Page 1

Josh Chadwick Andy Grossman

Walnut Hill Connect Published by

211 South Broad Street, 5th Floor Philadelphia, PA 19102 Copyright Š 2011

Submitted in partial fulfillment of requirements for degree of Master of Industrial Design at The University of the Arts, Philadelphia, PA by Josh Chadwick and Andy Grossman.

Approved by

committee chair Allen Glicksman

director Jonas Milder

advisor Imanni Wilkes

advisor Lorna Peterson

211 South Broad Street, 5th Floor Philadelphia, PA 19102 Copyright Š 2011

Special Thanks We’d like to extend gratitude to our committee members and the Walnut Hill community for their continued support during this project.

Copyright © 2011 by Josh Chadwick and Andy Grossman Illustrations copyright © 2011 by Josh Chadwick and Andy Grossman Photography credits: Page 13, © 2011 Allen Glicksman, Lorna Peterson and Imanni Wilkes; Page 18 © 2011Rick Kaempfer/Just One Bad Century; Pages 22, 23 © 2011 GenPhilly; Page 25, © 2011 Time Out Respite Program/Temple University; Page 32 © 2011Roman Krznaric; Page 33 © 2011 New York Times; Page 47 © 2011Google Images; Pages 60, 61 © 2011 Threadless; Page 78 © 2011 Deng-Shun Chang All rights reserved. No portion of this book may be reproduced–mechanically, electronically, or by any other means, including photocopying–without written permission of the publisher. Cover design by Josh Chadwick Book design by Josh Chadwick and Andy Grossman Masters of Industrial Design at The University of the Arts 212 South Broad Street, 5th Floor Philadelphia, PA 19102 First printing May 2011

Table of Contents 09 Introduction 17 Research 35 Define 53 Synthesis 57 Prototype 71 Observe 75 Evaluate 79 Reflection 84 Sources

Introduction Modern urban neighborhoods fail to foster social capital that will encourage a “healthy lifestyle” beyond the age of 65. A “healthy lifestyle” for someone older than 65 should include continued social engagement and activity with their surrounding community. The benefits of community engagement have a direct positive impact on a senior’s psychological and physical well-being. As we age, our need for close relationships within a community becomes more apparent, as well as our need for support as our physical capabilities start to diminish. An emotionally healthy and balanced level of closeness can provide this sort of support. Fifty years ago such support stemmed from family members, but today, as families have become less rooted geographically, the elderly can no longer expect to rely on them. It

is increasingly important that we have community engagement and support in our surrounding friends and neighbors. The Time Bank is working with Walnut Hill, a Philadelphia neighborhood, to create the community infrastructure needed to bring about these connections. However, even with their communtiy-focused local efforts, the Time Bank contends with isolated, distrusting residents, who fear for their safety and frequently relocate. As designers, we worked with the Walnut Hill Time Bank to assess their operations and give them tools with the purpose of helping them connect with residents. These tools aimed to help the Time Bank communicate and function in a manor that the residents were accustomed to and gave residents the ability to be independently responsible for the Time Bank’s promotion and success. 11


What is our design process? Much like other fields of design, Human Centered Design hinges on a process and set of core values. Without these values, the chance of a successful outcome is significantly diminished. The design process should include stakeholders with varying expertise to draw from. Integrating a variety of perspectives into this process both broadens and strengthens the foundation of the resulting design. Designers have skills and knowledge that is pivotal to the process, but rarely are they experts on everything that the project requires. For this thesis, we set out to promote senior independence in Philadelphia. Yet neither of us were experts in gerontological studies, city planning, community development or senior care; expertise would demand years of study. Instead, we connected with and leveraged networks of existing professionals who could contribute their expertise to our efforts. The title “expert” is not limited to professionals: some more knowledgeable experts on a given topic are the end users. In this case we’re referring to neighborhood seniors and other community members. Keeping the audience involved in the design process and generating feedback directly impacts the success of a project. It’s important for designers to communicate their ideas as they evolve. Guarding your ideas runs the risk of isolating them from feedback until it’s too late to make corrections. Instead, designers should publicize their ideas, gather critical feedback and adjust their design accordingly. Publicity can be as simple as illustrating an idea and asking for feedback, or as complex as creating a full-scale prototype for user testing. The steps of the design process are just as critical as the values themselves. The design process is most easily represented linearly, but in reality the process is organic and can pass through each stage as needed. Consequently, the design process is iterative and rarely has a definitive end.

Research: A project begins by gathering information. Expertise is not required, however the information should be sufficient to have a solid understanding of the subject. Define: As information is collected and your understanding evolves, so should the focus and goals of the project: its outline is thereby continuously informed by research. Synthesize: It is important to digest complex and disparate sets of information, process it and present it in a manner that is clear and easily accessible. Synthesis allows the designers to draw connections between separate sources of information, revealing points of entry for interventions. Prototype: Designers conceptualize tools or artifacts to address the points of entry they’ve discovered. They prototype their concepts so they can test them in “real world” scenarios. If designers don’t prototype their ideas, then they remain theoretical and lack the potential to have a meaningful impact. Observe: In tandem with prototyping, a designer should take the time to observe the quality of their product. Evaluate: Documenting these observations allows the designer to gauge the quality and impact of the design. This reveals whether or not the process warrants another iteration.


What does a designer bring to the table? Innovative Vision

Through out all forms of design there is a push to think innovatively. Striving for innovation has advantages when solving complex problems. This motivation encourages designers to look in new directions and draw inspiration from unexplored sources.


The best way to quickly understand a complex concept is with visual cues. Whether a designer is presenting a design proposal, or distilling research into palatable kernels of information, they use visual aids to facilitate this process. This helps designers process information and clearly present what the audience needs to understand their message.


Designers are trained to embrace working with others. They recognize that they will never hold the answers to all of the questions they face on a project. This prepares them to look outward to find the people who possess the knowledge that the projects needs.

External Voice

Rarely do designers work on projects where they are also the target audience. They are on the outside looking in and they need to relate to what the audience is feeling, thinking and wanting. While this can be challenging, it also gives designers a unique opportunity to say what the audience is afraid to, or possibly even unaware they want to say.

