Problem: Design for Social Change aims at improving current social, economic or environmental conditions. Social innovators work with communities to understand their needs, rework systems, change attitudes and behaviors. An important element to most behavioral change theories is the concept of self-efficacy. Developed in the late 1970s by psychologist Albert Bandura, self-efficacy is ”people’s judgment of their capabilities to organize and execute courses of action required to attain designated types of performances.” (1986:391). According to Bandura self-efficacy is developed from external experiences and self-perceptions and is an important factor in behavioral change.
Design companies like IDEO, frog and Artifact have developed tools to help both designers and communities solve better problems together. However these tools do not address the relationship between self-perceptions, self-efficacy and behavior. Because positive self-perceptions empower a community, and negative perceptions discourage it, the topic presents a needed opportunity for research. And because graphic design provides powerful tools for creative problem solving and visual communication, the project can be a valuable tool for community empowerment.
Question: How can graphic design/ visual communication help a community reshape its self-perceptions to increase its self-efficacy? Can a tool be created that:
- Makes the process of understanding and reshaping a community’s self-perceptions a positive and learning experience?
- Inspires ideas for building connections and designing interactions that can mitigate or reshape existing negative perceptions?
The purpose of my thesis is to use the tools and methods of graphic design to design a positive interactive learning experience for an underserved community to help it understand and reshape its self-perceptions as a way to empowerment.
Behavioral change theories state that a person’s willingness to initiate and maintain change is determined by self-efficacy which is influenced by self-perceptions. Understanding the relationship between behavioral change, self-efficacy and self-perceptions is especially important when it comes to underserved communities. This thesis will show that for a community to start changing its self-perceptions, it is necessary to create circumstances that will allow it to view itself in new ways. An interactive transformative experience that uses the tools and methods of visual communication can help an underserved community understand and reshape its self-perceptions as a way to empowerment.
• While I had big ideas about changing community’s perceptions, Prof. Susan Falls looked at the topic as a researcher and she could immediately identify the potential problems – lack of solid evidence for the premise that people from the Waters community do not have a positive self-image, unidentified scope of research.
• Prof. Falls’ question made me think of making other interviews that will help me either dismiss my premise or solidify it, or revise my thesis topic.
• Prof. Falls suggested that I start with defining who I am dealing with and consider ease of access as one of my criterion. Start with who I have access to and who my contacts are and start small until I find the necessary relationship. I like the idea of starting small until I find a valid argument and gather necessary data, and then scaling it.
• Prof. Susan Falls used the word self-esteem that made me think that I should break down my definition of self-efficacy and really make sure I understand what it implies. Up until that point I used the word self-efficacy meaning willingness of the community to engage in actions as a group to bring about change. I understand that self-esteem and self-efficacy could be related and I still need to decide if I need to talk about self-esteem or if I can avoid talking about it. I think self- esteem is a more touchy subject.
• Definitions revisited:
Self-efficacy: A person’s belief about his or her ability and capacity to accomplish a task or to deal with the challenges of life.
Self-esteem: a confidence and satisfaction in oneself, a feeling of having respect for yourself and your abilities. Synonyms: self-confidence, self-worth, self-image, self-assurance, self-regard.
• New words to add to my concept map – self-esteem, proactiveness, orientation for change, inspiration for change.
• Books to add to my bibliography –
Susser, Ida. Norman Street: Poverty and Politics in an Urban Neighborhood, Updated Edition. 2012
Gregory, Steven. Black Corona: Race and the Politics of Place in an Urban Community. 1999
Interviewing Techniques Reflection
What I think I did right:
I sent Prof. Falls a description of my topic, my research questions and my interview questions.
I decided to interview her because I had heard about her research on the hand-painted signs in Savannah. Waters has many hand-painted signs and I wanted to see if it would be possible to draw any connections between a community and its environment or self-expressions. I am still wondering if there are any outside indicators that can help understand the community’s mind.
