Update on Project Activities:
What We Observed and Learned / Critical Analysis:
In the last two weeks, we completed 4 interviews; in total, we completed 5 interviews to integrate into our analysis. Looking at all the interviews together, we had a few key takeaways.
Our first major takeaway was that although the 2008 recession had hit these businesses hard, it had merely signified a drop in business compared to normal business. On the other hand, COVID had necessitated closures and strict safety standards that forced businesses to adapt in new and often costly ways. Furthermore, many businesses had to entirely change their mode of service delivery (for example, by selling online instead of in person), and businesses relying on in-person services suffered far more than businesses that could shift online.
Our second major takeaway was that the many crises of 2020 often compounded each other. One business owner reported that their business had been negatively impacted not just by COVID but also by the California wildfires, which only compounded their financial struggles.
Our third major takeaway is that while the business owners unanimously expressed gratitude for the microenterprise grants, the money was not nearly enough to cover their needs in the long run. In listening to our interviewees sharing their experiences, we made sure to exercise the traits that we spoke about in our oral history lecture: empathy, patience, and listening. We made sure to send thank-you notes that also expressed appreciation for their sharing some difficult experiences with us. Alex Andrade suggested in our thank-you notes that we refer the interviewees to the Milpitas City Council’s public forums, where they could express their difficulties directly to the Council. So we referred our interviewees there as a next step, to keep them from feeling like we left them hanging after the evaluation.
On Monday, November 9, we presented our preliminary survey and interview findings to the Economic Development and Trade Commission of Milpitas. We found the opportunity illuminating in terms of helping us learn how local government functions and what sorts of norms are in place for public participation and transparency. The meeting was open to the public by invitation, private citizens were given three minutes to orally state a comment, and one citizen even took the chance to make a suggestion about bringing the newly approved wealth tax in San Francisco over to Milpitas. Although by appearances opportunities for citizen contributions were low on Arnstein’s ladder of political participation, since there was no decision making taking place, it would seem that actually, the EDTC did a commendable job in ensuring public transparency over Commission meetings.
Our next steps are to draft our report, edit our slides for the class presentation, and distribute the report to members of the Milpitas community. Alex Andrade mentioned the following recipients: the Milpitas Office of Economic Development, members of the Economic Development and Trade Commission, and members of the City Council.
While we edit our presentation, we will ask each team member to provide thoughts and ideas to include in our presentation. This will help us with our reflection.
As we draft the report, we will look to continue our close collaboration with our community partner so that we can ensure that our final deliverable meets all of the goals of our project. Two important elements that Alex requested in the final report were our honest assessment of the program’s success and our recommendations for future actions.
As we write these portions of the report, it is important that we look back on our relationship with our community partner. It is perhaps even more important that we represent the voices of the microenterprise community that we have had the privilege of hearing as a result of our surveys and interviews. As we draft our report, we will look to Arnstein (1969) as we try to incorporate the citizens into the planning process as much as possible and in a way that grants them genuine power over the future of their community. We will also look to Mirabal (2009) as we try to preserve and share the voices of the grant recipients in our report.
Once we complete the first draft of our report, we will send it to Alex Andrade so that he can verify that all the requested information is contained within and provide feedback as necessary.
Update on Project Activities
What We Observed and Learned
A minor challenge has involved adapting to AEMP’s organizational style. Since the organization is volunteer-based and horizontally run, there are some inefficiencies in how they organize files in Google drive. For example, the oral histories clips are located in multiple folders, named different titles for the same clip, and new folders are being made. So, it has been difficult to keep track of all the places that Sustainable Cities members are supposed to upload their edited clips and edit database spreadsheets. Brett addressed this issue and acknowledges that it can be confusing to locate all the relevant folders and clips. However, we also understand the inevitability of there being some disorganization among a team of multiple people who don’t have the time to agree on a clean, consolidated storage structure. With so many moving parts and projects that arise over time, it makes sense that there would be some digital clutter. We’ve also noticed some miscommunication about what strategy will be taken to organize files, since not everyone attends each meeting. For example, in one meeting we agreed to have a directory that provides links to all the deliverables, and in another meeting we agreed to create yet another new Google drive folder for all of Sustainable Cities’ contributions. As we enter the final week, it will be important for the team to communicate their plans so that we can all be on the same page about database organization.
