Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Enterprise Community Partners

Enterprise Community Partners is a national non-profit organization and leading provider of capital and expertise for affordable housing and community development.

Their mission is "create opportunity for low- and moderate-income people through fit, affordable housing and diverse, thriving communities."

The company has developed a Green Communities program that operates nationwide developed specifically for affordable housing. "We focus on the use of environmentally sustainable materials, reduction of negative environmental impacts and increased energy efficiency. And we emphasize designs and materials that safeguard the health of residents and locations that provide easy access to services and public transportation."

Through the Impact! Design for Social Change program at the School of Visual Arts, our group was assigned to help Enterprise Green Communities solve the following challenge:

After visiting two buildings that were in the process of becoming Green Communities, speaking to many of the tenants, and sending out a survey, it became clear that the tenants had a global view of a green community but were not aware that they were living one or exactly what that entailed.

We spoke to tenants to find out if they were aware of the changes made in their building and what benefits these changes provided. We also asked if they were aware that they lived in what was considered a green community.

After gathering data, the problem became clear. We would not be able to change people's behavior in regards to conserving energy, water, recycling etc because they were disengaged. There was an obvious gap in communication between tenants and Property Managers who were not communicating effectively the changes in the buildings. Efforts had been made but people were not reading the information or it was not enough for the tenants to feel informed.

Tenants were thrilled with some of the obvious changes, like new appliances and kitchens but they did not know exactly why they were getting new items or how they really benefitted from them. Tenants also felt like they were not being heard. Therefore the challenge had to be reframed.

The solution was to focus on improving communication and keeping tenants informed. We proposed a solution that included signage...

that addressed new items in the building such as dimming lights in the hallways to conserve energy, to tips on how to reduce waste like signing up to stop receiving junk mail. The signage was created in a very simple format that could easily be reproduced and changed into another language.

Another part of the solution is for Enterprise Green Communities, the CDCs and Property Managers of the building to organize a kick-off event where people would have a chance to gather in a friendly environment and open the paths of communication. The idea is that the CDCs will explain what is happening in each building in cases where remodeling or construction is taking place. They will then talk to tenants about a Green Communities Campaign and selecting a leader to implement this campaign throughout the building.

The leader would serve as an intermediary between tenants and Property Managers which would improve communication since the tenants would now have someone representing them. Having a leader would also diminish the feeling from the tenants of having someone impose something on them.

The Green Communities Leader will be selected through a voting process. Once again a poster was created to be easily customized and edited without the need of having to use a computer or a designer. The candidates can write down their information and provide a photo to be pasted on to the poster.

A toolkit was developed to be given to the leader. The kit provides materials, recommendations and information created to empower the leader and help him implement challenges that will engage the community and encourage them to participate in activities that will improve their environment. These challenges address recycling, reducing energy consumption, etc.

All the templates, posters and signage that were created were intended to be printed on a home or office printer or place like FedEx Kinko's to reduce costs and waste by printing only on an as needed basis. The Property Manager should be able to print materials easily.

Enterprise Green Communities received the proposal enthusiastically and are exploring opportunities to incorporate the suggestions in their final product.

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