The Wellness Collective
The Wellness Collective works to support their local community by providing basic necessities through Mutual Aid. Previously, there was no standardized way to introduce the organization to potential members.
This made it difficult to build trust and convey TWC’s impact. Additionally, messaging around the organization needed to be mindful of their audience, because many people in the community are affected by scarcity mindset.
Julianna Bolivar (pictured in middle)
Stanley Ip, Anna Mathews, Emily Yu, Sophia Hao (from left to right)
The Wellness Collective
Fall 2022 - Spring 2023, Ongoing
Working with The Wellness Collective, a community-based aid organization
The Wellness Collective works to support their local community by providing basic necessities. They are based in Scott Township, but offer aid to anyone in Allegheny County. They bridge the existing gaps in social services through their Community Bank. This program has a Mutual Aid model, where “neighbors” can both donate funds as well as receive support. The community is able to uplift and support each other through interdependence.
When we met with the founder, Shanon Williams, she expressed her concern over how community members were affected by scarcity mindset; the belief that their resources are in constant scarcity, even when that individual is no longer living in poverty.
Our goal was to design recruitment materials that are both persuasive and human-centered to be mindful for the audience, many of whom have been through poverty/traumatic experiences.
We aimed to create a cohesive narrative of a community where you can ask for help as well as support those around you. We wanted to remove the stigma and shame of seeking aid, and use language that focused on unity and interdependence.
Understanding social services and the experience of community members
We conducted our research through interviews with Shanon Williams, founder of The Wellness Collective, and Tammy Thompson, founder of Catapult Greater Pittsburgh. These interviews helped us gain perspective, both from the view of providing social services, as well as first and second-hand accounts of the experiences of the community.
There were many similar sentiments shared by Shanon and Tammy. From their interviews, we learned that there is an "unspoken gap" in social services. These major agencies and organizations are stretched thin for resources, have strict guidelines for who can receive aid, and don't have a quick turnaround time for emergencies.
Besides a lack resources, many people have had issues with their lack of cultural competence and empathy, so users don't feel comfortable or understood by the staff. This is frustrating to deal with when the individual is already going through a difficult time.
As for the experiences of the community, poverty-related trauma cannot be easily undone, especially when a person has had to go through living in "survival mode." Going through extreme poverty takes a hit on a person's confidence. They may begin to blame themselves, and think that there is something wrong with them. This line of thinking can be damaging and does not address the systemic issues that exacerbate these situations.
Synthesizing stakeholder needs based on our research
These were the main insights we gained from our research methods.
Scoping the Problem
Shifting our mindset
Reflecting on our research and collaboration
As we entered the Reframe stage of the human-centered process, we reflected on how the collaboration with The Wellness Collective had been going so far. We had gained such valuable knowledge and were looking forward to ideation for our project, but we needed to consider TWC's schedule. Besides The Community Bank, they have several other programs running like Mental Health Speed Dating and Hire MOMs. Our project needed to be feasible not just for us to work on, but also for TWC to execute without placing burden on them.
Rapid ideation exercises based off of our research
Crazy 8's and Feasibility x Impact Chart
After coming up with a range of ideas through Crazy 8's and our Feasibility x Impact chart, we found that we were most drawn to the less feasible ideas. We needed to narrow down to a set of ideas that didn't require so much investment for our Community Partner. We continued our discussions with Shanon and began to think more about TWC's messaging; how can we help to build trust with the community in a way that is sensitive to their needs?
Getting feedback on our ideas and beginning our iterations
We presented The Wellness Collective's problem space and our ideas to members of Design for America. From this, we got over 40 responses of feedback about our ideas. We also presented our ideas to Professor Poepping, a highly respected faculty member at CMU who is involved with community work.
From the feedback, we learned that The Wellness Collective's process and member requirements were unclear. We needed to communicate these aspects clearly and to provide friendly visuals and language. Our peers were concerned about the language leaning towards a "marketing" tone rather than "sharing" this useful information amongst neighbors.
Won't you be my neighbor?
We created recruiting materials for The Wellness Collective based on our research and collaboration. Previously, they had no standardized way to present their organization to members of the community. Our goal was to convey a sense of friendliness, trustworthiness, and support.
Due to several constraints, we had not yet been able to directly communicate with our target audience. It would be incredibly useful to conduct research to evaluate how users feel about the branding and how effective the messaging is.
Cohesion and Content
In the future, it would be a great opportunity to revise the website to make the language and visual systems consistent. Additionally, we would have liked more content like photography and statistics in our final products.
Since we knew that The Wellness Collective already has several initiatives, we didn’t want to burden them. We originally wanted to do a bigger project about scarcity mindset, but instead pivoted to a project that would be more helpful to their organization right now.
Independence and Being Self-Driven
Since we were working with an small organization with a lot on their plate, we needed to do more work ourselves and not depend on our community partner for feedback. To make up for this, we needed as much communication as possible between ourselves and our community partner, and we received feedback often from our own organization.