Independently created a project proposal and detailed direction, actively bridging team alignment for future project execution and client expectations.
Established a clear system for tracking project process, which took place over several months— designing in flexibility to navigate ambiguity and unexpected challenges. This allowed for the team to research and design successfully, while delivering beyond client expectations.
Conducted primary and secondary research to later translate into complex data visualizations to collaboratively analyze and extract insights with the team.
It is imperative to pause during the research to understand how it might later take shape visually to assess gaps and potential research that should be further done.
Project management spreadsheets can easily become complex and unusable, it's better to use a system that allows for more flexibility as project needs develop.
The national housing system is complex and multi-dimensional, how can we examine it to understand it's gaps and opportunities?
In 2021, DoUC partnered with Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation (CERA), now Canadian Centre for Housing Rights (CCHR), on a grant from Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) to develop a multi-phase project around promotion and innovation on the right to housing (R2H) in Canada.
In the first phase of this project I was the lead for the direction, research, and visualization of a research report. Managing and collaborating on the tasks with my team, we collected secondary research, conducted interviews and surveys with key stakeholders, created a series of complex data visualizations and tools, analysed and extracted insights highlighting gaps and opportunities in the system, and designed the final report over seven months. Over 200 pages in length, it now serves not only as a starting point for future phases of the project, but also as a living tool for CCHR in their efforts towards R2H nationally.
What is the housing system in Canada? Who is a part of it? Why does it exist in this way?
Challenge: The housing system in Canada is complex— hosting a range of players including decision makers, impacted residents, and peripheral influencers. How can we begin to examine and understand these relationships?
To understand the challenge in better detail, we began by breaking down the grant prepared by CERA for ESDC around right to housing and creating a comprehensive process plan and proposal, which included our goals and outcomes with connected areas for research, stakeholder workshops and engagement, and data visualizations.
How have you interacted with the housing system thus far? Professionally and personally.
Kick-off workshop with the client, entire CERA team. Our goal was to understand the concept of right to housing better, specifically how it is currently understood, promoted, and utilized within the housing system. Including the team's own experiences working in the housing system, their needs, goals, and pain points.
The work around right to housing has been ongoing for many years, taking shape in small scales— how do we connect these efforts for a greater impact?
There is very little to no meaningful communication between the most vulnerable users of the system and the powerful actors— how do we bridge this gap in a constructive and lasting way?
Where are decisions being made? Influenced? How do the different parts of the housing system connect? Disconnect?
Building on our understanding from the kick-off workshop, we assessed a need to build a more comprehensive picture of the housing system's connections. To conduct this generative research, we began by examining housing data and statistics via Statistics Canada, and later building on the numbers through interviews and surveys with various stakeholders, including government officials, developers, lawyers, non-profit front line workers, and impacted residents. Not forgetting our greatest resource, our client, we also conducted additional workshops to better understand their perspective and take advantage of their expertise of having worked for more than a decade within the housing system in various capacities.
Political calculation greatly influences the creation of housing policy, where leaving a legacy is more important than addressing key issues within the system.
Most actors (those with decision making power) and users (impacted residents) do not connect in meaningful ways to drive processes.
Most actors and users feel unheard, therefore are willing to have extensive conversations to discuss their perspectives.
What are we seeing through our research? How can we capture this research in a meaningful way?
With a better understanding of our range of parts and people within the housing system, we started doing some internal team workshops to absorb and reflect on the research collected. Defining key actors and users in the system, we began highlighting key connections, journeys, and milestones within their collective experiences. Building these documents was crucial in developing the remainder of the project.
What are some data visualization techniques that can be used to most effectively, efficiently, and intuitively communicate our research? Keep it simple.
Working within the constraints of time, budget, available types of research, and client needs, we began exploring ways we could visualize both our quantitative and qualitative research. There are a plethora of ways to over-complicate data vis, our purpose was to quickly deliver impactful information for use as knowledge.
What is your first impression when you see some of our data visualizations? What do you think after spending some time with them?
We showcased low-fidelity data visualizations to our client to gauge their initial reactions and gather input. Their collective feedback informed key process and design decisions for the remaining visualizations.
Important to note within the report that this is solely from CERA's perspective.
These visualizations can behave a tool to engage multiple perspectives.
How can we create data vis that can also later be used to engage various perspectives?
With alignment from all stakeholders, we defined a design system and strategy to create multiple visualizations of varying complexities, and began producing high-fidelity mockups of the final report.
How do the visualizations respond to the data? To CERA's perspective of the housing system? What do they tell us?
With a collection of the final visualizations, both DoUC and CERA, individually and collectively analysed what we were seeing to extract key insights, gaps, and opportunities for use in the next phases of the project.
With multiple actors and users all navigating the system with individual interests, there is an opportunity to bring them together in the next phase to engage in some positive conflict (and possibly progress).
All visualizations and tools can be used as a part of a scaleable framework to engage multiple perspectives across the housing system, including both quantitative and qualitative data to attain an "objective" understanding.
Important consideration: How can this information become a public tool for all to use? What can be established to foster and maintain connections across the system over time?
What is the best way to deliver the research, and all of the resources for CERA to utilize going forward?
While handing off the final version of the report, we made sure to create two versions for CERA: print and digital. Allowing them to use and share each version as necessary.
We also included an extensive resources section at the end of the digital report, including links to a Google Drive with the raw data and research in the form of excel sheets containing statistics, survey results, workshop results, and more.
Ultimately allowing for this report to become a toolbox to continuously engage stakeholders within the housing system.
How can we continue to build on this work to further develop a picture of the complex Canadian housing system?
With Phase 1 of the project complete, we took our findings to develop the next phase of the project: stakeholder workshops across 5 jurisdictions in Ontario to better understand the parts and people of the housing system.
These workshops are currently on-going in 2023 and have resulted in skepticism transforming into excitement and engagement.
Learning directly through these key stakeholder groups what the connections and disconnections are within the housing system— finding opportunities to address them.
How can we compile both the research report and the findings from these workshops in a way to help CCHR (previously CERA) better navigate the housing system and create innovative change regarding right to housing?