• Are We More Connected Than We Think We Are?

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    By Jingya Zhang

    On Oct. 31, we were excited to make our midterm workshop happen at Gulfstream Center for Design, home to SCAD’s Design Management and Design for Sustainability programs. With the help of the Department of Environmental Services and Sustainability, we were glad to host several department heads and staff members from city government in a midterm workshop. Our goal was to present our research process, generate insights and concepts derived from 3 weeks of interviews with representatives from a dozen city departments, and determine next steps for the remaining five weeks of our course.

    As an early morning start, we shared some local food and coffee from The Sentient Bean with our participants. Our professor Scott Boylston welcomed and informed participants about course objectives. And then we all went around the table by introducing ourselves. However, in order to create more clear personal and role connections between participants, we decided to conduct an Ice Breakers activity called ‘Connections’. This activity served to let people find common ground on a personal level. The first round consisted of passing around a red ball of yarn while sharing personal common interests. Then, the participants passed around purple yarn to make connections based on their job roles. Establishing connections in a tangible and visible way set the ground to foster new conversations during the session. The participants observed their connections that were left and taped it on the floor during the activity. We were happy to see that a lot of positive energy in the group came up after the first round of the connection activity and the attendees were feeling more confident and more open to further activities.

    After experiencing the Ice Breakers activity as a warm-up, we began our presentation part one by explaining our definition of sustainability through viewing it as a three-legged stool. We then shared a mission statement we created to hold us accountable to our primary goal throughout this project and took our participants look through our process as what we shared in blog posts before. As a group of students from design management major, we began by looking at three key case studies of other cities, conducted several interviews, and analyzed the collected data via maps and frameworks to generate insights for future opportunities. The discovery that occurred after all the interview data had been collected was filtered through several of our design management frameworks, including a working systems map.

    In order to better understand how the different departments in city of Savannah work from the point of views of the city staff, we explained the overall structure of the map and then had an interactive activity with them to dive more deeply into details with the printed version of the system map without connected lines on the wall. We asked participants to break into two groups and mark how they work together and also create new possible connections. Finally, we brought the two groups together and asked them to explain to each other the connections they created in their maps. During this activity, it is interesting to see participants joke about good relationships and challenging relationships among different departments. As a wrap up, the staff from city of Savannah came up with some thoughts and feelings in common. They all felt that working together drives mutual benefit. As a result, they really needed to find a way to align projects and more common growth. In addition, some staff even started to mention their ideas to promote the situation, such as having a newsletter, educating the city with more available resources, delivering storytelling of the city and the relationships, etc.

    After this activity, we moved to our second part of presentation which we shared our insights through empathy maps and concepts. By conducting the research, we found a common voice within the departments of the city as well. This information was then plotted into an empathy map to understand the different levels of information gathered. This tool has become a pretty common tool to place comments of an interview in design management or related disciplines and helped us organize the information into 6 parts: Think +Feel, Hear, See, Say +Do, Pains, and Gains. How we made sense of the information started by identifying the connections on the empathy map, creating HMWs (how might we) and proposing concepts that solve each question. This part ended with handing out brochures as giveaways that contain the HMW and a compiled empathy map of all the interviews to participants. It is a way to encourage them to take a look and send them back to us with their thoughts.

    Moving forward, we started our open discussion among city staff and us. After finding the major barrier on communication, the biggest thing that the city staff took away was getting to know each other better. It was an opportunity to get to know each other and forced each other to come up with ideas and in the end it was a small group that still wants to get together. They have similar interests and similar ideas that they can develop if they all get together. At the same time, the staff hoped to see the city organization treat the community as a living laboratory to utilize the higher education like SCAD to come up with innovative and creative solutions, such as assisting them to host similar workshops for a bigger group people.

    By the end of the workshop, as a cool down, we finished the final part of the ‘Connection’ activity we did at the beginning, which is called ‘Golden Connection’. This activity allowed participants to create new connections between them for projects that they could work on together in the future. They gathered around the previous circle and could observe how after having an open and creative session, new connections and possibilities emerged. The new connections were placed on the floor over the old ones so they could clearly observe the change and remember those new possibilities. We could find that people were more open to interact with other departments at the end of the connection activity. The golden connections helped them to understand and know each other on new and different levels. Different departments realized that they have a common goal working for Savannah and a lot of similarities towards addressing their issues. New opportunities to professionally interact with other departments came up in this the Golden Connections and people realized that they were more connected than they thought they were. Based on the great findings and outcomes through the midterm workshop, we believe that we would be able to come up with appropriate final concepts in our final presentation. And we look forward to sharing our future progress soon.

  • A New Take on Affinitization

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    By Gabi Campagna

    After looking into different city case studies regarding sustainability initiatives and department dynamics, it was time for us to begin our primary research. With the help of the Department of Environmental Services and Sustainability, we were able to contact several department heads within the City of Savannah as interview subjects. Our goal in these interviews is to understand the mission and methods of each city department so that we may find areas of convergence and opportunity for sustainably driven departmental collaboration.

