Lessons From the Classroom: Service Design Methods in the Community

August 31, 2021

Last year, Arjun Srinivas and Mariah Mills taught service design methods for Vertically Integrated Projects, a two-semester long course that engages students across levels and disciplines to work on a community-centered project. Led by instructor Shawn Harris, the class is part of Design Bloc at Georgia Tech, which teaches design methods to tackle complex problems. The course aimed to help an Atlanta neighborhood address community environmental issues. Through teaching, they pushed the boundaries of methods and explored how service design intersects with community-centered design. In this video, Mariah, Arjun, and Shawn reflect on learnings from last year’s design project and the next steps for community-centered engagement.

The Design Prompt: Alleviate Pollution while Building Community

Proctor Creek is a heavily polluted waterway on the west side of Atlanta that affects the health of the neighboring communities. The class’s challenge was to alleviate these issues by working with community partners at the West Atlanta Watershed Alliance (WAWA) and Chattahoochee Riverkeeper.

proctor creek gt designbloc

Service Design Methodology in Community-Centered Design

Many of the service design methods we use at Harmonic have the intention of furthering collaboration. We adapted design methods we commonly use in our practice to meet the objectives of this class. Students adapted some of the methods further to better suit the needs of their projects. One tool we highlighted in an earlier post, service origami, allows the interactors to reimagine the ecosystem of the places, people, tools, and even the values of a service or product. In this instance, it became a prototyping tool in which students could re-examine their initial ideas and find new ways to create value in ways that were relevant to the context of the community.

00:03:57:06 Ch 1. Designing Together, Equity Centered-Community Design

00:12:59:16 Ch 2. Service Design, Value Exchange in Complex Ecosystems

00:21:13:16 Ch 3. Pushing Practice Creating Space for Exploration

00:32:56:24 Ch 4. Designing Design Education

00:42:51:23 Ch 5. Takeaways

The goal of the effort was to connect with Georgia Tech students, the local community, and non-profit organizations, to lend our skillset to better the community while learning loads ourselves and pushing our practice in new ways. We hope to continue our work with Shawn and Design Bloc as they take on new challenges.

If you are involved with education, innovation, or community organizing and would like to partner with Harmonic, we would love to hear from you. Reach out to us here.

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