The Raising Places design team in San Francisco 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 four weeks, the team learned from a wide range of people, including drivers and pedestrians, city planners, parents and youth, residents as well as people who live elsewhere but work in SoMa; people living in small spaces, and families who use the parks and open spaces in the neighborhood. 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.

Convener Angelica Cabande works with design team members Joseph Smooke and Sandy Panopio on writing insights to summarize their learnings (left); one insight written to describe barriers to accessing open spaces in SoMa (right).

From the research 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 pedestrian safety

The team talked with residents about sidewalk safety, and heard that when there is more activity around, they feel safer because there is someone there to help. (If they are alone and things go badly, there isn’t anyone there to help). They also learned that planners want feedback both before and after their traffic solutions are implemented, but not everyone knows how to access those feedback systems equally.

From these insights they wrote the following opportunity statements:

- How might we create a sidewalk that feels like there is activity present, even when there isn’t?

- How might we prioritize the voices and lived experiences of people of color and low-income residents in the feedback system?

Insights about community planning

This small group heard that parents need support and incentives to be engaged in community planning. They also learned that youth are hungry to be involved in the decision-making process, but they often face barriers or are not well-equipped. They found that the community includes people who don’t live in SoMa but work there, and that their participation is still valuable. And they realized that when the community is unified and aligned on the goal, they are quick to mobilize and able to achieve results. Lastly, the group saw that intergenerational patterns of migration have created a system of community support that sustains families in the community, despite market conditions.

From these insights they wrote the following opportunity statements:

- How might we create a process for parents, workers and youth to build power to control land use decisions?

- How might we leverage our existing resources and support structures to help vulnerable people in SoMa be stable and grow?

Insights about open space

From research with residents, the small group learned that for people in small living spaces, parks are an extension of their living spaces. They also learned about POPOS--Privately Owned Public Open Spaces--and the fact that they feel separated from the community, and “don’t feel like ours.”

From these insights they wrote the following opportunity statements:

- How might we build parks that are accessible for everyone--a “backyard” space for the neighborhood?

- How might we guide the development of the POPOS to be active spaces for youth and/or children?

Design team members April Veneracion and Sandy Panopio respond to research photos and stories with ideas (left); one concept sketched by the team during the community event in SoMa (right).

At the public Ideas Lab event, community members were asked to brainstorm and sketch ideas in response to these opportunity statements. Over 60 people showed up to this event, and sketched hundreds of ideas. The ideas ranged from new programs, services and processes, to new policies and plans for the neighborhood. 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 March 3. Stay tuned!