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  • Inspiration from other Sustainability Plans

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    By Beki Diaz

    As our first dive into the topic of sustainability, we decided to start by looking at other cities and how they have started to shift to sustainable practices. We chose a diverse range of cities including Atlanta, Charleston and New York. Not only did cities these provide different approaches, they represent the ideals that the City of Savannah’s Office of Environmental Services and Sustainability looks forward to embracing and incorporating. As we start to work with them to find strategies that can help them move forward, a look at these role-model cities was the best way to understand their goals.

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  • Sustainability from a Design Management Perspective

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    By Pilar Moreno-Azcarate

    Three weeks ago we started a journey of understanding and welcoming sustainability into our practice as design managers.

    In our first week of exploration, we discovered that design management methods and sustainability models are very similar; both are based in systemic thinking and in a holistic approach to problems. This is not a coincidence; both emerge from the urgency of changing the way society has been developing. “The Industrial Age has brought extraordinary improvements in public education, human rights, and material wellbeing, but it has also destroyed ecosystems, swallowed up traditional cultures that had thrived for centuries, and created a way of life that cannot continue for much longer” (Peter Senge, 2008). We are shifting to a new era where the only way to bring development to everyone and guarantee a safe future is transforming our paradigm to start a truly sustainable way of living. This implies changes in how businesses project their vision and structure. Business models need to incorporate systemic thinking: “invest seriously and immediately in building a regenerative economy and society that mimics nature as fully as possible” (Peter Senge, 2008).

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  • Taking the Next Sustainable Step

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    By Claire Partlow

    As our ten-week project has drawn to a close, the UST team reflects on what has been a productive and insightful first step into Sustainable Small Business in Savannah. Throughout this project we have endured a rigorous process of ethnographic research and analysis. We also had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing numerous “champions” of sustainability in Savannah. In addition to our research, we hosted three events to gain feedback from key stakeholders. Through our extensive research process, we were able to discover compelling insights that are supported by data.

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  • How Will Our Next Date Look?

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    By Alexis X.A. Roberts

    Insights are indeed the keys to good design: We had heard from our Green Business stakeholders in Savannah that the existing social events geared toward sustainability in town had grown unfruitful, and a little stale. We responded to this with a Green Speed Dating event. To be clear, we weren’t actually trying to have our Green Business Owners date one another. Instead, this event was meant to introduce our stakeholders to a new way of approaching the existing social landscape of Savannah’s Small Green Business network. Our Green Speed Dating was intended to stimulate conversations around future plans, and around the idea that innovative collaborations between businesses can create the right conditions to nurture those plans.

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  • Keys to Meaning + Good Design

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    - A moment’s insight is sometimes worth a life’s experience. – Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.

    by Alexis X.A. Roberts

    Insights are the keys to design that are meaningful and compelling. We shared some of these insights with a number of pioneers of Green Business in Savannah to gather more input during our midterm presentation and workshop. Now the challenge was to bring our original insights and these newly discovered ones together to inform our next step. We had just over a weekend to make them come to life but we ended up with something exciting which you’ll read about in a later post. Here’s a little bit about the journey we took to get there.

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  • We’re All In This Together

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    By Claire Partlow

    We live in a world of interconnected systems. Each seemingly insignificant decision you make has a ripple effect of varying consequences that affect other systems. According to scientist and author Donella Meadows, “a system is an interconnected set of elements that is coherently organized in a way that achieves something. A system must consist of three things: elements, interconnections and a function or purpose” 

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  • To Affinity and Beyond!

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    By Claire Partlow

    Our Sustainable Small-Business in Savannah project has a new name—U.S.T.—which stands for United for a Sustainable Tomorrow. Our team has been gaining a lot of momentum in the past few weeks, and we are excited about the direction our research is headed!

    This past week we concluded our stakeholder interviews with various small-business owners and key actors in Savannah (28 interviews in all…and a few more to come!). Not only did we enjoy engaging in insightful conversations with some of the champions of sustainable business thinking in Savannah, we also discovered some surprising data and unique perspectives. We’re grateful, too, for all of the background material that was supplied to us. We understand that we’re not the first ones–SCAD students, community leaders or business people–to be exploring the idea of nurturing.

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  • Perhaps Nature Has Not Lost Its Meaning After All

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    By Alexis X.A. Roberts

    If sustainability is defined as the ability to continue a defined behavior indefinitely, it stands to reason that those behaviors must be conducive to life itself. Sustainability has often been viewed as being simply ecological in nature: The experts have tied our survival as a species to our management of natural capital. Yet, true sustainability must also consider the many aspects of day-to-day living, which includes an interconnected web of factors. More than simply nature, meaning is at the heart of why we fight to sustain the good within our daily lives. The  list of people in Savannah who not only live, but work with a sustainable future in mind seems to grow by the month. Our team has been seeking to connect with these people , and we’ve found many.

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