public sector

Redesigning the Social Safety Net

Redesigning the Social Safety Net
Moderator: NADINE LEVIN, City of San Francisco Panelists: MORGAN G. AMES, University of California, Berkeley; , Monumental; MITHULA NAIK, Canadian Digital Service The past two years have laid bare that we inhabit a world with enormous and increasing inequality. We've also seen a decreasing level of faith in public programs and institutions to provide quality health care and education or even fair access elections. And the very systems designed for the betterment of all are often siloed and ineffective. This session comes at a time when policy and regulations affecting social safety net benefits are more in flux than usual in many countries. Using the tools of data, design, activism, technology, and innovation, these panelists have led an ethnography-forward approach to reimagining these systems and move toward safety nets that work for all. Panelists Nadine Levin, PhD, is an anthropologist, Rhodes Scholar, and UX researcher who focuses on improving equitable access to technology. After several years of academic research...

Reconnecting with the Public: Participatory Research and Co-creations within and outside a Public Institution

LOK YI LEE Brandnographer XINYI JIANG Brandnographer Despite constraints on face-to-face meetings and social distancing policies under COVID-19, with the help of online tools, Brandnographer successfully conducted a series of online activities to facilitate stakeholders from different age and background to immerse themselves in situated scenarios, then to design and visualize their ideal public services in the future. This paper discusses how a participatory approach and design thinking framework have helped the researchers and decision makers collect thick data from the service users, transform user insights into prototypes for reiteration and concrete design principles. On the other hand, how the blurred identities in between observers, participants and designers have stimulated discussions and design possibilities by supplying real-life scenarios and evaluation on solution feasibility. Article citation: 2021 EPIC Proceedings pp 43–57, ISSN 1559-8918, https://www.epicpeople.org/epic...

Futures in Things: Locating the Promise of Infrastructures in Public Libraries

SANDJAR KOZUBEV Georgia Institute of Technology CARL DISALVO Georgia Institute of Technology Public libraries in the U.S. and around the world are rapidly changing due expanding technological and social needs of their communities. The Covid-19 pandemic has intensified the debates about the future of public spaces and public services. In this paper, we report on a qualitative study of librarians in a U.S. urban public library system. The focus of the study was to understand how the concept of “the future of library” is constructed and contested both socially and materially. Using mixed methods, including participant observation, interviews, participatory design and action research, we developed insights about the socio-political dynamics of futures in a public infrastructure. We argue that futures can be shaped not only by socio-technical imaginaries, and representations, which tend to be abstract and distant, but also by socio-material conditions in the present. Specifically, drawing on the work of infrastructure studies,...

Anticipating the Unanticipated: Ethnography and Crisis Response in the Public Sector

CHRISTINA CHEADLE Stripe Partners HANNAH PATTINSON Surrey County Council This case study emphasizes the importance of ethnographic research in the public sector, specifically regarding emergency preparedness and crisis-response. In the summer of 2020, Surrey County Council in England commissioned a mixed-method Community Impact Assessment to better assist and serve their residents during the Covid-19 pandemic. Stripe Partners conducted the place-based ethnographic work, helping discover insights that led directly to strategy change. The ethnographic and quantitative research went hand-in-hand and led to rich and meaningful insights that were able to confidently convince decision makers to create change. Our ethnographic work validated many of the quantitative findings, while simultaneously providing the depth that allowed them to accurately and most usefully allocate resources for change. We researched how local communities had been affected by Covid, conducting on-the-ground interviews in seven different towns in the region....

