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 the South of Market (SoMa) neighborhood of San Francisco, 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:

- Unsafe streets for pedestrians

- Displacement of longtime residents and families

- Lack of accessible open spaces

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 member Theresa Imperial and facilitator Kareeshma Ali mapping root causes at the SoMa kickoff lab

In SoMa, small groups discussed root causes such as an implicit class system, the high price of land and lack of available space, historical land use decisions, private development that is lacking public investment, labor policies and the fact that the area is not perceived as residential or family-friendly. 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 the MTA and planning department to prioritize the pedestrian experience, including safety, accessibility, flexibility and enjoyability

2. I want SoMa youth and families to be active in decision-making, around land use, for their neighborhood

3. I want the planning commission and Recreation and Parks Department to only create and allow open spaces that are accessible, playful, substantial, welcoming and free

Design team member Bernadette Sy writing positive goals at the SoMa kickoff lab

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.

Stay tuned for the next content update from the SoMa neighborhood of San Francisco!