Story Telling

A designer’s ideas exists in a metaphorical vacuum unless they’re shared in a compelling way. By telling stories we relate our ideas in human terms and with human impact. These stories allow others to internalize the creative vision and imagine using our ideas themselves.


Who are our “experts?� As we researched senior care and community development, we formed connections with professionals in Philadelphia whose knowledge in their field of study proved beneficial to our project. The feedback we received from these contacts helped focus our project so that it would have real context and real life benefits. Of the people we reached out to, a few pledged their skills and knowledge to the success of this project, serving as academic advisers.

Allen Glicksman

Director of Research and Evaluation: Planning Department, Philadelphia Corporation for Aging.

Lorna Peterson

Project Manager: The Walnut Hill Street Team, The Enterprise Center Community Development Corporation.

Imanni Wilkes

Managing Director: Community Empowerment, The Enterprise Center Community Development Corporation.


Thesis Partnership

Department Critique

Join GenPhilly Network

Block Captain Meeting

Department Presentation

Time Out Respite Program

Advisor Meeting

Thesis Declaration





research observation interview mapping visualize brainstorming analysis prototype

Project Timeline 16


Street Team Canvasing

Time Out Respite Program

Meeting With Allen

Street Team Prototype Presentation

Documentation Submission

Meeting with Superfluid

Walnut Hill Mixer

Street Team Canvasing

Block Captain Prototype Presentation

Exhibition Opener





12:49 pm

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The Social Science Research Institute, The Population Research Institute, The Pennsylvania State University, 803 Oswald Tower, University Park, PA 16801, USA Department of Sociology, The Population Research Institute, The Pennsylvania State University, 601 Oswald Tower, University Park, PA 16801, USA

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Article history: Received 22 September 2009 Received in revised form 19 March 2010 Accepted 2 April 2010

Most studies of the predictors of stress focus on individual characteristics. Linking multiple contextual data sources to an individual-level health survey, we explore the associations of both built and social environment determinants with self-rated stress. At the individual level few social factors were significant predictors, although neighborhood trust and food insecurity have independent effects on stress. At the neighborhood level, the presence of hazardous waste sites and traffic volume were determinants of self-rated stress even after controlling for other individual characteristics. The latter two factors are of relevance to public health policy as they are potentially modifiable. & 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Keywords: Self-rated stress Built environment Multilevel analysis Philadelphia

1. Introduction

can draw on land use, crime, transportation, and infrastructural databases. Our goal was to add to the stress research literature

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Research Across academic journals, sociological studies and other research sources, several themes emerged as they relate to our thesis. Among these themes there is a clear correlation between mental well being and independence; social class and health; happiness and social recreation

and co-equal investment in mutually beneficial endeavors. Put another way, the likelihood of social capital (see page 28) to succeed is linked directly to the soundness of the social networks already in place.


The Chicago Heat Wave of 1995


Chicago community areas Highest heat-related death rate Highest percentage of persons below poverty level Highest violent crime rates Highest percentage of aged persons living alone

During the Chicago heat wave of 1995, from July 11th to July 17th, approximately 750 heat-related deaths were reported. The temperature peaked on July 13th at 106 °F to set the second hottest temperature in July since records began. The peak heat index was 119 °F at O’Hare Airport and 125 °F at Midway Airport. Hospital admissions were up 11% that week and senior-admissions were up 35%. High crime rates, poverty rates, and a large number of elderly persons living alone were all factors that contributed to heat-related deaths. High concentrations of fatalities where seen from individuals residing in areas where these factors overlapped. Whereas some Chicagoans had friends on whom to rely, some seniors who lived alone literally baked in their homes. The majority of these isolated seniors were men, less inclined to call upon neighbors or friends than single women of the same age group. Communities with socially engaged residents were more likely to help each other in this time of need; so much so that even those who were socially isolated from the community but were geographically connected felt the support of the community.


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25% 40% hospital admissions 22

nursing home admissions

Environmental factors aren’t the only threat to people as they age. It follows that we become less physically able as our bodies age. 13.2 million seniors suffer a fall each year and more than half of those falls occur in the home, accounting for ¼ of all hospital admissions and 40% of all nursing home admissions. The stark reality of this data is that 25% of admitted fall victims die within the year. The number of senior citizens aged 65+ living in the U.S. is steadily and exponentially increasing: whereas there were 15M seniors in our country in 1950, we have 39.6M currently living in the U.S. And by 2030, a projected 72.1M seniors will be living in the U.S.: 19% of our country’s population. Clearly, the demographic cannot be ignored.

25% die Admitted fall victims

within a year.

A growing demographic

65+ 85+


80 mil

72.1 mil [19%] 70 mil

60 mil

39.6 mil [13%] 50 mil

40 mil


30 mil

2010-2050 projected

20 mil


10 mil



Who is GenPhilly? “...a group of like-minded professionals from a variety of fields who actively participate... to make our city more age-friendly.” The GenPhilly Network functions as a forum for professionals in the aging community to gather, discuss, and critique their actions towards making Philadelphia more age-friendly. Community leaders, city officials, activists, architects, accountants and others participate in the GenPhilly Network for the opportunity to exchange new ideas with people they may normally not have. We joined The GenPhilly Network to meet the movers and shakers in Philadelphia’s aging community. We wanted to know what efforts were already underway to address the aging demographic that was poised to grow, and how designers might fit into the picture. Over the course of several meetings, GenPhilly guided this project toward a platform to promote social capital.


Who else can we learn from? Next, we sought out other successful programs in Philadelphia where seniors remained in their homes and received emotional and physical support from externally arranged, non-family visits. This search revealed the Time Out Respite Program at Temple University. As described on Temple University’s website, “Time Out is a model intergenerational respite and home support program in which college students provide quality, low cost services to families caring for the frail elderly.� Seniors participating in the Time Out Respite Program are 50+ years old, lower-income and often on Social Security. The director, Susan Smith, explained that a senior will always feel a level of initial distrust when meeting a student for the first time and that the relationship should be built on genuine friendship - care is secondary. A caregiver must find common ground with the senior through natural engagement. Once this is accomplished, the senior is noticeably happier and more alert after spending the day with a student.


