Woodville Community Garden

Posted by on Jan 31, 2011 | No Comments

Creating tools for community garden engagement.

Notable for this project
My partner and I were interviewed by Jeff Howard of Design for Service about our project with the Woodville Community Garden and the co-design process that we used to enable community members to actively participate in the design of their community garden. Check ou the full interview here.

Project Brief
Time: 10 Weeks | Work Force: 9 Designers
Role: Too many to count

In this project we set out to apply service design methodologies and strategies to help a local community garden get established and lay the foundation for future sustained growth. We worked with Woodville, a local lower income community that boarders Savannah. This project was the design phase of an established relationship between SCAD and the community. The last class that worked with the community was a design management class that identified a community garden as a potential way to help the community and helped them secure an EPA CARE grant for community development.

Tools Used
One of the major goals for the project was to help the community maintain their unique personality and heritage. With this in mind we conducted key stake holder interviews, resident interviews, community co-design sessions, multiple rounds of experience prototyping, and we culminated the project with a open gallery night for the community so they could see the fruits of their hard work.

Stakeholder and gardener interviews

We started our project with key stakeholder interviews of Woodville community leaders so we could understand their desires and dreams for the garden.

At the same time, we also engaged with existing community gardens in other Savannah neighborhoods to understand their perspective on community gardening and to learn from their successes and stumbles.

One discovery that came out of these interview was that management and tracking of involvement was critical not only to maintaining involvement in the garden but also for tracking and generating reports on involvement when applying for grants and additional funding for garden upkeep and expansion.

Actor mapping
After completing our key stakeholder interviews and learning more about the neighborhood’s history, we constructed an actor map of all the interactions and connections between the various stakeholders and originations. This map was then tested on subsequent meetings with the stakeholders.

Generating this actor map gave us an opportunity to identify possible for partnerships and collaborations.

Through the use of co-design we engaged the community with design activities at their Earth Day event where community members designed their ideal community garden experience and journey.

Through using this tool, we discovered that the Woodville community was more interested in a micro community supported agriculture model of community gardening. As a result of this discovery, fostering a sense of ownership and community within the garden would be key to the success of the garden.

Experience prototyping
Based on our findings from the discovery phase of the project, my teammate Izac and I decided to focus on creating tools for fostering a sense of ownership and creating an easy way for garden managers to track involvement and garden use.

We created a touchpoint which we called “Garden Central”. The goal of this touchpoint is to give local kids and gardeners a sense of ownership as well as create a place to notify community members of upcoming garden related events and create a central gathering place in the garden. This touchpoint started as a larger more complex learning and garden management center, but through successive rounds of prototyping it was distilled and reduced in complexity while generating a greater sense of ownership and information dissemination.

For our second focus of garden management we created and prototypes a series of sign up and activity logging forms as well as a Microsoft Access database with an easy approachable GUI. We prototyped these two touch points with gardeners, garden managers, as well as the support personnel and community leaders that would need to maintain the garden database. Though the experience prototyping of these elements we were able to find the right balance between gathering rich data and creating quick and easy to fill out and input forms.

Final Designs
After the refinement stage of the project we created higher fidelity versions of our touchpoints. For the garden management touchpoints we created a functioning prototype of the garden database which we did validation testing on and final versions of the sign up and activity logging forms for the community to use.

For garden central we created CAD models which were used for generating exploded views and construction guides and renderings to communicate use to context of the touchpoint.

Final presentation and project handoff
At an open gallery event at the end of the project we opened our doors to the larger SCAD and Savannah community as well as Woodville community members so they could see what all of their collaboration and hard work had been transformed into. This also served as a forum where we passed the torch back to the community and reinforced that sense of ownership that we had strived to create hopefully energizing them to take these tools which we created and put them to good use.

What this project means to me
Service design and design thinking offers up powerful tools which, when applied to community minded projects, can be a powerful catalyst for change and growth. This is a great example of that power and opened my eyes to the fact that truly great design is created by the users and doesn’t have to be flashy to succeed or change behavior.

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