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How can design help reduce competition and enable collaboration for gardeners, farmers, nonprofits and local government? PROJECT SUMMARY As designers we are contributing to Philadelphia’s urban agriculture movement through an application of design strategy. We are applying tools and actions to further transparency and to facilitate honest, open communication to build cooperative systems. Our process included conducting a number of interviews, dissecting the movement through mapping and city comparisons, and applying literature reviews and key terms to clarify our work. The research led us to reorganize Philadelphia’s urban agriculture movement into a cohesive system, through the development and implementation of a collaborative content management system. The system acts as an organized resource database and a networking communication tool. From the start of our thesis, we have been adamant about including growers, nonprofits, and city government officials in our design process.

We spoke with a number of nonprofits that are connected to urban agriculture including those interested in greening, nutrition education, sustainability and local food.

We met with gardeners and urban farmers who are all effected by the resources and support provided by nonprofits and city government programs.

We interviewed members of the departments given the responsibility to lead and develop the urban agriculture initiatives as outlined in Philadelphia’s Greenworks Plan.




PROBLEM Growers, nonprofits, and government have created a vast myriad of resources that are available to people in Philadelphia. However, it is clear that many of these resources are still unknown to the people that need them most because there is no centralized hub housing the information. As a result, the needs of growers in the city are not being met. If growers were given the information they needed, they could more successfully organize growing projects and farmer’s markets, allowing nonprofits to act as supports rather than organizers. Unfortunately, it is also apparent that competition exists among and between the stakeholder groups. Competition causes people to distrust one another and to lose sight of their missions. This creates a lack of honest communication and diminishes transparency, which in turn holds back a number of action plans that have been proposed for the improvement of urban agriculture in Philadelphia.

Food Security!

Food Culture! Vacant land use! Sell More Food!

Grow More Food!

Consolidate everyone.

People slow me down. How do I sell food?

Beautify the City!

Must write new policies.

I can’t finish anything!

Eat More Food!

2. Present efforts are not coordinated.

Can I grow food here?

I’m tired of this process.

Nutrition Education!

1. No one sees the whole system.

While mapping we attempted to layer who was connected to who, where funding was coming from, and how the missions of organizations and individuals related. However, we eventually concluded that for the three problems listed above to be solved we would need to find a way to remove the names, histories, and reputations of the individuals and organizations involved. We instead focused on organizing only what has been accomplished.

Money is tight.

Healthier City!

We have observed three problems that must be addressed before the action plans can be fulfilled. They include:

3. Work is stagnant because the future plans of the stakeholder groups do not align.

Food Access!

No grants this month.

Who do I talk to? I always need money.

Healthy Eating! How can I do my work?

Healthier City!

Initial Excitement

Realities of Sustaining Your Efforts





SYSTEMS. INFORMATION. ORGANIZATIONAL DESIGN. 1. LISTING THE RESOURCES We first visualized the system as a whole by listing all of the resources available to members of the movement, including tools, services, and programs. Next, we coordinated the available resources by categorizing them based on their functions, not their developers. We believe that this will open up communication because it removes the names, egos, histories, and general reputations that are associated with organizations and individuals. Finally, we have used the process of framing to present the information in a way that allows each member of the movement to focus on developing innovative solutions for areas lacking resources, rather than contributing redundant efforts.


Marketing Your Goods

Maps that show gardeners and farmers the land available for growing, as well as areas for volunteering opportunities.

Assistance and consulting for starting markets, marketing educational materials, business software packages and assessment guides.

Growing Gardens & Farms

Distributing Your Goods

Courses and guides on how to grow food in urban environments. They cover a variety of methods such as traditional farming, SPINfarming and plasticulture.

Methods for handling and packaging your goods, locations of distribution venues, and locations for donating surplus produce.


Meeting Your Peers

Classes, guides and certification courses for composting in Philadelphia. Also includes services and locations for compost pick-up and purchase.

In person locations for discussing green topics, online networks, and methods for publicizing you message.

Planting Trees

Impacting Teens & Adults

Courses, classes, and guides on fruit-tree production in the city. Also includes methods of forming and maintaining orchards.

In-school programs and internships for teens. Programs, plans, and resources for adults.


Advancing Children

Workshops and classes on how to build hives, methods of caring for bees, and locations to purchase bees and equipment.

In-school and extracurricular programs for encouraging healthy eating and living for children as well as the basics of growing food.


1. Select A Category

2. Search Tools

3. Connect to Resource


thesis poster