Time Ou

t Respite

City Hal



ity of the



Something to offer

Each individual in a network has their own unique sets of talents or tools that sets them apart from the rest of the network.

Better together

By combining skills and resources, the entire network and the individuals in the network should all benefit.

What is social capital? Social capital refers to the support and resources individuals have access to as a result of the networks they are connected to. The essential building blocks of social capital are collective efficacy, psychological sense of community, neighborhood cohesion and community competence. The paper Social capital: a guide to its measurement tells us that when properly employed, people are less likely to die when they’re invested in social capital. And just because a group project sees its completion, the connections established between participants will foster continued future social capital. It is a natural transformation and depends on reciprocity, trust and shared goals. Older people’s perceptions of the neighborhood: Evidence from socially deprived urban areas shows us that a lack of social capital can be the result of people or geography so it’s important to understand both before employing strategies to encourage it. 28

What does social capital have to do with older adults? Social activity will naturally inspire the social capital to support seniors as their health deteriorates. Maintaining social interactions is directly linked to one’s physical (and mental) well-being. As evidenced in Social Butterflies Appear to Age More Gracefully, the link between a senior’s socialization and their physical health was seen in an examination of 900 subjects over the course of 5 years. Socialization requires strong social networks, defined in Social Capital and Successful Aging: The Role of Senior Housing as the “resources available to individuals and groups through social connections and social relations with others.” This refers to the links and interdependency among friends, family, or any social structure with an exchange of knowledge, beliefs, prestige or sexuality. Social Capital and Successful Aging also points to the resiliency of social networks in their ability to benefit even those not directly linked to the people participating. Social activity will naturally inspire the social capital to support seniors as their health deteriorates. The study suggests clinicians prescribe this social activity just as they might recommend exercise and to quit smoking. We’ve learned from Temple University’s Time Out Respite Program that being engaged with one’s friends and community at an advanced age shows marked improvement in alertness and happiness (physical and psychological benefits).

Federal government spending on elderly benefits. Data taken from Dennis Cauchon’s article “Senior benefit costs up 24%” in USA Today.

35%of budget As of 2007, senior benefits is the largest monetary function of the federal government.

Each block represents ten billion dollars spent.

$601 bil.

$952 bil.

in 2000

in 2007



Health Care & Nursing Homes

Social Security

$37.7k Minimum individual cost of living for retirees.

Cost of nursing homes and home health care.

Projected average cost of medical expenses after retirement.

Data taken from “Average Cost of Nursing Home Room Tops $70,000 a Year,” an Elder Law Answers article.

Data taken from “Retiree health cost estimate falls, for a change,” an AARP article.

$70.1k $61.7k


private $300k


Average annual cost of a nursing home room.

$18.00 per hour

Average rate for home health care.


in 2010



in 2011

in 2002




1.3 mil

Received home health care in 2000.

7 in 10


Patients were over 65.





“As people prepare for their retirement and assess their asset and income requirements, it is also essential that they plan for the possibility that they will need assistance with day-to-day living.� Sandra Timmermann, Ed.D. director of the MetLife Mature Market Institute

What is the cost of social capital? The financial benefits associated with keeping seniors physically, mentally and socially active are substantial: felt across families and entire communities, says the Tufts University Health and Nutrition Newsletter. And Social Capital and Successful Aging makes clear that while nursing homes may provide good care and social opportunities for residents, the rising cost is prohibitive for many. Planned care environments, on the other hand, offer the possibility for community integration and keeping daily routines intact for seniors. Failing to recognize the value and importance of social capital is devastatingly costly. Considering the amount our government and individuals already invest into senior care, there are insufficient funds to cover an increased burden on senior care in its current state. 31

What is the condition of social capital in the US? Robert Putnam is cited in Social Capital and Successful Aging arguing that the deterioration of social capital in the U.S. is a growing concern among those seniors who might depend on it for survival as they age. Proximity alone will not foster strong enough relationships for social capital. It is necessary to support and maintain social capital as we age. “Aging in place,” as it’s called and referred to in the article Aging at Home: For a Lucky Few, a Wish Come True, is a complicated matter. Seniors who lose their independence require assistance in a variety of ways from a variety of caregivers including medical providers and their community members. These parties must be willing to work with an aging senior in their home, on the senior’s schedule, to ensure efficient in-place aging.


What if I don’t need support? Some models, such as Beacon Hill Village in Massachusetts, argue that one way to keep seniors independent is to get them involved directly with their community before they become irrevocably dependent. Members may join the community at a younger age (as young as 50), citing enjoyable activities and convenient home services such as plumbing and grocery shopping as enticing benefits. All this, however, has proven expensive: a household membership at the time of this writing costs $890/yr. The problem with the Beacon Hill model is that it doesn’t account for older adults’ need for greater assistance as they continue aging. Social capital must also keep these adults in regular contact with formal health and social services to ensure uninterrupted care in each neighborhood. Too much independence can be detrimental to seniors. If they don’t remain well integrated in their social circles, they might cross the “loneliness threshold” identified in Centrality of social ties to the health and well-being of older adults. This is distinct from isolation. Since there exist very few documented scales or techniques for measuring senior social networks, “there tends to be an inadequate reporting of the psychometric properties of social support...” and the types of recommendations we make depend on exactly what we hear, see, and learn from the seniors we’ve identified.


Patricia Moore as an 80-year old

Patricia Moore in her 20s

What do graduate students know about how seniors live? Maintaining perspective is essential to improving something (the Time Bank, in this case) without making it “our own”. Patricia Moore’s lectures and experience concerning empathic research teach us that it’s easy to think of seniors as “other” from us. Their well-being depends on widescale participation from younger people and their population of fellow seniors. “It takes a village...” is a phrase that gets at the root of this problem: an inclusive model is necessary for the eradication of “grey ghettos” of forgotten people. Fortunately, people tend to agree on what makes a neighborhood “good”. We could point to universal qualities identified in Older people’s perceptions of the neighborhood: Evidence from socially deprived urban areas which held true across age, gender and ethnic backgrounds. Consequently, any experience we had as younger adults from outside Walnut Hill shouldn’t matter. 34

This program was created in 1999 to think about how technology might offer us practical solutions to take advantage of today’s increasing life expectancy. The MIT Age Lab designs products, services and policies which aim to improve future quality of life.