Critical Analysis/Moving Forward
At the past two AEMP meetings, we have been listening to the edited 5-minute clips produced by us and other AEMP volunteers and providing feedback. Hearing various narratives of housing injustice and resistance has underscored the continued importance of this work as the pandemic progresses, and as the future of tenant protections in California and the US continues to be unclear. An important part of the map this AEMP team is working on is highlighting housing justice actions across the world by making it easy for interested parties to engage with the various actions people call for in interviews. Hopefully this function can serve an important role in sustaining and activating actions like rent strikes and anti-eviction campaigns.
The oral histories team discussed with our AEMP contact, Cindy Reyes, about the possibility of continuing our involvement with AEMP after the quarter ends. In particular, she noted that the Spanish language skills that our team currently possess could be of great support in the future. This discussion underscored the importance of continued partnership when dealing with issues of injustice, particularly during such difficult circumstances of the pandemic. Working with AEMP has exposed us to many ideas and methodologies around ethical, community-based work in a horizontal organizational structure, and we hope to bring those lessons to future, related work.
Update on Project Activities
As the end of the quarter quickly approaches, we spent this week focusing on how to bring our project to a close and finish up our final deliverables. We began the week with an all-team check-in with Daniela and Eddie, and since then, we’ve submitted a draft of the data template, designed a draft of the introduction booklet, and finalized the flyers for CCSROC and CYC.
Maya has been working on translating the copy of the introduction booklet into a Canvas design that will be used for the print version of the booklet. Eddie and Daniela have also requested a digital version of the introduction booklet to be posted on Brightline’s organizational Medium account, so that will be an added element of the final deliverable. She is incorporating the art assets that Eddie prepared into both versions, keeping in mind that Pratibha suggested that comprehensive visual elements will make the booklet more accessible to SRO tenants who speak English as a second language.
Flyer / Social Media
Our work with Pratibha and CCSROC came to a close as Tori and Dani incorporated Pratibha, Eddie, and Daniela’s final pieces of feedback into the flyer design for SoMa and the Tenderloin. These edits involved creating a Spanish translation for the flyer, as well as reformatting the design for posters of different dimensions. On Wednesday, Eddie and Daniela printed about 500 of these posters, and SRO tenant leaders will soon begin the work of hanging them up in corner stores, residential building lobbies, and office windows.
Meanwhile, we also continued working with Sharon and Ka Yi from CYC, as our team was invited to join Brightline’s quarterly meeting with CYC last Friday. During the meeting, we learned more about the work that CYC does in Chinatown and about the ways in which their youth leaders organize events to engage with seniors and educate the community. Learning more about this context helped Tori and Dani in designing the CYC flyers to be more digital-focused rather than print, to be more picture-based so as to reduce / simplify the need for translations, and to include large text that’s readable for seniors. Since the meeting, we’ve been in communication with Sharon and Ka Yi to send over drafts of the flyer and integrate their feedback on content and formatting.
Patricia also pitched the story to local media outlets, including the Stanford Daily, SF Chronicle, and NorCal Public Media. Currently, a writer for the Stanford Daily is doing a feature about the Sustainable Cities course.
The most recent progress on making the data template has come in the form of grouping the sensors in the Clarity website. This allows the sensors not only to be grouped by location, but also tagged with their group name and relative address. This allows for the data itself to be organized much more easily to show a day-to-day graph of AQI for all of the sensors. From this comprehensive datasheet, we can see that on the two largest peaks, the SoMa and Chinatown districts had the highest AQI, while the average AQI for all four districts (SoMa, Chinatown, Richmond, and Tenderloin) were all relatively similar across the timescale, around 60.
After parsing our data, we will create visualizations for Brightline to display on social media and share with community stakeholders.
