Narrative storytelling for tenant education
This project was a concept for an educational mobile website as part of my Master’s Capstone.
After mass pandemic layoffs, low-income immigrants are more vulnerable to eviction than ever before. How might we guide them in taking the necessary actions to protect their homes?
My House, My Rights is a mobile-first, Spanish language website that situates tenants' rights and resources through a series of illustrated, contextually relevant scenarios.
- 01 Context/user research and synthesis
- 02 Ideation and requirements gathering
- 03 Designing and prototyping
- 04 Testing and evaluating
01 Context/user research and synthesis
We started out by formulating a research plan. This helped to structure our discovery process by outlining research questions, methodologies, and data needs.
We conducted a variety of various research methods to build foundational knowledge as well as to learn about existing pain points.
Rationale: Gather data on how the organization operates. This also allowed us to participate in volunteer events, build trusting relationships with the staff, and empathize with the situation the community faces.
Rationale: Gain a high level understanding of the challenges from staff and experts. Also spoke with a community resident to contextualize our research to a real scenario.
Rationale: Besides its efficiency, a focus group encouraged productive dialogue between community navigators when reviewing the various design probes that we presented.
Rationale: Helped us to understand the communication strategies and interaction between the staff and a community resident in a typical context.
Although it would have been ideal to speak to more than one tenant, we understood that it's not always appropriate to expect social services recipients to be research subjects of early research or prototype. We overcome this challenge by leveraging community navigators as proxy users.
As we gathered research, we synthesized our research by clustering notes into themes, which we have summarized in the below findings.
Finding reliable resources is challenging.
It’s hard to know where to look. Residents sometimes share information, but the validity remains dubious or contradictory. In addition, it’s important that information is relevant to oneself — for example, knowing whether help can be obtained locally or if one meets eligibility reqs.
“There are a lot of families that do not have access to this kind of information. The families also look for this kind of help but they cannot find it.” - Community Navigator
Avoid overdelivering to maintain community trust.
Sometimes resources fall through. Although entirely out of their control, staff risk losing the trust of the community when this happens. Staff agree that being as honest as possible is a key part of managing expectations and maintaining trust with the community.
"When we send a resident to get rent assistance, sometimes they are not getting what they expected. People are very stressed and worried and when things don’t happen as fast as they do, sometimes they get frustrated with us." - WATL staff member
Tenants do not feel empowered to seek aid.
As a result of their lived experience, we learned the tenant tends to rely on others or is less confident in their own ability to accomplish a task. This can also lead community members to prematurely self-disqualify or dissuade them from taking initiative (A community member might say "Why would I go to them? They don't speak Spanish").
"I am not good with technology so I ask my daughter, but she's better at English than Spanish so some things she can't translate.” - Tenant
As an imperative, we settled on the following:
“A good solution should help build the confidence of tenants in themselves, in their current environment, and in their government.”
In responding to this imperative, we aim to shift power to the community in enabling their own capacities to understand and leverage their tenant rights. We would also ensure to create positive relationships between WATL and the residents such that trust and accountability could be upheld.
02 Ideation and requirements gathering
Though we felt we could research this topic forever, there came a time where we had to shift gears towards problem solving!
With research insights in mind, each team member sketched a slew of ideas (~25), valuing quantity, before refining down.
Each member presents the most promising ideas round robin style. Team offers clarifying questions and possible risks or roadblocks.
We vote using the four categories method, casting one vote each for the most rational, delightful, darling, and longshot idea.
At the end of this process, we converged on two ideas:
- A resource and knowledge repository (Most Rational)
- Capacity-building through storytelling (Most delightful, Longshot)
At this point, our team of five split into two sub-teams, allowing us to design two unique software solutions for Welcoming Atlanta. My teammate Ryan and I formed the team that would tackle the Storytelling project.
Exploring a storytelling concept
Stories are memorable and effective communication strategies. Our hypothesis was that using stories and visual guides would aid in experiential learning, exposing the individual to a challenging scenario and how to navigate it. The idea is simplify information for easy absorption and to positively depict help-seeking in order to reduce cultural and social stigma.
The idea is simplify information for easy absorption and to positively depict help-seeking in order to reduce cultural and social stigma.
Before moving on, let’s recollect ourselves and the problem scope, shall we?
We often think providing helpful information to others — maybe about a pro-bono law firm or a community org that is offering housing assistance — is enough to inspire action, like so:
Whereas in reality, there are often many barriers to overcome:
We used context scenarios (such as imagining the user's state of mind while undergoing eviction) to define design requirements for a new system and address the aforementioned barriers.