I told Prof. Falls I would need about an hour for the interview.
What did not work:
I tried to find Prof. Falls research papers about the hand-painted signs in Savannah in the library, but they could not find them, then I asked Prof. Falls if she would mind sending me those, but she refused to do that. I think if I could read the papers, I would have had more questions.
I started the interview by asking Prof. Falls about how much time we had. When Prof. Falls said she had 20 minutes and I was prepared for an hour, I felt rushed and I jumped right into asking about my research topic.
My day was crazy hectic and I was very stressed when I had the interview. That limited my ability to dig deeper into the topic and have a productive conversation.
Prof. Susan Falls Interview
Feb. 21, 2013, SCAD, Arnold Hall
Background: Prof. Susan Falls is a professor in the Liberal Arts department at SCAD (http://www.scad.edu/general-education/faculty.cfm). She is an anthropologist and has done extensive research on the hand-painted signs in Savannah. She has taught some classes in the past that worked with the Waters community. Because I am interested in researching community self-perceptions, I thought it would be helpful to get a broader perspective on perceptions, culture and community dynamics.
Marina: I am a second year MFA graphic design student and I am about to start working on my thesis. I’ve been involved with the Waters community since last winter, I took a class with Prof. Boylston, I participated in Design Ethos, and I’ve been working with Jerome Meadows. I am really interested in working with the community for my thesis. I would like to do something with the means of graphic design that will hopefully create a positive change. I know it sounds ambitious. I did some research and found about Albert Bandura who is talking about how self-efficacy is affected by self-perceptions. People who have high self-perceptions and high self-efficacy are more willing to initiate or maintain change. So I am thinking if it would be possible to create something for the community that will help them either create a vision for themselves that they can work with or they can start seeing things that they normally ignore that can help them have better perceptions of themselves – either talk about their assets as a community, as an environment, as people or change their negative perceptions if that is possible. I wanted to talk to you in order to get your perspective on that and get some ideas on additional research or who else I can talk to.
Prof. Falls: I don’t know what I can offer you really… Is there any reason why you think the community does not have a positive self-image?
Marina: It is my perception. People are talking about the community being poor, economically challenged, drug infested, but again these are perceptions of people who are outsiders. I think I am mixing what people think of Waters and what the community thinks of themselves. To your question – I am not sure. I have not done any research. That might be a starting point.
Susan Falls: Right… Because they might not really think that there is anything wrong … They might think that… I don’t know what they might think… They might think that they are poor, but that does not necessarily translate into not having a good self-image. Sometimes it is the opposite, there are people who are poor, but they are good people and they work harder, have a great community or have a great charge or have good relationships with their neighbors. I don’t know… I think the starting point should be … I think this idea of self-esteem can generate a different orientation to change or an inspiration, that might very well be true, but I think until you establish that… if that’s the sort of relationship you are looking at, I don’t know that you can necessarily talk about this community without being able to demonstrate that they indeed do not have a good self-image. Actually, I think and my experience there is very limited, very limited, but my impression with the members of the community that I interacted with is that they have a pretty good self-image, they are pretty proactive in terms of establishing explicit desires “I am gonna do this, I am gonna do that”… I think they are pretty savvy people amidst neighborhoods where you have a high degree of working class people… they interact with the state in various ways, are much more savvy about the way that …? Works than your average middle class person. They are usually pretty savvy about these things because they know, they have experience in this and they understand their needs and how it works. It think it is great to try to develop something that will have a positive effect on the community, but without knowing what they need or what they see as their problems, it is hard to do that I mean to provide a good quality argument. They might very well think that things are pretty… They might not… I don’t know what they think. My only experience there is with the W.W. Law Center and a little bit with some other a little more visible institutions like the Asbury Memorial Church, but actually I don’t really know that much about the community.
Marina: Maybe because I’ve been involved in these projects trying to do something for the community which puts them in a position of a community that needs help. Maybe that’s why I came up with the idea that they really need help. Again, it is an assumption that they have low self-esteem or are unable to provide the necessary changes.