How Ethnographic Methods Make APIs More Usable

abstract design
by LIBBY KAUFER and MARIA VIDART-DELGADO, Ad Hoc LLC Ethnographic methods that center systems-thinking, how knowledge is constructed, and how knowledge is shared among communities are the best approach for developing collective digital products like APIs. Application Programming Interfaces, commonly known as APIs, connect the front-end interfaces we see when we navigate the internet (like websites and apps) to the back-end systems, or databases, that store information. APIs enable people to carry out transactions online, like purchasing goods, booking flights, or applying for government benefits. While they are invisible to end-users, APIs are crucially important to developers and to the way many websites, programs, and applications function. Like codebases and databases, APIs are objects consumed collectively and collaboratively by teams of developers who work together to integrate front-end to back-end systems, run tests, and monitor and troubleshoot integration issues. In the context of APIs, typical UX research methods...

Change Agent: Lessons on Power and Failure from Eight Years of Systems Research & Policy Design

CHELSEA MAULDIN Executive Director, Public Policy Lab PechaKucha Presentation Drawing on nearly a decade of research and design engagements with U.S. federal and municipal governments, I'll describe a gap between intended outcomes of government policies and the lived experience of people affected by those policies. I'll discuss how that gap arises from variances in the decision-making agency of policymakers and members of the public. Next, I'll discuss how human-centered researchers and designers attempt to equalize government/public agency though interventions in the policy decision-making cycle. Then I'll suggest criticisms and shortfalls of current human-centered approaches to improving policy and service-delivery systems, including researchers and designers’ tendencies to amplify complexity, to extract value from the public, and to accept status quo inequality. Finally I'll propose that, when using research and design as tools for positive policy and systems change and increased agency for marginalized peoples,...

Designing for Dynamics of Agency in NYC Homeless Shelters

NATALIA RADYWYL The Public Policy Lab; The School for Visual Arts Public sector innovation (PSI) is an emerging multidisciplinary field that is attracting practitioners from a wide range of sectors and industries, with a correspondingly broad set of skills and experience. PSI aims to significantly improve the services that a government has the responsibility to provide by taking a user-centered, partnership-based approach, from service content development through to methods of service provision (OECD 2012). Yet the work is complex and not without risk, if undertaken without appropriate foresight, thoughtfulness, and rigor. In particular, when it comes to pursuing PSI in the design of social service policy and its provision, some of the more substantial risks lie hidden in systemic power imbalances that can easily be exacerbated, despite practitioners’ best intentions. This article uses a case study about homeless service provision in New York City (NYC) to offer a candid portrayal of undertaking research and design work in...

Automation Otherwise: A Review of “Automating Inequality”

by DANYA GLABAU, Implosion Labs What if we thought differently about how to integrate human and machine agencies?  Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the PoorVirginia Eubanks2018, 272 pp, St. Martin's Press As I sat down in to write this review of Virginia Eubanks’ latest book, Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor, I couldn’t help but consider it in light of the growing restiveness among tech workers in response to their companies’ perceived ethical lapses. Rank and file employees have begun to speak out against the use of big data-driven software systems and infrastructure for ethically questionable ends like warfare, policing, and family separation at the United States-Mexico border. To date, these protests have mired several public-private contracts between government agencies and some of the world’s biggest tech companies in controversy, including Google’s Project Maven, a collaboration with the Pentagon...

Automating Inequality

VIRGINIA EUBANKS University of Albany, SUNY EPIC2018 Keynote Virginia Eubanks is an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University at Albany, SUNY. Her most recent book is Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor, which dana boyd calls “the first [book] that I’ve read that really pulls you into the world of algorithmic decision-making and inequality, like a good ethnography should,” and Ethan Zuckerman calls “one of the most important recent books for understanding the social implications of information technology for marginalized populations in the US.” Eubanks is also the author of Digital Dead End: Fighting for Social Justice in the Information Age; and co-editor, with Alethia Jones, of Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around: Forty Years of Movement Building with Barbara Smith. Her writing about technology and social justice has appeared in The American Prospect, The Nation, Harper’s and Wired. For two decades, Eubanks has worked in community technology and...

