For our Sustainable Practices in Design course at SCAD, we had to privilege of working with a well-established, beloved community non-profit: Healthy Savannah (HS). HS was in their second of five years of a CDC grant called Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH), and they gave us the opportunity to find and co-design a system intervention to expand the efforts of their health equity work under this grant. Our target demographic was “African Americans of low-wealth” in Savannah, a historically disadvantaged group with disproportionately higher rates of chronic health issues, such as diabetes.
Through extensive secondary research of the best methods for working with vulnerable or underprivileged communities and primary research with HS (including a participatory art piece), we rewrote their digital community survey (to better reflect their current work and data gaps). We also created a simple design that would help support all their work simultaneously, without dramatically increasing their workload: Neighborhood Hero, a Little Free Library. Neighborhood Hero would refer visitors to their connective health database (Called HERO), provide brochures for local resources, and have the built-in flexibility of becoming a food drop-off and community data collection hub.
In our early research stages, we were impressed with all the existing healthy equity initiatives Healthy Savannah champions. We knew our small design would need to support the future of their thoughtful work, and that listening to their expertise was imperative to a meaningful design.
At the Savannah Black Heritage Festival Health Fair I led a participator art project that helped assess the target community’s hopes for the future around health. All ages participated excitedly. Based on our research on working with vulnerable communities, we knew that communities were often not asked about their dreams, only how outsiders could solve their problems. Therefore, it was important to us, to amplify the community’s values and ask about their dreams around a healthy community.
With direction from our partners and the community we were serving, we brainstorming solutions to make HS’s work tangible and visible to the community while promoting the community’s own values and knowledge. We were grateful for our other community partners from Bowers and Associates and Repurpose Savannah who stepped in to help build what became known as Neighborhood Hero, the physical connection to health resources.
We presented the first Neighborhood Hero Little Free Library to our partners with the idea that the work could go far beyond our momentary efforts. Children or artists in the black community would paint the box before it was installed at a local community center or in the target community’s neighborhood with hopes of inspiring more like it.
Due to the Covid19 pandemic, installation of Neighborhood Hero has been postponed, but we are excited about the potential for this Little Free Library to support the future work of Healthy Savannah and depend connection in the community so they may share their own best practices and resources around health with each other.
UPDATE FALL 2020:
The “Healthy Hub” (aka Neighborhood Hero) is now installed on a Trail at Lake Mayer Park.