Prof. Falls: Well, I think everybody needs help, I would love to have some help, because I am not straight, I have problems, but it is not because I have a low self-esteem that I am not solving my problems … that’s not the reason. It is not an esteem problem. So, I am sure that what my next door neighbor sees as a problem might be different from what I see as a problem. She hates the snack truck, I love the snack truck … (cannot hear) drives me crazy, she does not really care about that. So, I think without doing some kind of …? Research to find out what actually is perceptions, I think it is quite difficult to determine a) what their problems are and b) why they are problems…. If you look at just demographic research which does not necessarily translate into anything as effective, maybe it does, maybe it does not. And if there is a place with a high percentage of … income, how does that translate into something attractive? I don’t know.
Marina: Is it at all possible to judge about the community’s perceptions by the way the community looks, by something that is visual?
Prof. Falls: I think whereas somebody else might say yes, I personally I don’t think that… I think that’s very risky. They way that we might, the way that somebody who is not part of the community, the way that I might read the landscape might be quite different from the way somebody who lives there reads it. I do not know. But I have to maintain that possibility for that reason to think that just reading the landscape is pretty risky.
Marina: You studied the hand-painted signs in Savannah. Did you find any relationship or were these signs able to tell anything about the communities or people?
Susan Falls: Well, I think Savannah is a very small town. Painted signs, do you… at the level of connotations say something quite different from the slick corporate symbol. That kind of percolates a different person. But I don’t know if it says anything very, very specific. There has been changes to the signage so it applies a lot to the last hand-painted signs.
I think it might be also worthwhile to think about who you are talking about because… what are the boundaries of the community?
Marina: Between Victory and Wheaton and then 2-3 blocks on each side of Waters.
Prof. Falls: I think that’s a lot of people.
Marina: That does not mean that I have to work with the entire community.
Prof. Falls: No, no, no. But how did you come up with those boundaries?
Marina: This is what they had for Design Ethos and the city is having this Revitalization project trying to help the community and revitalize that area. And I think it is their definition of what Waters community comprises of.
Prof. Falls: Right, I think there is the way that the city is defining it and there is the way that people that live there define it. And they might not be the same at all.
Marina: There are four neighborhood associations in that area.
Prof. Falls: You can ask people what are the boundaries of your neighborhood, people say all kinds of things. So, it becomes kind of difficult to talk about the community as defined by who? As defined by the City, as defined by the residents, as defined by the Asbury Church there, as defined by the real estate. Who are the members of the community? How are they connected to each other? I think the project to have a positive effect on the community, that’s the project, right? You have to really take apart that. Ok. Who is the community, as defined by who, impact, right, let’s talk about it a little bit. What’s positive? Well, that might be subject to unveiling. Some people might say what we need is … , or a McDomands, I don’t know what people might say. What I might think is positive to a community, to somebody else migh be horrible. So people might think it is great to have McDonalds on Broughton, I think it is horrible. You have to really define the terms of the project, so that you narrow the scope of what you are doing.
Marina: I think you are asking really good questions. I do not have the answers yet.
Prof. Falls: But, you can get them, you can get the answers.
Marina: Are there any readings that you can recommend, or case studies you might know of.
Prof. Falls: Not a lot straight, but you can read about community ethnography or community involvement. There is one famous called “Norman Street” by Ida Susser. It is really good. It is kind of grassroots community kind of stuff.
Marina: Or any behavioral change, so social change theories?
Prof. Falls: You can read the book “Black Corona”. I think this kind of project is inherently tricky because we don’t want to risk imposing our own ideologies on the community, without finding out from them what is going on, it is very difficult to generate a meaningful solution if we don’t hera from them what their problems are. You might not necessarily mean you have to agree with them. They might say they need a McDonalds, and you might say forget about McDonalds, what you need is a school. That’s one, but people do not always know what’s good for them, that’s true. You can’t really know what they need until you start looking.
