This week has been a productive and motivating one for our project. First off, we got approval from Michelle at the Tech Museum to offer free tickets to our interview subjects. This will help us reach our goal of a more equitable project. Secondly, we conducted an interview with Violet Saena, from Acterra. The interview was extraordinarily productive, and gave us a clear path for moving forward. Finally, we have scheduled 8 interviews for the coming weeks.
What We Observed and Learned
In our interview with Violet, she told us a lot of great information about Acterra and the work they are doing to help communities have access to solar energy. She also gave us an insight into what certain communities in East Palo Alto face, where 60% of the population is vulnerable to flooding, and the flooding that happens is only getting more frequent and more intense with climate change. She told us about the different communities of the area, and how they have different needs and different struggles.
The interview was a great learning experience, and we were very glad that Violet was so kind and receptive to us making mistakes and learning how to use the equipment. In terms of audio recording, we learnt how to use the microphone, which is slightly more complicated than simply switching it on and off, as we needed to ensure the volume levels were within a clear range to ensure it did not have any distortion, which required a lot of trial and error in terms of the distance we held the microphone away from Violet as she was speaking.
In terms of making a good interview, while we thought of questions to ask beforehand, we found that Violet had a lot to say, and we heard the most insightful thought when she just spoke about what she wanted, without any prompts from us. In this way it was quite a challenge to think of prompts that were trying to prompts that would allow her to talk freely, while still providing enough of a question that she could answer. It was more about finding the threads of conversation that we wanted to know about in more detail than asking questions we wanted to know the answer to. It was also surprisingly difficult to balance thinking of insightful prompts related to what Violet was saying, while concentrating on what she was telling us and trying to digest that. I thought Cristina did a really good job of doing this, and the good thing about having multiple people at the interview was that we could fill in for each other when we needed to fill in gaps.
Critical Analysis / Moving Forward
We have a little over a month left until our deliverables are due, and even though we have been behind schedule for some time, we have many interviews scheduled in the coming week or so. These include individuals who work with bees, someone who focuses on energy, another who works at Jasper Ridge, and more. As we continue to collect these climate change impact and resilience stories, we will begin to edit the audio and photos that we take.
A couple weeks ago, Cameron and Cristina went to a community event in East Palo Alto, where many sustainability organizations from around the Bay Area were tabling and offering their services. A lesson learned from this event is that these organizations are super well connected, and if we follow these connections, we might be able to piece together a larger narrative of climate change impact and mitigation throughout the Bay Area. At events like these, we might also be able to meet more people like Violet from Acterra, whom we interviewed this past week. Violet is responsible for linking organizations together to help vulnerable communities prepare for climate change impacts, and she is an excellent resource in linking us to potential stories. In fact, at the end of our interview she asked us to send her our availability so that she can help us schedule interviews with some community members that she knows. She’s the person everyone pointed us to in order to talk more about community efforts in climate change. If we can meet more people like her - essentially incredible gateways to more people and more stories - then maybe finding more interviews will not be too difficult. Because of our positive experience at this event, we will be on the lookout for similar ones that bring together sustainability advocates and community groups in order to make more connections.
After thanking Violet for her telling us her story, she asked us if we could help her with a project. She is interested in starting a community research team and wanted to know if we had knowledge of people, departments, or funding options at Stanford that could help her with such. We suggest some possible resources and offered to connect her to potentially interested students and faculty, and in doing so, it felt as if a window opened up to in at least a small way reciprocate the time Violet took out out of her day to the interview with us. The request was unexpectedly, but we feel very eager to help. In addition to providing free tickets to The Tech Museum to our interviewees, perhaps we should try to be more intentional about open-endedly asking the interviewees if there is anything they would like to ask us to answer, leaving room for them to ask about potential resources.
Ultimately, some people we reach out to end up disregarding our messages or not able to provide the type of story we’re looking, which is definitely delaying the process. However, we are finding that even though some stories are not the kind we initially targeted for this project, the various stories from community leaders, members, academic, and other professionals are creating a narrative about climate change impact and resilience in the Bay Area with many layers and aspects that will speak to many.