At Raising Places, we believe that people embrace the change that they are a part of. And so while our team facilitates the process of human-centered design, each local community drives its own content based on local needs, assets and priorities.

In North Wilkesboro, the team began by asking themselves the question, “What are the barriers to all children and families thriving here?” In order to apply to Raising Places, their group had to reach consensus on the three biggest challenges. Here’s where they landed:

- Lack of affordable and safe transportation options

- Lack of safe, healthy and affordable housing

- Food desert and barriers to eating nutritionally

Systems thinking tells us that in order to make sustainable change to a system, we must tackle not the symptoms of our problems but the root causes. And so, during the Kickoff Lab, the team discussed their assumptions as to the root causes of these community challenges.

Design team members Jenn Wages and Jeremy Parks mapping root causes of transportation challenges in North Wilkesboro

In North Wilkesboro, small groups discussed root causes such as underemployment, a lack of living wage jobs, untreated mental health challenges and drug abuse, a geography that is “topographically challenged” (a.k.a. hilly), a wide financial divide, supply and demand dynamics for subsidized housing, a lack of nutritional knowledge and education, and school food systems that provide limited choices. The group then shifted to writing positive goals - specific statements about an aspirational future state. From over 100 initial positive goals, the team narrowed down to three:

1. I want town government to prioritize policies and funding that support walkability and active transportation

2. I want landlords to improve and maintain their rental housing

3. I want all families to know where their next meal is coming from, and have it be healthy

Design team members in North Wilkesboro work with facilitator Kareeshma Ali to brainstorm positive goals

These goals formed the basis of a research plan, with one small group focused on each of them. The purpose of research is to better understand each positive goal: who is currently achieving it, and how; who is not currently achieving it, and why.

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