Marina: I have to come up with a more focused idea and then do some research.
Prof. Falls: I think privately, for the purposes of this project. I don’t know how much time you have, you might think about narrowing the scope of you project considerably. You might narrow it down to who it is that you are dealing with. So that you do not spend a year researching people, which is fine, but your project is a design project. You need to put together your data and spend much of your time right on design, or energy. I would cut the barriers of what you consider to be the community in a very considerable way and I would do it fast, based on something like access . Like who do you have access to. For example, you are not going to have access to a bunch of 18-year old guys. You can probably work with them, but it will take you a long time to find them and get them to talk to you for various reasons like who they are, where they live, a bunch of stuff. So, forget about them. Not forget about them, but figure out who you are working with, who you might already have access to or who your contacts are. I would maybe start with that because … Because your project is a design project. It is not an ethnographic project. You are not getting a degree in ethnography. So, I would considerably narrow the scope of the community and get that data collection out of the way, so that you can then begin working on these other questions, like for example the relationship of design to social change, questions that are pertinent to what you are doing.
I just think that working with a smaller group of people will considerably make the kinds of questions that you want to ask much, much easier to deal with. Later if you want to deal with the larger community and have more resources and people would like to share manpower to collect information to those kinds of questions, fine. It’s a question of scale.
Marina: I need to start talking to people and find something worth researching about that is a good direction.
Prof. Falls: Right, because until you do that you are just guessing.
Armstrong , Helen. Stojmirovic, Zvezdana. Participate, Designing with User-Generated Content. New York: Princeton Architectural Press , 2011. Print.
The book discusses four different aspects of participatory design – Community, Modularity, Flexibility and Technology. It provides numerous use cases, has interviews with artists. It is a good general introduction to participatory design.
McKnight , John. The Abundant Community: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighborhoods.San Francisco: Berret-Koehler Publishers, 2010. Print.
John McNight and Peter Block have done extensive research on community development. Their main proposition is that efforts should be focused on discovering the community’s assets and providing ways for connecting the gifts that each individual has. Only then will a community develop a sustainable system of exchange, connection and care. Numerous articles can be found here as well – www.theabundantcommunity.com. This is where I got the idea of focusing on the assets of the community to combat negative perceptions.
Bandura, Albert. Self-Efficacy in Changing Societies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995. Print.
Bandura has substantial research on self-efficacy (both individual and group) and its relation to performance and attitude to life.
Bandura, Albert. Social Foundations of Thought and Action: A Social Cognitive Theory, 1985. Print.
The Social Cognitive Theory as proposed by Bandura asserts that an individual’s actions and reactions, including social behavior and cognitive processes in almost every situations are influenced by the actions the individual has observed in others. Two of the factors that influence self-efficacy are the experience of mastery and modeling, both can be studied in the context of projects requiring community involvement. I am thinking of exploring the effect of participation on boosting personal self-efficacy.
Boardman, Jason. Robert, Stephanie.”Neighborhood Socioeconomic Status and Perceptions of Self-Efficacy”. Sociological Perspectives 43.1 (2000): 117-136. Print.
The article studies the effect of socioeconomic status of neighborhoods on group and personal self-efficacy. It also talks about how experiencing an efficacious actions or “seeing and visualizing other similar people perform successfully can raise self-percept of efficacy in observers.”
Kumar, Vijay. 101 Design Methods: A Structured Approach for Driving Innovation in Your Organization. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc, 2012. Print.
The book presents an extensive collection of design methods add tools that might be helpful in designing and studying community interaction.
Senge, Peter. Smith, Bryan. Kruschwitz, Nina. Laur, Joe, Schley, Sara. The Necessary Revolution: Working Together to Create a Sustainable World. New York: Broadway Books, 2008. Print.
The book explores the challenges and opportunities when working with groups especially on sustainability issues.
Alinsky, Saul. Rules for Radicals. A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals. New York: Vintage Books, 1971. Print.
