COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT

The Process Wheel was drawn from a variety of experiences and grounded in the methodology of community-based participatory research. It evolved as the John Hope/Brown partnership grew and developed. Every project begins with the collection of both qualitative (such as staff and student preferences for certain crops over others, or desire for more programming in a certain area) and quantitative (such as soil quality and type and shade patterns) data. Then, the projects go through multiple iterations involving the participation of Brown and John Hope students and staff. Projects range from infrastructure development to events to education to community engagement. Some projects are revisited as the needs and desires of the John Hope community change, while other projects are complete after implementation. The Process Wheel is imperfect, but has served as a useful model for phasing our projects.

The tire garden project is one example of how we have used the Process Wheel. The idea originated from an initial site evaluation (ASSESS) and discussions between John Hope staff and students in the “Sustenance and Sustainability” course at Brown in the spring of 2012. Both staff and students were interested in a designated outdoor gathering space with seating for students and teachers (BRAINSTORM). John Hope community members explained to Brown students that the design needed to address child safety, material cost, and site security (SOLICIT FEEDBACK). The students produced a final plan that addressed these needs (REFINE). In May 2012, the students washed and installed ten used tires, which they salvaged at no cost, in a circular arrangement with a flowerbed in the center (IMPLEMENT).

When the summer began, John Hope students in the Early Learning Center were able to play and learn together in the tire garden. And our project didn’t stop after the tires were installed. During a larger qualitative survey conducted by a Brown student researcher about the use of on-site outdoor spaces, John Hope staff communicated that the black tires were overheating under the sun and expressed a desire for more color in the outdoor spaces. In July, the student researcher painted the tires the seven colors of the rainbow!

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