Define After speaking with our academic advisers and communicating with the leaders of the Walnut Hill Time Bank, we discovered that our efforts should draw upon the concept of using social capital to help seniors “age in place.� The Walnut Hill Time Bank is already taking steps to foster relationships in neighborhoods that can help seniors age more gracefully, however these

residents also represent a larger segment of the population that may not be able to afford alternative forms of senior care. Therefore, we proposed a new question: How can design help the Walnut Hill Time Bank strengthen the connections they have already made, and establish new ones in areas that are unresponsive to the program? 37

Who lives in Walnut Hill? We set out on our own to explore the neighborhood; walked the streets for hours in the daytime and evening, visited shops, engaged in conversation with strangers and ate at local restaurants. We took pictures, asked questions, even gave directions. We took the train and commuted with residents. After a couple of weeks, the two of us developed a cursory understanding of what made Walnut Hill unique. In the course of our visits, we spoke with a variety of people to get a better understanding of who our user was. Hearing people’s speak their mind was the first step in exposing the community issues and where design might be able to help. The following character profiles serve as examples of Walnut Hill residents, workers and volunteers who comprise the population we engaged with. Names have been changed to protect their identities and, in some cases, profiles are an amalgam of individual stories.


“I’ve lived in Philadelphia all my life but Walnut Hill doesn’t feel like home.”

“There’s no love in the city of brotherly love.”


Works in Walnut Hill, but doesn’t belong. Pearl, a shopkeeper at the Brown Sugar Bakery, dresses casually and keeps her hair pulled back up under her hair net. She lives in Northeast Philadelphia but doesn’t mind the commute to her bakery on the corner of Chancellor St and 52nd St. The bakery has been around for 11 years, and Pearl, with a noticeable Caribbean accent, has lived in the Philadelphia area for about a year. She has no family in the Philadelphia area but she appreciates Philadelphia’s diversity. She’s shy, doesn’t have many local friends to rely on and isn’t actively involved in any community functions.

Pearl Age: 33

Walnut Hill doesn’t feel like home. Tamika is fit and carries herself professionally. She has an inviting smile and kindly agreed to be photographed. Tamika currently lives at 52nd and Chancelor and works at the Foot Locker on 52nd Street and Market as a sales associate. She has been living in West Philly since she was 11 and has lived in the Walnut Hill area for 3-years at 52nd and Chancelor. She likes the neighborhood because many things are convenient by foot but dislikes how few supermarkets there are nearby. She has 2 children (aged 9 and 11-years) and spends a lot of time with her mother who lives on the other side of West Philly. Her cousin lives up the street from her current residence. Most of her friends are from her old neighborhood (62nd and Vine).

Tamika Age: 32

The problem with her current block is that it is “drug infested”. Consequently, she trusts her neighbors and depends on them to keep a watchful eye on her children when she can’t. One event she and her children look forward to each summer is the annual block party. This gives the neighbors a chance to sit on their building steps with their children and talk to each other. Mostly senior citizens and young kids populate her immediate neighborhood. Because of the underlying danger in this area, she still considers her old neighborhood at 62nd and Vine “home”. Tamika doesn’t own a car so SEPTA is her primary mode of transportation.


She doesn’t care for city programs because they don’t offer services that are relevant to her and her children (nor are they as comprehensive as the YMCA and Free Library that are already in her area, which her children use).

Hopeful for community action. Abe is a larger man with a beard and crooked teeth. When he speaks, he is visibly passionate about social change, regardless of what neighborhood he lives in (Abe prefers to stay on the move and travel across cities, worldwide). He currently lives at 46th and Brown Street and earns a modest living as a street vendor selling music mixes. Abe has lived in his current home at Brown and 46th for 2 years but grew up in North Philly. He appreciates the level of diversity and progressive thinking in the area but fears the influx of youth centers bringing angry young people to the streets. He explains that fighting is rampant in the streets and makes this a dangerous place for everyone.

Abe Age: 39

From his corner he’s seen people fall on the ice and watch as other people walk by without assisting. He says block parties aren’t effective ways to bring cohesion to a neighborhood because not everybody gets involved. For example, some people don’t move their cars and others get discouraged from participating. He has no immediate family in Philadelphia and says he has “no love for the city of brotherly love”. He sees another move (perhaps abroad) in his near future. Abe would be interested in participating in a Time Bank but candidly shares that he finds such efforts “ineffective” because they’re not well organized.

Rather not be indebted to others. Jay has a lengthy beard and narrow, darting eyes. He wears strong cologne. Jay currently lives at 52nd and Christian and works as a store manager at the local T-Mobile shop.


Jay has lived in his current home for 10 years and feels “stuck” in the neighborhood. Jay doesn’t know or care for many of his neighbors and keeps to himself. He doesn’t want to be taken advantage of and doesn’t want to have to rely on others for favors. His grandfather has lived at 60th between Christian and Webster for 40 years. He is friendly with all the other seniors in the area. He used to own his own company selling cellular phones but had to sell it. He did not say why and prefers to stick to his routine at T-Mobile.

Age: 33


Powerless and alone. Ms. Margate is afraid to shop in her immediate neighborhood: the street gangs terrify her. Even though her bank has a branch across the street from her home, she travels to Germantown to withdraw money, buy groceries and attend church services. Even parking her car is a constant struggle - confusing alternate side parking schedules and handicap regulations means she and her neighbors are fighting tickets on a regular basis. When it snows, days pass before some sidewalks are cleared (if at all) and there’s little cooperation with those who own snow throwers. Ms. Margate says Mayor Nutter doesn’t care about people in her situation. It’s everyone for themselves and with few resources, every day is a struggle.