Pink, Daniel. Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. Canongate Books, 2010. Print.
Since I am interested in the way perceptions affect self-efficacy and how reshaping perceptions can bring about behavioral change. Social cognitive theory studies the relationship between actual and perceived ability (self-efficacy) and how it can be motivating or discouraging. It will be interesting to see what Daniel Pink thinks about that. I am interested in what drives motivation because design in a community context inevitably deals with motivation.
Pink, Daniel. A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future. New York : Riverhead Books, 2006. Print.
Danie Pink’s perspective on creative thinking and problem solving and the future of design,
Brown, Tim. Change by design: how design thinking can transform organizations and inspire innovation. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 2009. Print.
The title is self-explanatory. Although I will not be working with companies, I expect that most of the propositions in the book will be valid for community environment.
Senge, Peter. The Fifth Discipline., Doubleday/Currency, 2006. Print
Watzlawick , Paul. Weakland , John H. Fisch, Richard. Change: Principles of Problem Formation and Problem Resolution, 1974. Print.
Capra, Fritjof. The Hidden Connections: A Science for Sustainable Living. New York : Anchor Books, c2004. Print.
Singer, Peter. One World: The Ethics of Globalization. New Heaven & London: Yale University Press, 2002. Print
Johnson, Steven. Where good ideas come from : the natural history of innovation. New York : Riverhead Books, 2010.
After a new round of mind-mapping and free writing I was able to further narrow my topic. Below is my Concept Map and my Problem-Question-Purpose summary. I realize it still needs work and I will appreciate any comments and suggestions.
Problem: Design for Social Change aims at improving a current social, economic or environmental condition. Social innovators work with communities to understand their needs, rework systems, change attitudes and behaviors. An important element to most behavioral change theories is the concept of self-efficacy. Developed in the late 1970s by psychologist Albert Bandura, self-efficacy is ”people’s judgment of their capabilities to organize and execute courses of action required to attain designated types of performances.” (1986:391). According to Bandura self-efficacy is developed from external experiences and self-perception. It could be inferred that there is a correlation between self-perception, self-efficacy and behavior, which in the context of community development could mean that that the lower the self-efficacy of a community, the more difficult behavioral change is.
Question: The success of design in dealing with social problems is attributed to its ability to discover and visualize new opportunities and provide plausible theories of change. How does that potential relate to changing a community’s perceptions of itself? (How) can design thinking and visual communication help a community discover, define and communicate a desired shared vision of itself?
Purpose: The purpose of my thesis is to study the nature of group perceptions in underserved communities and research the potential of graphic design in providing processes and/ or tools for discovering, understanding and reshaping perceptions.
Tentative Thesis Statement:
Community’s self-efficacy is its perceived understanding of its capabilities to perform a certain action. Because of its ability to question notions and visualize new opportunities, visual communication (graphic design) can be instrumental in reshaping a community’s perceptions of itself as a way to providing positive change.
- How can the tools and methods of Graphic Design, Public Art and Design for Social Change be used to help a community understand and define itself.
- What does a community’s perception of itself consist of? Physical (architecture, the presence of derelict buildings, trash), emotional (negative, positive), psychological (safe), sociological (underserved) attributes of a community’s perception and image, economic and historic development.
- How do we engage a community in the process of discovering and defining itself? What tools are there ex. Frog’s CAT, IDEO’s HCD Toolkit, Dan Lockton’s Design with Intent cards etc. (How) do they address the problem of self-perception?
- How are perceptions changed? Is the mediation of a designer necessary? What forms could the mediation take? What other factors are important – ex. Historic and economic conditions, demographics, the presence of successful examples, community leaders, number (of proponents for change), exposure to art, media coverage, community involvement, City administration involvement?
- Can visual communication instigate a community action that can affect the self-perceptions – self-efficacy – behavioral change relationship? What could the triggers be?
- The importance of labels – how being labeled affects us, how can a community overcome and refute labels?