Tori and Patricia have been working on the surveys, both the digital and hard copy, to update them to current air quality conditions. Using the feedback that we received from the SRO tenant leaders meeting, we began to edit some of the survey questions to make them more tailored towards the current atmosphere in the community rather than being more focused on the impact of fires as it had been previously. We also added a question about what media outlets tenants engage with most, so they can see their stories represented in media they actually read/watch/listen to. Additionally we worked on reformatting and redesigning the digital survey on google forms so that we could transform the aesthetic as well.
The majority of us have completed our informational interviews in which we were able to compile information from various professors that specialize in science fields with connections to air quality. From these interviews, we each recorded notes which we compiled into a single document. We have begun to organize these notes into a format that we can use in our informational booklet so that we can share the knowledge that we have gathered with the public in a format that we hope will be easily digestible.
In our meeting with Eddie and Daniela, we also discussed the final deliverables that we’ll need to compile in our final memo. These include:
What We Observed and Learned
With each week, the value of cyclical feedback and iteration has only become clearer. Dani found the meeting with CYC to be particularly helpful in designing their flyers, as it wasn’t initially clear how they might differ from the flyers we’d designed for CCSROC. However, talking to Sharon and Ka Yi really helped clarify these points as it quickly became clear how the goals and needs of CYC’s audiences would inform their flyer design in a way that was much different from the CCSROC design. For instance, CCSROC’s goals mainly involved increasing awareness of the air quality monitoring program by encouraging residents to scan QR codes and visit the online air quality map, or by informing residents about what the air quality sensors actually do. However, CYC’s goals mainly involved educating the community about the links between pollution, health, and the importance of monitoring air quality. Additionally, CYC’s audience included both seniors and high school students, so the content and formatting had to be generalized for a wide range of age groups.
Tori and Dani also came up with several different drafts of the CYC flyer, initially prioritizing large fonts and consequently less text. However, we perhaps overemphasized the need for large fonts and sacrificed too much content, so Eddie and Daniela’s feedback was really helpful. Dani observed that navigating this feedback loop can sometimes be challenging, as different stakeholders may have very many different suggestions at different phases of the design process, and it can be difficult to include all of them on the same 8.5x11 flyer. From this, she learned the importance of not committing to a final design too early, as it’s likely to change a lot with different feedback. Tori learned the significance of making edits to create the best final product, which can be done by taking the impact of multiple reviewers. By taking into account the voices of everyone involved with the flyers and the surveys we were able to develop a better final product that will hopefully match everyone’s desires.
Critical Analysis/Moving Forward
Our readings about smart cities from this week are particularly relevant to our work with Brightline. It was interesting to see how Brightline’s goals of monitoring air quality data to inform policy decisions and community awareness were directly tied to some of the ideas in Townsend’s paper. We were also able to draw connections between the impact of technology work that we are doing and concepts from the readings. For one, the technology of the air quality sensors themselves are what is providing this data on air quality for these communities. This speaks to the power that technology can have, as touched upon in the readings, to allow cities to adapt and transform to fit the changing needs of society. With these sensors, the communal need for information on the level of pollution in the air is made available to communities as emissions continue to worsen the state of the environment. Technology also has made this information more accessible and we have strategized to create content that capitalizes upon increasing the access of this information. For example, the QR codes on the flyers in addition to the website URL allow local residents to easily check the air quality in their neighborhood. The organization of the Brightline website and social media pages (which we have been creating content for) also demonstrate how technology can improve access to valuable information for communities. Each of these examples demonstrate how technology can improve upon the urban environment in terms of improving access to resources and information for urban dwellers. Additionally, these examples exhibit how we have collaborated with Brightline to utilize technology to enhance accessibility. Moving forward we hope to continue to have a focus on the community and our end goal of connecting them with information and resources that will help them better understand how their environment impacts their health and daily lives.
