The Brooks Design Lab began with 16 participants from the city including business owners, city leaders, non-profit staff, newcomers, and engaged residents who wanted to create change in the city of Brooks. They identified a problem statement: “The newcomer community and established resident community are not necessarily well integrated creating a sense of ‘us’ vs. ‘them.’” and set out to innovate and create new solutions to bring their community together.
Participants conducted their own interviews with other community members, both newcomers and long-term residents, to deepen their understanding of the topic. Then, they organized that data into themes and insights, which led to “How Might We” (HMW) questions. Next, participants created new and innovative ideas to answer these questions through several ideation activities using tried-and-true design strategies. They selected their top ideas, created prototypes to represent them, and tested their prototypes with community members who volunteered their time.
Finally, it was time to make their presentations to share about their ideas & prototypes, how these prototypes would answer their HMW questions, and how the team could realistically implement their ideas in Brooks. Community members scored each presentation out of 100 based on a rubric. The final scores led us to the highest-scored idea: a cultural festival that will celebrate the diversity of and heritage of Brooks residents. This event will include learning opportunities, cultural dance & music displays, and more, with the focus of bringing the community together and increasing understanding.
Our last session together was on Tuesday, October 17, during which participants determined what the ideal version of the Cultural Festival might look like. They worked backwards to determine the necessary steps and process to get them to their goals. They agreed that they need take actionable steps to learn what they can improve and adapt to create that final version of the idea.
The team created a timeline and an Action Committee, and individuals assigned themselves roles and responsibilities to move this idea forward over the next six months, including coordination, vendor support, web design, and volunteer support.
Overall, this process has been a significant success in Brooks. One participant shared, "[The Brooks Design Lab] opened my eyes to a lot of issues in Brooks that need addressing and prompted some amazing solutions," while another commented, "I like the collaborative piece and being able to give feedback on things that do affect our community."
We can’t wait to see the results of this team’s hard work to create community, belonging, and connection within Brooks, and we are so proud of their commitment and dedication to the project. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you for participating in The Brooks Design Lab and championing this process.