At first, the thought of being a researcher in my own community was a little intimidating–I didn’t quite know what to expect. Studying my own hometown of Hudson, NY and trying to understand different perspectives seemed challenging because it may be easy to have preconceived ideas about experiences and community relationships.

So far, I have found this human-centered design research process to be phenomenal. As a public health graduate student, much of my work is actually based on studying, learning and understanding various research methods. This experience reminds me of community based participatory research, where professional or academic researchers and facilitators pair with members of the community to develop projects, initiatives and ideas.

I feel as though the model of design research gives a lot of power and control to the community where we take lead in making change in their own environment. Although it is a facilitation by professionals, there is definitely more emphasis on what we as community members want and feel.

After the first Raising Places community event in Hudson, Jabin (center left) and her group members Jennifer, Maija and Kamal (left to right) select ideas contributed by residents.

In doing research for Raising Places, I had to confront my own biases about my hometown and reflect on experiences growing up here. To be successful in research, it is very important to recognize and account for personal biases, and by doing so in this research process, I have learned so much about my community.

On the design team, I am in a working group with Jennifer, Kamal and Maija exploring the Hudson community’s policing experiences. One personal bias I had was believing the Hudson Police Department does not want to change the way they operate because they think they are effectively working with community. But in our discovery work, we went to interview some Hudson police officers to learn more and after several conversations, I have realized that they are open to some change and feedback from the community.

In Hudson, another way we hope to create better experiences for youth is by shedding the stigma that leaving our community is the only road to finding success. When I was younger, I saw Hudson as a barrier to success and happiness. As a Hudson student of color, I recall many of my peers and teachers often expressing their frustration about how unrecognized and limited our school was due to lack of funding. I wanted to go out into the world and do good for myself and my family. I wanted to be a part of a community where everyone succeeded and everyone graduated–where I didn’t feel that I was seen as beneath the system or unworthy. Growing up in a rural city amongst broken neighborhoods had shaped a sense of helplessness that was learned and passed on from generation to generation. But after I completed my undergraduate degree, a few years of traveling and experiencing life, I started to understand and see more potential in Hudson.

Jabin shows her artistic gifts and has a bit of fun during the lab in Hudson.

For me, this project further expands the greatness and strength I see in this community. I have always been a passionate, driven and focused woman. From a very young age, I have known that I will make change in the world. This research process feels like one of my steps towards an amazing journey of restoring beauty in Hudson. I am learning that someone doesn’t necessarily need to work for a large organization to make a real difference. Change is possible in many ways in different locations, and at different stages of life. And for now, this research process perfectly coincides with where I am in life. I know I will live a life full of goodness and it is an honor to have such a beautiful entry into community research, action and change.