The Raising Places design team in North Wilkesboro has been busy conducting research focused on the group’s positive goals! (See here for more on those goals, which were drafted at the Kickoff Lab).

Over the previous six weeks, the team learned from parents and other residents who drive, bike, walk and take public transportation around town; families who rent houses, apartments and mobile homes; landlords with a wide range of properties (from one to hundreds); the local planning department and other city officials. They also immersed themselves in the local context by trying to a) rent an affordable home and b) take public transit to and from the grocery store. The purpose of this work was to better understand the needs, assets, aspirations and lived experiences of these community members, so that the team could create better, more child-centered and more locally-relevant programs, spaces, policies and systems.

Design team member Susan Cogdill reviews insights in order to write meaningful "How might we" statements (left); a data point from research by the small group focused on rental housing conditions (right)

From the discovery and synthesis came a series of powerful insights, each of which led to an opportunity statement. Starting with the phrase “How might we…,” an opportunity statement is a tool to spark brainstorming and new ways of looking at old problems.

Insights about healthy food access

From spending time shopping with families, the team found that parents invest time to stretch their food dollars to meet their priorities, (such as buying items their kids like). And from visiting and meeting with food-providing organizations, they also realized that while our community is very giving, we are not all working together to coordinate efficiently.

From these insights they wrote the following opportunity statements:

- How might we help families prioritize healthy food choices within their time and budget?

- How might we support the groups who provide food to better understand community needs, and actively coordinate and collaborate?

Insights about rental housing conditions

This small group learned from renting families that for better or worse, your home environment affects everything about your quality of life - including your physical health, mental health and social life. And from talking with landlords, as well as trying (unsuccessfully) to rent a home in North Wilkesboro on a constrained budget, they realized that every landlord has a different business model, and balances rent price and quality in a different way.

From these insights they wrote the following opportunity statements:

- How might we help renters change their home environments to improve their quality of life?

- How might we apply market pressure in order to phase out poor-quality housing?

Insights about transportation

Through their research observing walkers and bikers, the team discovered that active and alternative transportation (such as walking, biking, car-sharing and bike-sharing) is limited in our community, mainly because of rural challenges. And from meeting with city officials and local leaders, they found that current infrastructure and planning improvements do not prioritize walkability or safe conditions for children and families.

From these insights they wrote the following opportunity statements:

- How might we become a community that values and prioritizes walkability and active & alternative forms of transportation?

- How might we improve our public transportation system to better support children and their families?

Students from the local elementary school check out the insights, stories from research, and ideas already shared at the public Ideas Lab event (left); one promising concept for empowering tenants (right)

At the public Ideas Lab event, community members were asked to brainstorm and sketch ideas in response to these opportunity statements. Over 80 people showed up to this event, including both teens and a whole classroom of third graders, and sketched hundreds of ideas. The ideas ranged from new programs, funding streams and services, to new policies and plans for the town. The team is now gearing up for the prototyping sprint, where they will be making, testing, and iterating on these ideas with a wide range of community members. They will present their next round of concepts at the Action Lab on February 20. Stay tuned!