Engaging residents through qualitative research on food shopping in East Harlem
The NYC Department of Mental Health and Hygiene (DOHMH) is dedicated to public health outcomes that support healthy, thriving, and connected neighborhoods across the city. One major priority area for the agency is food justice, ranging from accessibility, to affordability, to quality of the foods we all acquire and eat. East Harlem, one of NYC’s most culturally diverse communities, is often stigmatized as a ‘food desert’, leading DOHMH to launch a qualitative research study around how local residents’ shop for food, make decisions around price and quality, and how they perceive the larger systemic issue of food inequality. East Harlem Foodways Study surveyed resident stakeholders over the course of 2018 conducting different research methods from interviews to shopping trips. Following the completion of this research, TYTHEdesign, was solicited to design and facilitate a stakeholder engagement with the research participants. The intentions of the engagement were to validate the initial data collected, and to collect new insights regarding the shopping process everyone takes, the decisions they make, and additional ideas that support food justice in the neighborhood.
TYTHE approached the engagement by using storyboarding as the method for facilitation and designed a step-by-step visual process for all stakeholders to identify where they uniquely fit into each stage of the shopping experience (starting from the home, to traveling to the store, to shopping, and traveling back home). As evidence to the neighborhoods’ diversity, participating stakeholders spoke English, Spanish, and Mandarin. This required TYTHE to build an intentional agenda that promoted inclusion around language access and highlight culturally specific insights from all participants. This process included hiring and training translators to facilitate alongside TYTHE and preparing printed materials in Spanish and Mandarin for the engagement.
TYTHE developed a synthesis report for DOHMH staff to learn from the different conversations that took place throughout the engagement in order to validate the initial research collected.
Using Study as Advocacy Tool
The stakeholder engagement thoroughly supports the next steps for DOHMH to begin to take East Harlem Foodways to other interagency departments to learn from, as well as begin to utilize the study as an advocacy platform for the neighborhood, and possibly the city at large.
The stakeholder engagement provided TYTHE with new best practices when it comes to designing an experience tied to a specific users’ (or a groups’) journey through a challenge, or how to successfully facilitate a multi-lingual user experience.
Client: NYC Department of Mental Health and Hygiene, East Harlem Action Center
Collaborators: Hillary Clark, Kristina Drury, Claudie Mabry, Kacie Lyn Martinez