Ms. Margate Age: 75

Proud of her independence. The Walnut Hill Street Team checks in on Ms. Cody at least once weekly. Yet like many of her peers, Ms. Cody admits that seniors don’t like to be “checked up on”. The irony is that just a few weeks prior to our discussion with the white-haired woman she was suffering from a severe case of pneumonia and endured an extended stay in the hospital. Ms. Cody has a generous smile. She lives with her brother and her miniature pinscher. If it weren’t for the Street Team’s visits, Ms. Cody would find herself disconnected from Walnut Hill. She lives in a beautifully maintained home at 50th and Ludlow, which she proudly explains came in second place for the Phila More Beautiful contest. It’s been her home for 50-years.

Ms. Cody Age: 68


Although she has been block captain for 15 years, her age and limited mobility makes it difficult for her to be on top of everything without twice-weekly visits from the street team. She’d like to bring the success of her block’s tree planting, garbage cleanup and beautification to other blocks in Walnut Hill but can’t do it alone. A network of like-minded neighbors and organized collection of required skills would be invaluable to see her vision to fruition.

Won’t take ‘no’ for an answer.

Mr. Thomas

A 55-year old resident, Mr. Thompson loves his community. He describes how different Philadelphia is from the rural upbringing he had as a boy in Illinois. “It’s all about the people,” Mr. Thompson declares. “I love seeing all the people walking about, chatting with each other and looking out for each other. But it’s not enough...” He trails off and then explains that gang violence is a terrible problem on the streets of Walnut Hill. “I have the bullet holes in my truck to prove it,” he says with a tough-guy laugh. But he is a tough guy; a man who stations himself on corners at 3:00AM to talk to the young people who have no positive adult influences. Mr. Thompson recognizes the need for residents to band together and work towards taking their corners and blocks, one at a time, back from the street gangs. He wishes that people would organize themselves and work towards mutually-beneficial community goals.

Age: 55

An aspiring teacher. Since Mrs. Harris passed away four years ago, Mr. Harris, a retired electrical engineer, finds himself with a lot of free time on his hands. He plays solitaire and volunteers at the Free Library three days a week, however he can’t shake the feeling of loneliness that follows him around. Mr. Harris always enjoyed building with blocks as a child and later, experimenting with solderless breadboard kits from RadioShack. He tried to arrange a children’s workshop at the Free Library but abandoned the idea after the organization’s bureaucracy wore him down. Mr. Harris would prefer to teach kids in his home workshop, after school, noting that it will keep them out of trouble and teach them a valuable trade.

Mr. Harris Age: 70


stre et vendors are common

doe sn’t fee l at home

52nd street is Ma in Street

wa nts mo re commu nit y

gath ering at McDona ld’s

sidewal k in disrepa ir

dr ug de ale rs

snowy walkway

fam ily run sto res

Fre e L ib ra r

y o f P h il ad

e lph ia

ia Wes t Ph ildelph


Early impressions Starting down Walnut Hill’s Main Street (52nd), we took snapshots of some obvious challenges elderly residents faced: sidewalks in disrepair, uncleared icy pathways, menacing drug dealers and local shops with limited business hours. The pictures we collected painted pictures of a neighborhood in some ways unwelcoming to people of any age, let alone seniors. We reached out to both the West Philadelphia YMCA and Free Library on several occasions but were ignored and turned away. Gathering information would be difficult if we failed to partner with the right social advocates already in place. GenPhilly helped us identify the problem and our intervention point, yet it seemed we would have a difficult time finding a partner organization within the neighborhood with similar goals to ours. 45

Who are the The Street Team The Enterprise Center, CDC started the Street Team in 2007 as a “pro-active, door-to-door outreach program for residents of Walnut Hill�. The Street Team hits the sidewalk twice a week to distribute neighborhood program information. The team is made up of Walnut Hill residents who inspire a sense of community and function as a dynamic communication system within the neighborhood. The Street Team functions as much as a physical newsletter as they do an at-home caretaker, ensuring the well being of each resident. At nearly every turn, Street Teamers greeted residents by name with smiles and hellos. They dutifully knocked on doors to share stories and news with residents who invited them to sit and stay for a while.


community advocates?

Block captains and street team members discussing strategies for better community engagement.

Block Captains Residents who, with or without city recognition, act as coordinators, representatives and advocates for the others living in their block. Having met several block captains over the course of our engagement with Walnut Hill, we can say with some authority that block captains are much more than coordinators, representatives and advocates. They are the community drivers who push for beautification efforts, monitor crime, check in on their neighbors and build communities from blocks; the ones you turn to when you have a question or a problem in the neighborhood; they see to it that streetlights are working and sidewalks remain clear; they can be found at block captain meetings representing those who can’t represent themselves; they get positive things accomplished for their block by visiting City Hall and holding elected officials accountable. 47


The Ente

46th Str


52nd Str


Market S

Market S


Who is our client? The Enterprise Center (TEC), founded in 1989 by the Wharton Small Business Development Center, houses a community development corporation (CDC). With the motto, “The future of business is here,” TEC was created to assist minority entrepreneurs succeed in the marketplace locally, regionally and globally. The Walnut Hill Time Bank operates out of TEC and is funded by grants. Similarly, The Center for Culinary Enterprises and Urban Farms are two examples of local business which work to improve access to healthy food in communities and schools and rebuild blighted infrastructure. It all boils down to community economic development. The Walnut Hill Time Bank functions from within TEC-CDC as a resource for sharing services between participating residents. Although the organization is self-described as a source of inter-generational neighbor-to-neighbor connections, they function not unlike an informal group of friends coordinating a block party or renovating a neighbor’s kitchen. They exist to foster trust between residents in West Philadelphia and do so by exchanging credits as currency.


