Hudson Hill and Woodville Design Management Project

Business development and sustainable business model design project for the Savannah College of Art & Design graduate studio class Sustainable Practices in Design

The following represents the output of a 10-week Design Management course a SCAD titled Sustainable Practices in Design. Within the first week of the class, it became irrefutably apparent that Sustainable Practices in Design did not mean that we, as a class, were merely charged with fulfilling a set of commonly understood preconditions that made a designed product sustainable (e.g. material usage, soy inks, energy-efficient production, etc). The "design" in this project came not in the form of communications or objects, but as a set of plans to be undertaken and as a systems view of a web of players with sometimes conflicting and sometimes overlapping goals. The "sustainable" would turn out to be less to do with eco-friendly bio-plastics or 100% PCW paper, but with setting up an ordered vision through pulling as many disparate players to the table as possible, ensuring long-term sufficiency (or sustainability) through enabling a dialog.

In less grandiose terms, this Design Management class became an exercise in managing people … their goals, their preconceptions, their prejudices, their expectations and their histories. It started off as a look at addressing a huge problem of long-term, unabated negligence in the form of environmental pollution in two neighborhoods in West Savannah. It has ended with the plan and presentation of the concept of community gardens in the same neighborhoods, but this time with the support and understanding of a greater portion of the network of people, organizations and businesses that have an interest (albeit, a sometimes unrealized one) in seeing these neighborhoods begin to revitalize themselves. 

A great deal of the readings in this class alluded to utilizing the structure and behavior of natural systems as a model of design which proved quite apt for this process. Basically, there has been a lot of ebb and flow, back and forth push and pull. Every meeting, every presentation, every contact, every additional piece of information would all alter our plans along the way (in realtime, if you will). This meant that what we designed had to be able to flow (or grow, to use the nature metaphor) around any of these unforeseen additions, subtractions, revisions, etc. In a sense, we had to create a plan and hand it off knowing that it would almost never happen the way we planned it, but that however takes it on past our immediate involvement would be able to see the core of the plan through. This was the sustainable part of our design … it is adaptable. It's only fitting that grand metaphor of nature in this project is literally realized in where we focused: literally planting seeds in a community garden. Our hope and charge for the next classes/participants in this project is to help the seeds grow. Sustainable Practices in Design, Summer 2009
Our end proposal in this project was the plan for a community garden behind the community center of an area in West Savannah called Woodville. How we arrived at this is detailed below.
THE PROBLEM
Our primary client was a Savannah-based, non-profit called Harambee House, Inc. This organization served to promote environmental justice, healthy communities and lifestyles and general self-awareness in the African-American neighborhoods of Savannah. At the time we began working with them, Harambee House had recently been awarded a $300,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency to address environmental concerns in two historically African-American communities in Savannah: Hudson Hill and Woodville. For many years, both of these neighborhoods had existed in close proximity to large industrial facilities that had sprung up along the Savannah River. Both communities exhibited evidence of environmental pollution that had built up over the years, which was reflected in health issues in the residents of both neighborhoods.

The C.A.R.E (Community Action for a Renewed Environment) Grant was a second-level award from the EPA that set out a workplan for the recipient to "identify and implement actual 'on the ground,' community-based projects for the reduction of the prioritized risks and concerns in their community." In short, our task was to help Harambee House begin to dissect and implement this EPA workplan.

However, as with all higher-level design, this was much simpler on paper that it was in practice. To truly aide Harmabee House and thereby the neighborhoods of Hudson Hill and Woodville, we had to research, compare and synthesize the goals of many other players in the city who also had stakes in this process. By the end of the 1o-week class, we met with and presented our case to Harambee House, the Chatham Environmental Forum, Healthy Savannah, the Metropolitan Planning Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency in Atlanta, GA and communities of both Hudson Hill and Woodville. 

With each meeting we received another tidbit of information and sometimes a conflicting set of goals. As a class, we worked to find overlaps in everyone's goals and interests, trying to arrive at a plan that not only satisfied all the big players, but was actually wanted and needed in the communities for whom the whole project was centered.
RESEARCH
We began the whole process by breaking down the C.A.R.E. Level II Grant Workplan and all the information on the communities that was supplied to us by Harambee House. We then began to map out the problem, looking for overlaps in what the communities were concerned with and the goals set forth in the workplan. It should be noted, however, that mapping the problem did not occur just once in this process, but constantly as we received more and more information from each of the disparate players.
Rafael Ribero's concept map.
Jenni Light's concept map.
FIELD VISITS
As a class, we visited each community extensively in an effort to understand what the residents were dealing with in terms of environmental pollution and to speak directly with the community leaders. 
Reverend Cutter, our liason from Harambee House, took us on a tour of Hudson Hill and gave us extensive backgrounds and histories of both neighborhoods.
Tyrone Ware, president of the Woodville Neighborhood Association, met with us repeatedly and filled us in on past developmental initiatives that had been proposed for his community.
Tyrone Ware and Reverend Cutter took us to several potential sites for a community garden.
THE PRESENTATION
The following images represent an abbreviated sample of slides from our final version of the presentation we gave, which, in this case, was to the Chatham Environmental Forum. It is apt to present this project as slides as, in many ways, our final deliverable for this class was just that, a plan we presented to all the invested parties. In a sense, what we accomplished in our ten-week immersion in this wicked problem was moving the ball down the field a few more yards for the next group that would take up the reigns after us.

This was one of the great lessons I took from this experience: the design of a plan is just as valuable, if not more depending on the problem, than a finite artifact. This may not seem that novel a concept, but coming from a graphic design background, it left an indelible impression. 
As stated early, our work began with Harambee House, Inc., who had recently been awarded a C.A.R.E. Level II Grant form the E.P.A. to address environmental remediation in two historically African-American neighborhoods in West Savannah: Hudson Hill and Woodville. Harambee House can be seen as our primary "client" and helping them work toward a series of goals listed in the C.A.R.E. Grant as our main charge.
As we began to meet with more and more of the parties who were tied in either directly or indirectly with these communities and the initiatives brought forth in the C.A.R.E. Grant goals, the problem began to become very convoluted.
By the end of the second week, it became clear the the design problem we were working on fit Horst Rittel's definition of a "Wicked Problem."
In an effort to make sense of the complexity, we then mapped out all of these players in an effort find overlaps in their goals.
It became evident quickly that there were many synchronicities in the varying interests in agriculture programs.
Honing in on this concept of and agriculture program that could incorporate community kitchens and composting programs, we determined that starting a community garden would be the first step, setting the stage for a string of initiatives to grow form it.
The idea of a community garden tied in directly with Goal 5 of the C.A.R.E. Level II Workplan.
Not only did the concept of a community garden address one of the Workplan Goals, it tied in directly with several of the communities noted concerns, thereby helping to address Goal 2 of the Workplan.
PHASES OF GROWTH
We developed a plan for four phases of growth for the garden, each expanded upon the one before it. This all conspired to show all invovled the potential at hand with beginning this garden.
This chart serves to show how the phases grow out from each other as supply and demand naturally develop.
This graph served to show how the garden at its full realized potential creates a closed-loop, self-sustaining.
The plans for the Woodville Community Garden were drawn up by a local community garden proponent, Kelly Lockamy.
The land for the Woodville Community Garden lay behind the Woodville Community Center.
The final vision for the Woodvile Community Garden, prototyped in Google Sketch by Ben Dechard. 
BRANDING AND POTENTIAL PRODUCTS
In an effort to help all the invested parties envision how the community gardens could become commercial enterprises and brands, I did quick sketches of potential logos and products derived from the gardens and communities. These always went over well with the audiences.
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