully, we will receive comments prior to the oral presentation in order to make last minute changes as needed. We will complete the final paper by the end of dead week. As for the presentation, our group is meeting for two hours this Saturday to fix slides and rehearse. Lastly, we will submit a google doc containing all of our data and methods to Deland, Adina, and Elaine this coming week.
Issues and Discussion:
The online surveys did not contribute valuable data to our research project. Unfortunately, our group released the editing form rather than the survey itself. As a result, we had to resend the survey later than anticipated and only collected nine surveys. Though we appreciated the 10% increase in data, our results did not change significantly. We cannot say for sure how this impacts the bias of our research. However, an online demographic would have expanded our sample set, and likely provided a younger age pool.
We received numerous comments regarding the connectivity of public transit in Palo Alto. Similar to bus schedules, transit connectivity is apparently difficult to access. People would be more willing to commute via public transit with more knowledge and assurance about the system itself. In our last meeting, we discussed the influence of smartphone technology on the reliability of using public transit. An interesting research project for future students could observe the value in certain apps and websites for public transit users. The hypothesis being that there may be a correlation between rider satisfaction and smartphone usage. This can trace back to cultural and economic inequalities. Do public transit systems favor smartphone owners, increasing the potential cost of the consumer to reliably travel? We believe that the improvements to both transit systems and people’s understanding of the systems will result in higher rider densities.
Considering next steps, a future research group may consider conducting research to identify solutions to our observed housing and transportation findings. An economic assessment of housing projects aimed at increasing a local working class could be valuable. However, any research concerning housing projects should also summarize Palo Alto zoning policies to identify which housing projects are actually feasible. Shifting from data driven research to large scale implementation will require an interdisciplinary approach and a diverse project team. As we discovered, the more input a team uses the more beneficial the project can be to society. Input can come from consultants, professors, policy makers, and local residents.
We are excited to share our work with all of you this coming week. The class has been a valuable learning experience, and we wanted to thank Adina and Elaine for all the help.
Update on Project Activities
This week, we met with Tom Kabat, who is highly involved with Menlo Spark and a current Green Challenge participant, to interview and feature him in our upcoming success story for the Green Challenge website. We created a to-do list for remaining tasks and divided up the work, ranging from organization of past notes, to continuing research for campaign strategies and finishing up our student project package. We also went back to Menlo Atherton to meet with Mr. Powell. His students had filled out our survey, and he had them ready for us. We collected them and gleaned over some of the student’s responses and thought they were varied and interesting. Lastly, we began work on our final presentation for next week.
What We Observed and Learned
This week, our social media research focused around Snapchat and potential features of the app that can be used to promote the Green Challenge amongst youth. Snapchat stories are a classic feature of the app, and allow users to post pictures and video that disappear from their profile after a 24 hour period. A newer feature of the “story” element is the ability to submit pictures/video to a collective “Story” that is comprised of multiple users or relates to a specific geographic location. For example, a few of Stanford’s dorms have Snapchat stories where members of the dorm can post footage from special dorm events or daily life. Menlo Spark could host a Green Challenge day designated by all schools participating in the Challenge and have students help create a public Snapchat story for the entire Green Challenge collective. For example, classes could create an assignment in which students post pictures or take videos of their climate actions to the Snapchat “Green Challenge” story throughout the day.
Geofilters are filters that can be placed over pictures to show a person’s location, advertise a product or promote publicity for an event. In continuation, Menlo Spark’s Green Challenge day could have a specific geofilter for student and/or teacher use in order to publicize the event to their followers. There could be one geofilter that addresses the challenge as a whole, and geofilters that are specific to each participating school.
We observed several trends in the survey responses. Many students are familiar with climate change and global warming and agree that it is relevant to their lives in Menlo Park. However, none of them were familiar with the Menlo Green Challenge. Nonetheless, the majority of the students that were surveyed have done some sustainable actions of their own and say that it made them feel better. Roughly half of the students stated that they’d like prizes or rewards for doing sustainable actions such as taking shorter showers and turning of the lights before leaving a room. Some said they wanted prizes for one action but not for the other, and others said they wanted no prizes at all. Nearly all of the students stated that Snapchat and Instagram were amongst their favorite apps. This places a great degree of importance on the MGC’s social media presence. We believe that it’ll be the best way to popularize the Menlo Green Challenge amongst students and the Menlo Park community.