rprise C


Time Ou

t Respite

City Hal



ity of the



How does Time Banking work? Time Banking, put simply, is spending and saving time as if it were money. Each hour of your time spent helping someone in your community goes into your Time Bank as a “Time Dollar”. Your banked Time Dollars can then be redeemed for services from other members of your community Time Bank. Members earn Time Dollars after each service they complete and can spend them on other services listed on a centralized Time Bank website or directory. As described on, “Time Banking is about local individuals helping each other out, one-on-one or with group projects. They help rebuild neighborhood networks and strengthen communities.” Services are as varied as the members of your community: from gardening to marketing and everything in between. It is possible to go into debt, of course, however this isn’t a big deal. A member must receive in order for others to give and so debt is normally a temporary issue. The core ideology behind the Time Banking model is about strengthening community through reciprocity. The most successful Time Banks incorporate a diverse group of participants, foster a range of skills and encourage new membership on a regular basis. “It is a ‘pay-it-forward’ system [in which] you don’t have to figure out what to give back to the person who helped you. You can choose how to pay it forward doing what you want, when you want.” 50


+1 Successful Time Banking depends on diligent reporting and logging of hours. For example, if you were snowed in and unable to clear the snow by yourself, you would first check with your local Time Bank to see what services other members were looking for. You would then see where you could help (say you enjoyed babysitting) and offer your time rendering that particular service. This exchange would be coordinated through Time Bank representatives and leave you with credit in the network which you could spend on snow shoveling. 51

How did we engage the community?

In addition to our meetings with block captains at The Enterprise Center, we understood that we needed a metaphorical “ticket” into the community to move further, and arranged for some canvassing sessions with the Street Team. Through these meetings, a great deal of the direction and motivation for our interventions arose. We listened to stories, asked questions, laughed and lamented. The anecdotal feedback we collected from block captains in these meetings allowed us to shape the prototypes according to their desires. These meetings were our “home base” during the project; a venue to discuss our thoughts openly and vocalize our plans. We observed facial expressions, body language and tone of voice, all of which contributed to shaping our understanding of our audience and the problems we aimed to solve. Block captains and street team members were our direct liaison to the community. They lent us a degree of credibility we would have sorely lacked otherwise. They invited us into residents’ homes and graciously volunteered their time. With the Street Team, we took these findings and compared them with what we observed while canvasing blocks. The level of understanding we gained by first getting to know some block captains beforehand - and, later, continuing to meet with them throughout the project calendar - made our time canvasing exponentially more productive. In addition to canvasing, formal meetings with the block captains and street team members allowed us to get to know these residents as human beings: grandparents, sisters, brothers and volunteers. “My sister keeps an eye on the street at all times. If it’s happening outside her window, she knows about it.” And the block captains got to know the two of us as well. This level of conviviality allowed us to more realistically discuss the work we were engaged in without using platitudes. Frankness was common in both our presentations to them and their evaluation of our work, which allowed us to create the most realistic solutions to their challenges. 53

Synthesis Synthesizing these observations over several weeks and repeated meetings, we returned to our studio for some lengthy brainstorming. We asked ourselves (as well as our peers) where might design benefit the residents’ and Street Team’s work, how we could help without getting

in the way and what operations already worked well so we might extend them. Drawing from our research, interviews and observations, some key points emerged for consideration. It came time to compare what we expected with what we heard, observed and eventually understood. 55

What process did we observe? We quickly realized that the Time Bank’s services were insular - any participating resident interested in either sharing a service for credit or receiving services was limited by who else they knew was also a participating resident. Additionally, outside contact with Street Teamers or TEC-CDC was necessary to get a transaction started. And once such steps were taken, communication relied on computer access to record time dollar credits. Since computer access was limited for many of the seniors in Walnut Hill, many transactions went unrecorded.




Resident Turnover With so many residents moving into temporary housing and others passing away or moving farther outside the city limits, resident turnover is unusually frequent on some blocks in Walnut Hill. Neighbors might have a shorter amount of time to meet each other and establish trusting relationships.

Lengthy Engagement with Residents Learning what residents need, want and can provide was a time consuming process. We observed that Street Team members would enter a resident’s home, offer flyers and handouts with upcoming event schedules and chat about current events. On average, this exchange took 45-75 minutes, making it difficult to visit many houses in a single outing.

Computer Access Anecdotaly, we learned that many older Walnut Hill residents seek computer access roughly once per quarter. We took this into consideration and decided to stay away from social media, mobile platforms and online directories (see Community Directory).

Publicity Barriers Unless neighbors already spoke to each other, word of the Time Bank was privileged. Residents weren’t provided an outlet to publicize their participation where it mattered most: at home. While the street team had their own customized t-shirts and jackets, we were surprised to see no posters, stickers, or t-shirts for participants to display.

Directory Accessibility While an online directory makes sense for most organizations, many residents in this community do not interact online. An online directory provides no benefit to the Time Bank network if the members can’t interface with it.

Unrecorded Transactions Due to the separation many residents have from the Internet, many transactions go unrecorded. It is excellent that some residents don’t need the incentive of Time Bank currency for these exchanges. However, this alienates those who need this incentive and limits the network’s ability to expand to include these new members. 57

Prototype We sought to provide simple, easyto-update, tangible tools to help the community, the Street Team, and the Time Bank. The results were simple paper products and documents. Portable, lightweight, inexpensive and reproducible after we’ve gone, these prototypes are playful and engaging ways to aid the

Street Team in their efforts to make Walnut Hill a better place to live work and play. We conceptualized these tools to address deficient branding across the organization’s tools and materials, which served to more clearly communicate the group’s mission.


Service Cards The character/actor service cards save time and effort when meeting new residents and encouraging involvement with the Walnut Hill Time Bank. By reducing the initial cognitive load required to establish talking points through play, these colorful cards represent and convey complex ideas using simple iconography. A process which took upwards of 45-minutes without these icebreakers now takes 5-minutes and yields more actionable information for the street team and residents.


Directory A contact repository for participating members, new residents and block captains. This prototype consists of an easily-maintained MS Word document, complete with editable macros and form elements which house a member’s name, contact info, headshot and skills if applicable. It improves on the web-document the Time Bank currently uses and which the community has limited access to. 61

Membership Swag This tool gives the residents the ability to showcase their membership to the neighborhood and give the Time Bank a community presence. We’ve represent it here as a t-shirt, but it could any number of forms of swag like a window sticker or a flag to hang on your porch. These artifacts help spread program awareness and expand the network of skill-sharing Time Bankers as well as reinforce legacy membership. The swag reinforces resident incentives to engage with each other and populate the Time Bank with valuable services. 62


Transaction Pad This simple paper pad prototype offers a way to record Time Banking transactions between residents in a way that is fast and doesn’t require a computer. Each page offers a carbon copy receipt and a copy which can be transferred to the Time Bank for electronic recording at a later date. This way, a master database can house the community’s transactions and individuals can take charge of theirs individually. The pad also affords participants to “donate” their banked hours to another member by designating a participating recipient’s name on the same copy.


