The Raising Places design team in Valley of the Chiefs 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 past five weeks, the team learned from students in elementary and high school, tribal elders, parents of young children, local homeowners, and a wide variety of community role models including teachers, sports coaches and the manager of the local 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 members synthesizing data from their research sprint at the Ideas Lab. From left: Emerald Parisi, Dave Graber, Shane Doyle, Shelly Sutherland, James Budd, Sarah Budd.

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 food

The team discovered that there is a desire to learn and teach about food, but the people and resources are not linked. They also learned that in this community, feeding many has always been more important than the nutritional value of food. Finally, they saw that a garden doesn’t just provide food, but also family connections, meaningful work, healthy tastes, and a connection to the source.

From these insights they wrote the following opportunity statements:

How might we connect those with resources and knowledge about food to those who want to learn, join and participate?
How might we honor our tradition of feeding everyone while prioritizing nutritious foods?
How might we make gardening accessible and successful for anyone, no matter the amount of experience or time?

Insights about kids’ safety

The team’s research showed that children feel valued when they can contribute to meaningful activities. They also learned that rather than serving everyone broadly, many people feel called to serve a particular group within the community.

From these insights they wrote the following opportunity statements:

How might we support children to take on meaningful work that benefits the community?
How might we support all community members to identify the group they feel most called to serve, and match that calling to concrete needs, assets, supports and resources?
(Left) One insight written during the Ideas Lab. (Right) Design team member Elvin Fritzler selecting ideas to move into prototyping.

Insights about culture

This small group learned that rather than being perfect, role models are relatable and inspirational because they’ve dealt with adversity. They also discovered that in order to succeed as a whole individual, Crow people have to reconcile many conflicting messages about their values and beliefs.

From these insights they wrote the following opportunity statements:

How might we highlight all kinds of role models within our community, and support them to guide and inspire our children?
How might we unify the town through reconciling every individual’s conflicting messages, beliefs and identities?

Insights about housing

The team focused on housing learned that there are resources that support home and land ownership, but they are not readily accessible to those without the means to access them. They also heard over and over again that jobs are desirable not just because of money, but because they create a sense of purpose, and open the doors to other opportunities.

From these insights they wrote the following opportunity statements:

How might we make it easier for the people of Lodge Grass to access the available home and land ownership resources, including physical, strategic, monetary and skills?
How might we create new jobs and types of jobs that leverage the Crow people’s strengths and meet the needs of the community?
(Left) Design team member Roger Kitts sketching ideas for culturally-relevant homes in Valley of the Chiefs; (Right) Sketches by children and adults depicting ideas for meaningful work that benefits the community.

At the Ideas Lab community event, adults and children generated hundreds of ideas in response to these opportunity statements. The ideas ranged from new programs, campaigns and digital services, to new buildings and plans for the town, to new businesses and educational institutions. The team is 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 final concepts at the Action Lab on January 28. Stay tuned!

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