Background

As a part of a Disruptive Design project team at DSI, I ideated on ways to improve the experiences of vulnerable senior populations in New York City with respect to accessing food. Our goal was to develop recommendations to fulfill the unmet food requirements of homeless seniors. We volunteered with a soup kitchen, Rauschenbusch Metro Ministries, who became our advisors through the process.  

 

PERSONAL CONTRIBUTION

  1. Conducted design research with a team of five.

  2. Built relationships with food pantries to facilitate research activities.

  3. Created weekly field guides for research.

  4. Developed research prototypes and probes to derive insights about the unmet needs of the homeless seniors. 

  5. Emerged as a  de facto process manager and ensured that everyone in the team felt included.

The

Leftovers 

Cafe

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The Problem

Based on NYC council committee reports, a little over 200,000 New Yorkers age 65 and older are living below the poverty level, and a significant fraction of that population is homeless. The miseries of homelessness are exacerbated for these people, especially with respect to their access to food, with most of them experiencing  an increased number of barriers to 3 hot meals a day. This often leads to hunger and malnutrition, which are especially dangerous for their age due to decreased resistance to ailments and heightened possibilities of degenerative diseases. Despite an increase in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) enrollment in the last 3 years, most of these seniors are unsure of their eligibility for the same, or are unaware of it.

ROLE

Design Researcher

Instructional Designer, Content Designer, Communication Design

May 2017 - September 2018
The Process

1/1
9
Homeless Senior Interview
18
Additional Interview
33+
Observation Hour
16
Site Visits 
9
Prototype Feedback Interview

OBSERVATION, INTERVIEW, PROBES

PLANNING THE RESEARCH

PROTOTYPING

  • Week 1

  • Week 2

  • Week 3

  • Week 4

  • Week 5

  • Week 6

  • Week 7

  • Week 8

  • Week 9

The Research

Participatory Activities

Homeless seniors drew their life journey for us to make us understand what got them to the point of homelessness

Orthodoxies

Made us turn stereotypes and assumptions into opportunities for intervention.

Prototyping

Made us test our assumptions and build upon our existing understanding.

Activity Life Cycle

Helped us understand the different avenues through which homeless seniors obtain food.

Challenger Framework

Used our learning objective as a starting place, to then ask further questions (some more broad and some more general) to better investigate avenues for exploration

Theory Of Change

Theory of Change that would help them decide on the most effective leverage point in the system to design an intervention, which would ultimately lead to the desired outcome through a systemic change.

Conceptual Mapping

Supported us in mapping out user journeys and identifying barriers to food access. 

Empathy Map

Aided in creating our own personas of the different stakeholders. 

Insights & Pain points
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INSIGHT 1

Food pantries had limited availability and fixed timings. Homeless seniors struggled to adhere to them due to limited mobility and a lack of subway access. 

INSIGHT 2

Government benefits require ID (many Homeless Seniors do not have access to simple storage).

INSIGHT 3

Provisions of raw materials for meals were useless due to the lack of resources for cooking them.

INSIGHT 4

Food pantries had limited availability and fixed timings. Homeless seniors struggled to adhere to them due to limited mobility and a lack of subway access. 

INSIGHT 5

Being lonely and isolated from communities robbed them of opportunities to socialize, have support systems and make better choices.

Recommendations
Short term

A pocket-sized, weatherproof map for the homeless individuals that includes names and locations of all the food pantries, soup kitchens, etc. in New York City and other relevant information such as their times and dates of availability. 

Long Term

Getting some restaurants to open to homeless seniors after their closing times, and serve them the day’s extra food. This would not only provide food options, but would also possibly create dining communities that connect over food. A system of pick-up buses that recover extra food from restaurants and carts, and transport them to various locations in the city, which homeless seniors with limited mobility can access.

Systematic Transformation

A pocket-sized, weatherproof map for the homeless individuals that includes names and locations of all the food pantries, soup kitchens, etc. in New York City and other relevant information such as their times and dates of availability. 

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