The identify step in the design process involves understanding the problem for the community partner. This information is collected from the project proposal and the initial background that is provided by the community partner. The most important aspect of this step is examining the prior knowledge, assumptions, and personal experiences we hold as a team regarding the problem. This is important to being able to analyze the problem further from our own personal experiences. Identifying these biases early is also essential to conducting effective interviews and further research into the problem in future steps. Another part of the identify step is to broaden the scope of the issue by identifying problem spaces where this issue arises. This part gives the team an opportunity to understand the issue holistically, and be able to clearly state the issue that is being addressed.
Most of the information collected from our community partner, YMCA, spoke at a national level regarding pool closures and the lack of diversity in lifeguard hiring. The prior assumptions we held were that lifeguarding is a temporary and seasonal job, which is often undesired, and that there is a history of non-participation of minority groups in aquatic programs due to former segregationist policies. We broadened the scope of the issue by identifying some problem spaces: lack of swimming lessons in underserved communities, cultural definition of the image of a lifeguard, and accessibility to and from YMCAs. The identify step is important because it gives the team an opportunity to conceptualize their current assumptions of the issue, and create big picture how-can-we statements to understand the long term goals of the project.
Some of our initial how-can-we statements were:
How can we interest teens of color in Houston to apply at the YMCA?
How can we advertise lifeguarding positions to people of color in an appealing and transformative way?
How can we modify a solution that works in Houston, to a solution that scales to more cities?