Similar to the Clarity presentation from a few weeks ago, the idea of smart cities also brings about important ethics issues. When it comes to air quality monitoring, for example, one ethical issue that comes up is accessibility. Currently, air quality monitoring is not accessible to low-income families because the cost of air quality monitors such as Purple Air are not affordable. This means that low-income neighborhoods lack access to data that could inform policies that affect their health. This is where Brightline comes in and is trying to make air quality monitoring more equitable.
The last two weeks have been really exciting for our group, being able to see our project in the context of the community itself, as well as looking forward to designing our final deliverable based on the needs of the community and San Mateo county at large.
On Friday October 30th, our group led a focus group with a few members from the Climate Ready North Fair Oaks team to present our findings thus far. After reflecting on the most prominent themes from the master codebook in NVivo, we chose to focus our presentation on the following overarching categories: compounding stressors, information and resources, dealing with COVID-19, environment and climate, emotions and resiliency. Each team member incorporated specific quotes in both English and Spanish into their dedicated topic, as well as talking through any notable statistics (e.g. percentage coverage of helpful resources under the “Resource Availability” code).
CRNFO were very responsive to the information we provided. The inclusion of a quick discussion of the interview demographics was useful for our community partners to put our findings in the context of the entire North Fair Oaks / Redwood City population. They were also able to draw parallels between feedback they’d received from other sources to the more personal stories that we added to the discussion. Much of the input and observations from the 4 CRNFO members covered a lack of accessible/understandable information in a variety of languages, the importance of culture in the community (churches play a key role and could be a venue for communicating information), the need for public shelters during the pandemic, and what resources people use when they can’t pay rent. Further to this, we were informed of a number of organizations and resources that would be interested in our work, or could provide useful information to our study such as RWC 2020, Undocu support, and the Community Collaboration for Children's Successes.
We also really appreciated their critiquing of our presentation, for example, one suggested separating the quotes out onto individual slides to make them even more powerful and allow time for the audience to read the quote and focus on the point we are delivering. Another idea was to divide each topic out into its different sub-sections so an outsider can relate our coding categories to what we were seeing most across the interviews. These are definitely aspects of presenting that we will look to incorporate into our final presentation next week.
Our team has now entered the most difficult process of the project where we must decide how our work can best benefit CRNFO and the community at large. In recent discussions, our focus has been surrounding the potential of creating an infographic. We have struggled with the following questions:
As for the first two questions, our initial vision was to create a visual that could be posted to social media accounts, allowing younger members of the community to receive information and educate others around them. However, after hearing feedback from the focus group, we learnt that churches play a key role in communicating information in North Fair Oaks and Redwood City. This led us to question the effectiveness an infographic would have if relayed over Instagram, as opposed to creating posters that could be shared in churches or other community service locations. In addition, we have to consider which members and generations of the community are experiencing the impact of multiple stressors the most, and therefore, where we should direct the bulk of our action. Other suggestions for the target audience include San Mateo county and policymakers who would be more interested in the themes that emerged from the interviews and potential next steps. Integrating demographics into our representations will also give readers a better sense of what was said in the interviews.
After class discussions about technology and the future of sustainable smart cities, it was interesting to draw parallels between the potential of using technology to provide services, and how services are actually being implemented in Bay Area cities. San Francisco has been pinpointed as one of the top smart cities in the US, however, we still see such large gaps between the availability of resources and how technology is being utilised to allow sustainable and equitable access. If we had more time to work on this project, a next step could be to work with CRNFO and other tech-centered organizations to build in ‘smart’ aspects to the distribution of information and resources across underrepresented communities such as North Fair Oaks.
