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July 21, 2021

Groundwork RI – Define + Discover | Juliana Soltys, Jason Hebert | MID ’22

by Jason Hebert

Week 2: Define + Discover

Intended Curriculum

We wanted to start Week 2 with a short lecture about a general design process and different types of design. There are six steps in this process: define, discover, develop, deploy, test, and iterate. We defined each term and related it to a board game project that Juliana worked on this past semester. These steps aren’t linear; therefore, we highlighted how this is only one way of thinking about solutions. On the next page, we discussed different areas within design and had the youth call out examples. This exercise was a great way to recognize the ubiquity of design and the spectrums connecting designed goods and services! Following, we explained the levels of impact adopted from the Ashoka Systems Change Crash Course. They list four levels: direct impact, scaled direct impact, systems change, and mindset shift. GWRI is involved with all four, with one example being their tree planting initiatives. The trees have a direct impact on PVD, but also a scaled effect since they are planted in the surrounding towns as well. GWRI is involved with initiatives to fund and support more tree plantings in redlined neighborhoods and redefine our relationship with trees. After a short break, we dove deeper into the first two steps of the design process: define and discover. The define phase sets up the background for understanding, sharing, and starting a design intervention. There should be no design solutions at this stage! There are four main concepts: the problem statement, design opportunity statement, design statement, and design criteria. As an example to explain the terminology, the redlining board game was elaborated on further. As the second phase, discovering involves observing a problem and collecting data about the issue as well as benchmarking current solutions. There are two main types of research used: market and user. The youth are primarily focusing on user research through ethnographic research, demographic data, and surveys. 

PVD x PCF Monday – combined due to weather conditions

Because of the weather conditions, the two groups combined, and it was an excellent opportunity for them to get to know each other. We reintroduced ourselves and played an icebreaker game about proposing a movie. The groups had 15 minutes to develop a movie: detailing its plot, actors, and budget. They would then propose this movie to the judges (J + J and the Green Team coordinators) who decided to fund both movies. After, we had a group lecture and discussion about the design process and, in further detail, spoke about the define and discover phases. As the sky cleared up, we took that information with us and walked around the Hope Artiste Village, taking observational notes on general sights, sounds, and smells. 

PCF Thursday, July 15th 

After lecturing about the design process and systems design, we walked around Hope Artiste Village and Pawtucket, writing down observational notes. We relaxed under a tree at Baldwin Elementary and started discussing the problems we observed while walking around. The conversation shifted quickly towards Galego Garden, a Pawtucket community garden the group was working at once a week. Located in the back of the Galego public housing complex, the garden is a space for residents and community members to tend to their plots. The youth work at the garden once a week, helping with a variety of gardening tasks. With the goal of the summer to have the youth choose their project, they were more interested in working with this space. Additionally through this discussion, they were able to acknowledge a variety of problems as a group. For example, they noticed the center path is too steep to climb with a wheelbarrow, the weeds are difficult to control and lead to a low retention rate of gardeners, and the lack of advertisement and awareness about the garden amongst the community. After a successful talk, we grabbed yummy Mamacita ice cream as a treat for their attentive and thoughtful work. We left that day excited about the prospect of this space that we were unaware of prior. 

Youth walking down a street with low tree canopy cover

Additional Activities

After hearing how excited the youth were about Galego, we went to check out the 1.5-acre garden. We met Chandel, the garden coordinator, and Everett, an AmeriCorp member, who were eager to show us around the hilly, green landscape. Community gardeners grew a variety of fruits, vegetables, flowers, and some even had beehives! They were very friendly, and we sat in the shade to learn more about the lush community garden and our involvement and intentions for the student-led projects. For the upcoming week, we will work in the garden to learn about the space and struggles of maintaining the constantly evolving garden. 

Juliana standing at the entrance to the Galego Community Farm


The weather was rainy and cold, creating a sluggish PVD x PCF group. However, the youths were engaging and talkative during our discussion about the different types of design. The icebreakers also helped re-engage the youth to get them thinking and moving with their fellow team members. We used a giant paper pad to prepare the lecture notes the first week, but the paper was too flimsy and slippery. We needed something to hold the slides up and decided to get a whiteboard to pin up information and brainstorm sessions. Unfortunately, the print-out design process sheets were not an engaging form to share information, and the youth were less interested in reading and following along. 

We originally had an additional print-out with the 5 W’s + 1 H as an outline for taking observational notes on their clipboard. However, the youth didn’t use it because it was easier to have an open discussion with a designated note taker.  

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