Operation Better Block

Civil Engagement

How can we support Homewood Brushton to be stable, economically viable, safe, and attractive neighborhood that is reasonably self-sufficient in its capacity to meet the challenges that it will continue to face?


Team Lead: Mari Zhang
Other Members: Ritika Mehta, Sapna Tayal, Gia Marino, Ella Moon, Ellia Yang

Community Partner


Operation Better Block

Fall 2021-Spring 2022

Human-Centered Design Process


define target problem spaces

How Can We's that define problem spaces to research

  • How can we support residents in Homewood Brushton?
  • How can we provide the residents of homewood with the tools to deal with issues surrounding home ownership?
  • How can we foster a stronger sense of community and support system in Homewood?
  • How can we push forward the economic development of Homewood?
  • How can we redevelop the area to increase sustainability and improve residents’ lifestyles?
  • How can we equip the youth so they are better prepared to achieve their goals in the future?
  • How can we encourage the residents of Homewood to participate in making their community a better place to live?

Initial knowledge and assumptions

  • Civil unrest resulting from the Assassination of Dr. King, historic lack of access to loans, and a decrease of local business activity have contributed to Homewood’s current conditions.
  • OBB’s core values include encouraging economic investment, fostering financial security, and creating strong youth leaders.
  • Residents are willing and able to communicate their needs and are open to receiving help and support given they are aware of the services OBB offers


understand your problem spaces

Empathize with stakeholders through personas or stories

Gabby is a leader within OBB who has expertise in interacting with residents and running events, but is less familiar with technology. While she wants to update OBB”s websites, she has ran into challenges instituting these updates. Additionally, she wishes there were more forms available for residents online so they can access what they need from home. She also expressed would like more information about voter registration to be provided by OBB as well.

Key insights from additional research

We interviewed OBB stakeholders to understand the inner workings and underlying problems the nonprofit is facing. In addition, we interviewed leading members of RISE (a non-profit centered in Hightstown, New Jersey) that faced and overcame similar challenges to gain insight on possible solutions to the issue of diminishing resident engagement.

Pressing Problems

  • OBB relies on outdated technology. Specifically, there is a lack of updated information online. Additionally, OBB does not have blank copies of forms available online, hindering resident’s ability to apply for and receive OBB”s services. This is especially detrimental because OBB instead relies on in-person methods that create a long waitlist for their service.
  • Residents do not follow OBB”s social media. Instead, their following comprises university students. There is a disconnect between OBB”s intended and actual audience online.
  • The pandemic has hindered engagement in community feedback meetings.

Desired solutions
  • OBB would like to create an organization database through BERTHA so residents can easily access their services and the services of other local nonprofits
  • Online, user-friendly resources should go hand in hand with on-the-ground outreach
  • Update OBB’s website.


define your goals and determine your impact

Narrowed down How Can We's to ideate for

  • How can we improve the connection between online means of communication and residents of Homewood?
  • How can we redesign the OBB website so Homewood residents can access all the resources, forms, and any other information OBB wants to communicate easily?

Specify qualities that would make a solution have successful impact

  • Increased youth involvement and overall participation within the community measured through user feedback and event turnout.
  • Measure the use of online resources to determine if OBB audience use these resources and can find what they need easily


generate a variety of solutions for meaningful change

an image of the project's preliminary ideas or prototypes


make your ideas into tangible projects

Final prototype

We began prototyping different directions for the OBB website. Here is the final draft we showed OBB stakeholders on 3/24/22.
Link to the full prototype: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1TZJaf2WsjKohm6MA9JqSorC5tVBq__bTtAiwr2JAAIQ/edit?usp=sharing

an image of the project's preliminary ideas or prototypes


get feedback to uncover insights and improve your solution

Quotes from users or experts about your solution

OBB stakeholders were impressed by the prototype and agreed with our major changes. Specifically, they agreed to the reorganizing of the website away from the administrative terminology of “clusters” and toward a program-oriented design. They also liked the idea of having headshots of OBB chair members in the “about” section, but warned that executive members of OBB preferred not having pictures of members on the website for privacy reasons.

Next steps based on the insights

  • Finalize prototype based on stakeholder feedback.
  • Conduct usability testing with members of the Homewood community.
  • Implement website redesign.