Brochure This simple tri-fold document allows the street team to quickly spread the word and invite new residents to the program. Using simple iconography and precise descriptive text, the document is an artifact which lingers in the person’s hands and home, keeping the team’s presence in the front of their mind. The brochure would ideally be paired in some form of a conversation to act as an effective communication tool for the Time Bank. 65

I can never get this computer to print!

I should call those nice people with the Street Team about getting help from the Time Bank.

ST 1 I








terprise Center The En and of the Arts y t i s r e v i Un

Join Forces!


Can I help you?

We’d like to learn a bit about what services you might need, and what you can offer.


Hello Ms. Earlene, We’re the Street team!

We’re here to talk to you about joining the Time Bank.

Do Come in!

Her computer troubles...

Look through these cards and put anything that interests you in the thumbs up slot.


s. Earlene told the street team about herself.

and Her love of cooking.

Here’s your Directory, Transaction Pad, and t-Shirt.


s. Earlene was given the essentials to participate in the Time Bank.

Thank you so much!

She was proud to be part of the Time Bank.


he glanced at the Directory and found someone she could help.

I could teach Josh how to cook.

Josh and Ms. Earlene had a blast cooking together.

They formalized the exchange with the transaction pad...

And submitted it for credit.


nd Ms. Earlene used her credit to get help with her computer.

If you hit “crtl” and “p” at the same time...

Observe The methods we used to gather data and record the significant characteristics of our findings were not unlike a detective’s work: recording pictures, audio, notes, sketches and visual diagrams (not to mention the venerable Post-It) combined

to form a clearer understanding of what made Walnut Hill Connect worth pursuing. Several themes emerged when we observed how our audience received the work we produced. 73

Ineffective Visuals Prior to our outings with the street team, we created a postcard to visually represent and explain the benefits of social capital - something we could hand out and leave with residents while going door-to-door. We immediately found this to confuse the interaction: residents didn’t know whether to focus on what we were saying or to read the postcard. It didn’t communicate very effectively without us to answer their questions and lacked any form of interactivity.

Volunteerism vs. Time Banking We observed residents participating in the Time Bank exchanges without receiving compensation. The act of helping a neighbor was enough incentive for these residents. We tried to expand these acts of kindness by allowing individuals to help each other by donating the funds they earn as well. However, once a value was attributed to these acts of kindness they were reluctant to share. They universally expressed frustration with the suggestion of added steps and would prefer not to keep track of hours they wouldn’t redeem themselves. Many Time Banks have forms devoted specifically to donating hours, however we’re not confident that the Walnut Hill community will embrace the option.


Friendly Competition We observed a strong response to the suggestion that active Time Bankers receive recognition for their participation. Beyond the positive reinforcement of this recognition, it also has the potential to create friendly competitions between neighbors to see who can earn the most credit. Publicizing these friendly competitions goes a long way towards encouraging others to get involved.

Analog Transactions Residents made clear their desire to see, hold and physically submit receipts for their time dollars spent and received. This departure from the earlier online-only model will likely shape the way future Time Bank participants interact with each other and The Enterprise Center. Computer access will no longer be a barrier to entry and a greater number of transactions will hinge on social interaction. This reflects the core values of Time Banking as well as how older residents feel about exchanging credit.


Evaluate After researching, defining, synthesizing, prototyping and observing, it came time for perhaps the most meaningful part of this project: evaluation. We felt strongly about understanding exactly what impact our work had on the Walnut Hill community and whether it would last. We wanted to learn about what we did well and why some efforts were misguided. Synthesizing allowed us to compose the disparate components of the project into a meaningful whole, and evaluation was a chance to asses and reflect on these months’ work. Speaking with our client as we handed off digital copies of our design tools, it was clear that The Enterprise Center CDC was eager to continue using them in the future

and to share our work with Time Banks USA. The prototypes were basic enough that they should be adaptable for a variety of Time Banks across the country. How they will be used is unknown, but we look forward to seeing how our ideas evolve in the future. It was also necessary to keep our work in perspective and understand that the tools themselves were not the only result of our research and design. We heard from our client that the approach some Street Team members took to their tasks had changed. Handling our prototypes and weighing their effectiveness during role playing exercises and in residents’ homes changed the way we viewed the initial problem. 77

Brochure This concept was the least successful one we proposed. While some Street Team members truly appreciated having the option to leave concise literature with residents who wouldn’t have time to speak right away, we later heard that people are sick of brochures and wouldn’t read them. Inspired by this mixed response, we’ve decided the material might prove beneficial in the future and we are including it in the final toolkit.

Directory We received feedback that acknowledged the value of giving members a directory they could actually interface with. They appreciated the steps that this concept took toward making the Time Bank more self sustaining by the residents. There was concern expressed about privacy though. The Time Bank is an opt in program, but members may still not want to share private information like their home phone number. The directory can easily omit this information, but there is still the risk of deterring residents from joining the Time Bank.