Human Sensemaking in the Smart City: A Research Approach Merging Big and Thick Data

ANNELIEN SMETS imec-SMIT, Vrije Universiteit Brussel BRAM LIEVENS imec-SMIT, Vrije Universiteit Brussel This paper aims to contribute to the debate on the integration of ethnography and data science by providing a concrete research tool to deploy this integration. We start from our own experiences with user research in a data-rich environment, the smart city, and work towards a research tool that leverages ethnographic praxis with data science opportunities. We discuss the different key components of the system, how they work together and how they allow for human sensemaking....

Can I Get a Witness? The Limits of Evidence in Healthcare Quality Evaluation Systems in American Hospitals

LINDSAY FERRIS Ad Hoc, LLC NICHOLE CARELOCK Ad Hoc, LLC “I got verbals, but verbals don’t hold up in court….I need it in black and white.” After Sheila submits hospital quality data to the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS), reports indicate that her data hasn’t been received. She makes countless calls to the CMS Help Desk to get answers. They reassure her numerous times that they have her data, yet Sheila is insistent that she needs to see the change explicitly stated in the report. Sheila makes it her personal crusade to obtain material evidence because only written testimony will prove that her data has been submitted successfully and protect her facility from CMS penalties. At a time when we are becoming increasingly reliant on data and technology as the ultimate bearers of truth, Sheila exemplifies how people become stewards of evidence in service to these technical systems. As she moves her facilities’ data through CMS’ error-ridden reporting system, the burden of proof is on her to provide...

Changing the Perspective of Government

EMMA SAUNDERS Empathy MAILYNN STORMON-TRINH Empathy STEPHANI BUCKLAND Previously Empathy Case Study—This case study highlights the value of ethnography in changing a client's perspective. New Zealand's productivity has been deceasing, and the government wants to reverse that trend. Empathy's government client believed that macro-level forces were having a major impact on the productivity of small businesses, and wanted to suggest ways for small businesses to directly combat those forces. Empathy conducted ethnographic research, and the results required the client to change their perspective. While the government client saw increased productivity as a means to increase the standard of living, ethnographic research revealed some small businesses see increased productivity as a threat to their values and standard of living. If the government wanted to increase productivity, they were going to have to change tact completely and start talking to and supporting small businesses in a way that took their fears, motivations, beliefs...

The Mixed-Up Files of a 21st Century Librarian: Changing Demographics, Conceptions of Democracy, and The Public Library

ALANNAH BERSON University of Chicago With the rise of the internet, the role of the public library as a distributor of education, skills, and cultural capital has come under question while continuing to grow increasingly vital. This paper examines how libraries are dealing with changing technology while negotiating their relationship with their diverse patron populations., Using the concept of chronotope, a specific space and time that gives rise to a particular understanding of a person's character or an idea, this paper explores conceptions of patrons through systematic assumptions about patrons’ background and needs. Through the library's continued inclusion of technology in its services, it seeks to reach out to more patrons and support existing ones. This paper makes clear the connections between the current state of the library, its diverse audience of patrons, and the need for new ways of measuring library usage to generate a more nuanced understanding of patrons....

Taking Sides in E-cigarette Research

RACHELLE ANNECHINO Critical Public Health Research Group, Prevention Research Center TAMAR ANTIN Critical Public Health Research Group, Prevention Research Center In the last ten years, an eclectic mix of electronic nicotine delivery products (‘e-cigarettes’) and practices have proliferated in the US with little restriction, producing a vast array of vaping mechanisms, flavors, and styles. At the same time, anti-tobacco movements have targeted e-cigarettes as a threat to public health and advocated for restricting e-cigarettes in much the same way as conventional cigarettes. While anti-vaping proponents associated with public health movements have typically regarded e-cigarettes as primarily harmful products that should be suppressed, vaping advocates regard e-cigarettes as harm reduction products that should be readily accessible to smokers. Distrust between these two warring “sides” animates the controversy over e-cigarettes. In our role as researchers conducting a qualitative study on e-cigarette use, we encountered...