Woodville Community Gardens
ABOUT THIS PROJECT
In this project, the application of service design to community gardens was explored in a local Savannah neighborhood, Woodville, as part of an EPA CARE program to reduce pollution from industry, address local health risks, and promote wellness care. This project delivered emergent systems for bringing the community together, connecting generations, and transferring tacit knowledge.
In The Media
Check out Jeff Howard’s interview about this project of Nick Remis
and me, on a
Design for Service.
The community of Woodville was established in 1871, and only in the past thirty years was it incorporated into the city of Savannah. Prior to that, it was a thriving and robust community, largely based around agriculture. However, the arrival of big industry changed the face of the community.
Older residents described eating their lunch picked from trees, while walking down the street. This is no longer the case. The community garden project seeks to not only provide the community with a source of fresh and low-cost fruits and vegetables, but also to help youth develop practical skills and reclaim the community’s history.
- Average annual Woodville income is
$35,000, however 39.29% of households
live on less than $15,000.
- About 400, out of the approximately
600 residents are over the age of 60.
- The vast majority of residents own
- There are 117 empty lots, about three
quarters of which are owned by senior
- Historically, Woodville was an independent community, with a mayor, and the lots were used for farming.
- Incorporated into Savannah, residents
must comply with the law requiring that
grass levels be maintained no higher than
- This is a huge financial burden on older
residents, who spend $600 to $1000
annually to comply.
EPA Grant Opportunity
Prior to our involvement with Woodville, the community had successfully secured an Environmental Protection Agency CARE Level II grant. The grant covered many areas of community environmental restoration.
Working with Woodville on this grant were organizations such as Harambee House and the Chatham Environmental Forum.
EXPOSING THE SERVICE ECOLOGY
We began by mapping all of the existing partnerships, which exposed collaboration and miscommunication between partners.
Stage Holder Interviews
With the foundation laid by the two previous SCAD classes, we explored working with Woodville.
When we first met the community leader, Tyrone Ware, there were already plans to break ground on a community garden. The readiness to begin was the reason we decided to work with Tyrone and Woodville.
After gaining understanding of the problem space with the stakeholders, we wanted to gain an understanding of the alignment between community members and their leaders.
This involved spending a lot of time in Woodville understanding the dynamics and needs.
We used co-design to begin to uncover the expectations, desires, and motivations of Woodville residents to better direct our eventual design process. We met with many of the residents during an Earth Day event hosted at the Woodville Community Center. We interacted and learned from them via three different co-design activities.
We brought elements of possible service evidence with which to co-design. One of these was a blank newsletter with a cover that could be of an actual Woodville Garden newsletter in a year or two's time. Each of the sections was blank and created based on our contextual inquiry.
At the Earth Day event, we discussed what elements would go under each of these headers. My partner and I graphically facilitated the co-design sessions right inside of the blank newsletters. This exposed residents’ desires beyond the limits at the time, to utilize the medium of urban agriculture to influence the community.
During the course of the project we interviewed and talked to all sorts of people connected to the community garden project. We talked to community members, community leaders, and managers of other local community gardens. From our co-design and activities we arrived at a set of findings that guided our design solutions. These findings were:
- The community wanted a true community garden.
- There was a need to track the garden involvement of individuals.
- Current interactions with the garden are ad-hoc.
- Youth involvement was a crucial part of the garden’s success.
- Much information regarding the garden was spread via word of mouth.
- There was more interest than there was involvement.
- Kids want to work in the garden with their friends.
- Creating a sense of ownership in the garden for the community was vital.
- The community’s seniors provided a fountain of knowledge regarding gardening.
- Woodville was (and still is) an independent community that took initiative for itself.
- Teaching kids and education was an important component of the garden many residents wanted to see included.
- Interest spurred from action, not planning.
- The garden was a place to foster and improve inter-generational relationships and communication, preserve and bestow historical memory and tacit knowledge.
To determine the validity of our
proposed designs we employed
experience prototyping. We
paper prototyped our designs and
after a brief self-review, went to
Woodville to try them out. Our
first round of prototyping was on a
Saturday when some of the youth
from the community were
spending the morning tending to
the garden. We conducted a second
round of testing the next week after
making revisions based on our
findings. After a final round of
role-playing and acting among
ourselves, we finalized our designs.
Spreading the word about the project was key to priming residents to be recruited for the
garden. To help make sure everyone was aware of what was going on, we developed a set of
iconography to help communicate the values and benefits offered by the community garden. These symbols were placed on church fans to be handed out at local churches, and directly on garden stakes so that these values and benefits could be reflected in the gardens themselves.
The biggest hurdle to any nascent organization or project is recruiting volunteers and participants. Woodville already had an existing community leadership and a system of block captains.
We utilized this structure to hand out both plants and seed packets to residents to initiate their garden participation and get people to the garden so they could see and experience it for themselves.
Tracking and Managing the Garden and Its Volunteers
To create a sense of ownership and
space in the garden, an in-garden
board known as Garden Central
was created. This touchpoint
worked to show who was working
in the garden and housed forms
used by the garden coaches, which
could later be transferred to the
Management of the garden work and its volunteers is essential for day-to-day operations, planning, and project sustainability and growth. We developed a series of forms for logging information to address this, and created an accompanying digital database to easily record all the information gathered, and to make record keeping easy.