- How do we understand what underlying perceptions a community has? What research and data is necessary to understand how perceptions work in a given community?
- Relationship of perceptions and storytelling. What can existing stories tell us about the community’s perceptions and (how) storytelling can influence perceptions?
- Which perceptions are limiting and why in a given community? What can their motivating and empowering counterparts be?
- Study perceptions from a psychological, social and behavioral change theory point of view.
- Study relevant use-cases and analyze which approaches proved successful and which failed.
- Analyze Frog’s CAT, IDEO’s HCD Toolkit, Dan Lockton’s Design with Intent cards etc., and provide insights and suggestions for tools and practices that address the problem.
- Research records of a selected community’s (ex. Waters) past and present perceptions and compare to existing human and physical assets, hopes, beliefs, values within the community. Discuss evidence of the community’s disconnects.
- Incorporate research findings to develop a process for documenting and communicating a community’s perception of itself.
- Develop a tool, process for changing a community’s perception of itself.
- Document process, participants, responses before, during the process. Think of indicators of change and record, survey, measure findings.
After a week of reading, taking notes, asking questions and mind mapping, I came up with the following Thesis Proposal. I found shaping my ideas using the Problem-Question-Purpose framework very helpful.
Problem: Design for Social Change aims at improving a current social or environmental problem. Understanding the problem in its complexity usually requires involving the stakeholders directly into the process. The communication with and among the stakeholders could be multifarious and laden with personal or organizational interests. However, the success of the project depends primarily on their alignment of goals and a common vision of what success should look like.
Question: How can visual communication/ public art help a community discover, define and communicate a desired state of change or goal that is relevant for the whole and transcends personal or institutional interests?
Purpose: The purpose of my thesis is to examine different strategies, processes and outcomes to understand how visual communication/ public art can help bring a community together around a shared goal. I will utilize the 400lb Baby Project to study the tangible and intangible factors that come into play, what roles public art/ visual communication can play and the potential it can have for bringing a positive change on the community.
I would love to hear your feedback. Thank you!
Use 400lb Baby project, do research about similar projects and come up with insights that add to the greater discourse on design for social impact.
(click to enlarge)
- Talk about building trust. Hold interviews before and after.
- Document communication with the various stakeholder groups – City, neighborhood associations, businesses, residents, participants, observers.
- Discuss how a public art project can reflect a community – talk about the process, what, whose input did we use, how did people respond to the artwork, which themes, art works were more/ not successful and why.
- Trace change – interview the various stakeholders and participants, trace any newly created connections or ideas that might have sprung from the project.
From Like to Act
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- What does it take for people to move from passively liking something to actually doing something, analyze our experience with 400lb Baby and compare to other projects.
- When/ where is the tipping point? How do you get there? How does psychology, sociology, organizational theory explain what happens? Can design thinking/ process/outcomes help the process?
- How can visual communication/ graphic design be helpful, what else is important, what seems to be the necessary mix of process, steps, players, visible and invisible factors?
- How do you retain interest?
Building Trust/ Lessening Apprehension in the Community When Working on a Public Art/ Design for Social Change Project
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- Define public art/ design for social change
- Forms of distrust/ apprehension that we encountered during the various stages of the project,
- What makes people apprehensive (social context, previous experience, not understanding art, more pressing problems to solve, is there anything in art/ artists/ graphic design that makes people apprehensive etc.)
- How is trust established?
- What we did for the 400lb Baby project, what worked, what did not work
- Analyze the process, compare with other projects, give recommendations
- Public art involves publicly shared spaces, who are the stakeholders, how do they interact, what are they concerned about?
viii.Different types of communication with the different stakeholders?
- What tools has Graphic Design that can be helpful when building trust:
2.The Power to engage
3.Visual Communication – a picture is worth a thousand words
4.Seeing patters/ relationships
5.Introducing a sense of wonder
6.Make things visible, attract attention
8.“Provide plausible theories for change”