Critical Analysis/Moving Forward
We have created a to-do list of things we’d like accomplish over the weekend. Each team member has taken up several tasks to complete by the end of the week. However, we will be meeting on Saturday afternoon to work together, discuss ideas and results, help each other, and finalize/practice our presentation.
Update on Project Activities
Over break, the group continued to reach out to more businesses through email to participate in the online survey. Over the week-long break, we were hoping to have our online survey reach 75 -100 responses. However, we did not receive the amount of participation we anticipated. As it stands now, the survey has a total number of 35 responses, which is not enough to be used as relevant data. Fortunately, the group was able to take another field visit. We have begun collaborating on the presentation. We plan to have the presentation and the paper done by Sunday.
What We Observed
Over the weekend the group visited downtown Mountain View’s Castro Street to follow up with the businesses that were suggested by Alex Andrade, or that we visited previously and did not hear a follow-up from. Those businesses were East West Bookstore, Books Inc., East Valley Music, Peet’s Coffee, and Scratch. For all five businesses, we received their business cards so that the group could send them our surveys again.During the visit, the group observed many “help wanted” signs in a lot of the retail stores. We documented the trend by camera, along with the trend of new businesses moving into open spaces. We also took field notes on the characteristics of Castro Street during business hours.
The team goal, as stated earlier, is to have the presentation finished by Sunday, along with a draft of the final deliverables to Alex Andrade. Next Tuesday we are fortunate enough to have the opportunity to present our findings and their implications to the Mountain View City Council. We will use the opportunity to receive helpful feedback. On Sunday between 4-6 P.M. the group is also meeting to practice the presentation and iron out any wrinkles within it.
We also are making our last push for businesses to participate in our survey, in particular the employees. The group will be calling and emailing the remaining businesses that have not followed up with us. As an incentive, every business that chooses to participate in the survey will be entered into a 50 dollar raffle, the winner of which will be determined next Friday, December 8, 2017. The hope is that the incentive and/or persistence will help boost the number of participants responding to our survey.
Update on Project Activities
Before Thanksgiving break, our team emailed the notes we took at the charrette to our community partners at NEN. Each of our team members took charge of two the 6 topics (food, water, energy, waste, communication, and shelter management) that were covered during the charrette, and each of us submitted our parts of the notes separately to the NEN team. Since then, NEN has requested that the notes to be consolidated into a single document, so we are now working on bringing everything together in a format that will present the notes on all 6 topics in a uniform way. Additionally, we are continuing our work with the visual graphic that is part of our project deliverables. This graphic is designed to represent the vision we currently have of the toolkit and will contain much of the information we gathered during the charrette. In the next couple of days, we will be coming together as a team to further refine the layout of our visual graphic and to make final adjustments to our Expo presentation.
What We Observed and Learned
Going through our data we gathered many insights from the charrette, relating both to technical specifications of survival mechanisms and large constructs to consider when designing a toolkit. Some of the most important insights were separation between preparation and response (depending itself on the level of preparation), resource availability for individuals and communities, and legibility of information. There are many existing resources pointed out by the attendees, however they pertain to specific solutions at an enthusiast’s level; the question becomes how to rephrase that information for a more general crowd. It is important then to also consider what information is important for whom. Though building a “survival shed” is a great solution for a higher income community member, what would be a comparable set of advice for someone who is more strained on resources? These are the kinds of tensions we will need to outline in our report so that they are are appropriately addressed in the toolkit development with communities.
Critical Analysis/Moving Forward
During the class meeting on Wednesday, our team worked out a plan of action for the exposition next week and prepared an outline for our deliverables. Going through the notes we gathered from the charrette, we’ve identified a central theme across all of the topics: The best tool somebody can have in an emergency situation is literacy. Our plan for the toolkit is to present basic survival concepts related to the topics we believe people should be familiar with. We also want to incorporate the role of community in resilience by including contact information for local hubs and block champions. These are the two main “takeaways” in our opinion, however we hope our results will continue to be reviewed by the NEN team and presented to community stakeholders. We furthermore believe there are more discussions to be had about the actual content included. Primarily, we currently present a portion of our information as URLs, which may not be accessible in extreme cases of lifeline interruption. The idea behind this is that members of the community can pick the information they believe is most relevant to their needs, and not us. Considering the importance of community input in design decisions, we want to keep our content open-ended. In terms of physical appearance, our current design for the toolkit is a laminated pamphlet that is resistant to harsh conditions (such as rain).