Service Cards The officials of the Walnut Hill Time Bank were drawn to concepts that encouraged direct interaction between residents and workers. Namely, the service cards that were designed to facilitate discussions. They were drawn to this concept because the structured process helped facilitate the interaction and prevented the discussion from meandering on tangents. As an activity it was fun, but it also helped the workers stay more productive. While presenting this concept to the Street Team, without prompting they began role playing to test the effectiveness of the cards. This proved to be an excellent training exercise to become comfortable with the tool. We witnessed actors enjoying the acting, and viewers getting excited by the results of the tools. This exercise also highlighted that practice is helpful as some Street Team members became shy and bashful when asked to take the role playing stage. The exciting test, however, was once cards were in the hands of residents unfamiliar with the Time Bank and its services. One 87-year old woman found our introductions confusing. She asked us to repeat our examples several times and wasn’t sure of why we were in her home. The service cards allowed her to review information at her pace, understand the services visually and see how the Time Bank could benefit her. By the time she placed a handful of cards in the box, she was discussing her daily routine with us. Although they depended on the woman’s willingness to speak with us at all, the service cards afforded quick and effective communication beyond what words conveyed. 78

Membership Swag The Time Bank liked these tools because they let the community publicize the Time Bank instead of that responsibility falling solely on the Street Team. They also appreciated that the visible community presence would give non-members people to look up to as a method of drawing new members into the network. The concept resonated particularly well because it paralleled the success of their own Street Team member shirts and winter jackets. We commonly witnessed passersby go out of their way to say hello to members on canvasing outings. When one resident donned a prototype Time Bank member t-shirt, she exclaimed, “This is great! I’m going to wear this out when I pick up my husband later,” and wore it for the rest of our interview. The graphic treatment echos the Walnut Hill Street Team’s existing t-shirts, jackets and literature yet is more stylized, bold and distilled. We felt it more effectively communicated their mission and matched their verbal identity.

Sentence Starters These cards were designed to be distributed at group meetings to collect feedback. However, we were only able to test them while canvassing the neighborhood. The Street Team recognized that they might be excellent tools for inspiring conversations with shy or hesitant residents but in our tests with residents they broke up the flow of face-to-face conversation. The key to their usefulness, we suspect, is in presenting them upfront, in a group setting and using them to kick off the conversation. The sentence starters are ineffective when introduced midway through a conversation.

Transaction Pad The transaction pad was a runaway success. It made tangible what was previously a nebulous online transaction. Older residents quickly understood the value of a “time dollar” and could keep track of their credits at home. They appreciated the flexibility of handing off their receipts to Street Team members or mailing them to The Enterprise Center at their convenience. It’s our opinion that Time Bank participation will greatly increase if residents are encouraged to use the transaction pads.


Reflection Why are our days numbered and not, say, lettered? -Woody Allen

This was a project of iterative testing, failing, listening, testing again and learning. With each step came a new perspective: one that evolved over the course of these months and shifted from viewing social capital as a construct

limited by definition to seeing it where people already depended on one another. Our understanding of age changed. Our understanding of aging changed. Trust, dependency, community and family took on new meanings. 81

Feeling like outsiders As graduate students at an art school, much of the work’s success hinged on making a meaningful connection to those directly involved with our efforts. Trust, as in social capital, proved essential to our relationship with Walnut Hill, the Time Bank and the Street Team. Despite our best efforts, there remained a level of disconnectedness between our vision and what the Street Team responded to: our excitement for some interventions, such as the service cards, was met with equal enthusiasm. But others, such as the brochure (designed to help the volunteers communicate their mission) were not so interesting to our audience. Our role, as designers, demanded that we remain impartial and respond to our audience’s needs. We quickly recognized when our presentations became more like sales pitches and adapted our strategies accordingly: create only what the audience will effectively use. It’s important to remember that we weren’t asked to intervene, yet we inserted ourselves into our client’s operations to evaluate and critique them. It seems reasonable that we were met with resistance. Earning the clients trust was necessary to achieving an equal investment in the project. Although we came away from our project’s engagement with meaningful professional contacts, it’s important to remember that our work was initially uninvited and the commitment we asked for was not inconsequential.


Hindsight’s 20/20 Anyone should expect a learning curve when entering an unfamiliar field. As we’ve acknowledged, the best way to overcome this lack of expertise is to have adequate research with which to approach the problem and to form community partnerships. The GenPhilly Network gave us the ability to connect with professionals, organizations, and residents from Walnut Hill. Connecting with the Gen Philly Network proved to be the most decisive hinge point of our process. One can only speculate how differently our work might have developed if we made that connection sooner. We might have had different results if we were more a part of the Street Team’s social circle. Personal and professional connectedness might have benefited from devoting at least a couple of weeks in our project to working in The Enterprise Center’s offices and possibly even taking up temporary residence in Walnut Hill. These actions would have been helpful steps toward showing commitment to the project and enticing a coequal investment from other participants.


Decisions worth repeating What we’ve achieved with this project is certainly not limited to the Walnut Hill community. The project should serve as an example to draw upon as other community organizers reach out to their residents. With this in mind, here are some aspects of this project that are important to maintain in other settings.


Do your research. Diving headfirst into the breadth and quality of research that we did enabled us to identify social problems early and easily recognize them when it came time to explore Walnut Hill. This kick started our engagement and gave us a degree of credibility when meeting with professionals. Discussing their work in the context of education and design (and with some knowledge of their contributions) shows that you value their time. They, in turn, will be less likely to waste yours.

Become part of the community. Taking some initiative and embarking on unchaperoned visits proved invaluable to our big-picture understanding of the neighborhood, without which we’d only have half the story to work with. The Walnut Hill we observed with the Street Team was a much friendlier place than that which we experienced alone.

Form the right partnerships. Perhaps the most effective choice we made was to connect with the right professionals from the beginning (in our case, via GenPhilly). Philadelphia is a city teeming with networks of activists in a range of fields. To ignore these resources would be to work in a vacuum. Although seven months sounded like plenty of time at the outset, it proved far less than we would have liked. Time management aside, the assistance and expertise of others were like getting several years’ head start. We owe much of the success of this project to them.

Iterate, iterate, iterate. Come up with as many ideas as quickly as possible. Test these ideas as quickly as possible too. You want to find out which ideas aren’t working as soon as possible so you can move on to the ideas that work. Simply put: fail fast so you can succeed faster.

Include the audience in your process. Nobody will be more critical of your concepts than the end users themselves. This sort of feedback is imperative to developing a successful product. Much like the speed of iterations, this should also happen as quickly as possible. 85

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Walnut Hill Connect  

A University of the Arts Master of Industrial Design thesis exploring the impact of design on urban social capital and time banking.

Walnut Hill Connect  

A University of the Arts Master of Industrial Design thesis exploring the impact of design on urban social capital and time banking.