Critical Analysis/Moving Forward
After receiving feedback composed of a number of questions and suggestions, we have been able to narrow down and separate out the themes from our initial coding of the project transcripts into the general outline for our final deliverables (an expanded memo for CRNFO and an infographic directed towards San Mateo county). It will be important for us to reflect on the comments from CRNFO to provide a deliverable that is both timely and relevant to suit the community needs at present, as well as looking to help San Mateo county build a more sustainable community for the future. It is necessary that we find better ways to inform every community member of the information and resources available to them, and to make these more accessible in times of stress. Hopefully, building infographics that can be dispersed using a variety of platforms (social media, posters around resident locations, in churches and schools etc.) will help educate people across multiple generations so we can start a cycle of discovering information and passing it along by word-of-mouth to friends and family. Additionally, our memo being aimed at community organizations and policy makers is critical to moving forward with this project beyond the scope of Sustainable Cities. What makes this project special is that it will be benefiting the community of Redwood City/North Fair Oaks after this quarter is over. While brainstorming for our deliverable, we kept in mind the document we read for class on Plan Bay Area. We thought about how dense it was and how its length is participating in barriers of accessibility. As a result, the memo and infographic combination was born, with the well-being of the community being at the center.
Update on project activities:
For the BAC Interview group, interviews have ramped up! We have been interviewing both Bay Area residents in Spanish and both residents and social workers in English. We’ve been compiling and organizing our data, but one thing that has been interesting is that the content creation subgroup is not working on our data in particular. It turns out that the incorporation of feedback into the design of a resource is a much longer process than the quarter allows for. Nonetheless, we will soon begin the process of drawing out the main findings for each interview and theorizing how those findings will translate into content development for unBox.
For the BAC content subgroup, we have continued the process of verifying data on where users can access public free food resources. At this time we have been able to verify almost all of the websites we have been assigned, and continue to tweak the methods by which we are inputting data. After our first pass through the database, we have taken time to call some of the locations to clarify information and/or make sure that the information on the website is up to date.
The SNAP interview team has reached a point where interviews have become limited due to barriers regarding new interviewees and their personal circumstances. One idea that we have come up with to navigate this issue is allowing for written, asynchronous responses to the compiled interview questions. This could present some new issues as any difficulties on the interviewees end could be difficult to solve without meeting synchronously where we are able to coordinate solutions verbally together. In this way, interviewers and notetakers being readily available through text/email/call could be useful in responding to questions that interviewees may have.
What we observed and learned:
For the BAC interview group, it became apparent how there is a lack of technical knowledge surrounding the navigation of websites and how this may serve as a barrier for individuals seeking information/resources on the BayAreaCommunity.org website– an important detail that was not necessarily taken into consideration beforehand. As mentioned during one of the interviews, the site seems to be geared primarily towards social workers rather than the clients in need. Make no mistake– social workers are just as effective (if not more effective!) at getting the website into the hands of those who truly need it. We’ve just recently realized that incorporating feedback from both people types could cause the site to be disorganized in that it would be serving people with distinctly different goals and needs.
The BAC content subgroup has been continually reminded through our work that this BAC website will prove to be an invaluable resource to many Bay Area residents. As we visit these sites to verify the information in the database, it becomes clear just how difficult it may be for people to find relevant information about the resources in their area. Some of the websites are more tailored to the volunteers who may want to help deliver/serve these meals, but there is less information about how someone can actually visit a location and pick up their free meal. In this case, we must call the location and get the information that would be most helpful to someone using the BAC website. The sheer number of resources available to the public also makes a site like BAC much more pressing, because it can drastically reduce the time and overall energy it takes for someone to find the resources in their area.
Critical analysis/Moving forward:
For the BAC interview group, we have come to think about the relationship between feedback forms and user testing interviews differently than we had before. Sarah, at least, has come to realize that a well-crafted feedback form can serve the same purpose as a user testing interview but with the added benefits of (1) allowing the user to participate in giving feedback asynchronously and (2) the client can provide better feedback if critiquing a site in the same session that they first encounter it is overwhelming for them. We’d be interested in developing a feedback survey to accomplish these purposes, or at least making key tweaks to the forms unBox currently uses with its resources.
In terms of when carrying out interviews, moving forward it is important to establish a more conversational setting rather than continuously asking questions in a successive manner. By doing so, the interview will feel less transactional and allow the interviewee to feel more comfortable and to open up more when answering questions. Additionally, when interviewees provide feedback it is important to ask why to gain more insight and a deeper understanding for their reasonings. Through clarification, we would be able to surface new preferences and barriers that we might not have seen before.