We partnered with WeAct, an long standing organization working towards environmental justice in Harlem New York City to support the We Act Climate Justice Working Group (CJWG), a voluntary group of Harlem residents & members interested in climate justice-related advocacy. We worked with CJWG members to re-design their cooling center audit survey and facilitate co-creation workshops to capture data that supported and guided We Act’s work in crafting and advocating for a legislative study bill.
Extreme heat is the number one weather-related killer in the U.S. On average 100 people die each year from extreme heat. In NYC, low income communities and African Americans are disproportionately affected most.
Cooling Center Programs are implemented by The City of New York to help New Yorkers adapt to extreme heat events. On declared heat emergency days, the city opens spaces for the public to seek free and accessible air conditioned relief. Yet, there are no city-wide standards set for these cooling centers. WE ACT’s Climate Justice Working Group (CJWG) sought to find out whether the city’s program was an effective response to the risk of extreme heat.
We designed & facilitated (2) Sensemaking workshops.
Using the data collected by CJWG, members had the opportunity to analyze the results by identifying gaps and needs, make recommendations and explore localized solutions to address urgent needs for next year’s summer roll out of cooling centers.
SENSEMAKING WITH COMMUNITY
Climate Justice Working Group (CJWG) members used a paper survey tool to collect observational and ethnographic data on:
1. the state of the facilities
2. user experiences
3. staff knowledge
CO DESIGNING THE AUDIT TOOL
We co-designed the audit tool with CJWG to be used to collect data from functioning cooling centers during the summer months of 2019. When designing the survey, we considered varying degrees of interaction needed for members to gather information on site. The activities ranged from traditional one-on-one interviews, user journey mapping and surveys, allowing community members to be design researchers in their own right.
AS DESIGN RESEARCHERS
SENSEMAKING WORKSHOP 1
At the start of the workshop members were encouraged to view each data visualization poster containing an overview of the data.
Separating into smaller teams, the members sifted through the qualitative data points, pulling out key information then synthesized the data to form clusters of themes and patterns. Having each group share out their themes collectively enabled all members to see the results and commonalities.
SENSEMAKING WORKSHOP 2
We used the prototyping process to get the community members comfortable with testing out their ideas. We guided them through the process of framing problems and using “How Might We” statements which led to brainstorming of ideas and potential solutions. We introduced the use of prototyping tools such as storyboarding, sketching & the use of roleplaying for members to create representations of their solutions.
Using the audit tool, CJWG conducted audits of (5) Cooling Centers in Northern Manhattan neighborhoods; West Harlem, Central Harlem, Inwood, East Harlem & Washington Heights. Data Visualization posters were then designed using the data collected.
The Cooling Center audit project resulted in the identification of some chronic malfunctions and inadequacies among the sites. The CJWG identified many levers for improvement that would make the program more impactful.
When the community itself gathers data & makes sense of issues in their own neighborhood by filtering it through their own lived experience as Harlem residents dealing with issues that affect them directly, it allows for data analysis and policy making to be inclusive, transparent & impactful.