In September 2017 Kite’s Nest, in partnership with the Greater Hudson Promise Neighborhood, was selected as one of six communities around the country to participate in an innovative design process called Raising Places. Learn more about the national Raising Places process, and read their final report, here.

BACKGROUND: What is Raising Places?

Raising Places is a community planning process designed to engage residents and local leaders in creating healthier environments for kids and families. The project is funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and involves a close partnership with the Greater Good Studio, a social impact design firm based in Chicago. For nine months beginning in September 2017, Kite’s Nest and Promise Neighborhood convened a team of people to explore the intersection of children and place, and to generate solutions around the question: What would make Hudson a place where all kids and families can thrive?‍

Why Raising Places?

People living in Hudson have so much passion about this small city, and so many different perspectives about where it’s heading. How do we bring people together, with different experiences, in a process that is at once inclusive, deep-rooted, and also productive? How can we work together to address the most complex issues we see in our city, without falling into the same looping arguments and social/political divisions? How can we come up with ideas and solutions that are rooted in imagination and a sense of possibility, as opposed to the doubt and distrust that so many people feel? When Kite’s Nest and Promise Neighborhood learned that we had been selected to participate in Raising Places, these were some of the questions we were most excited to explore.

We were especially excited that Raising Places focused on the intersection of urban development (how our city is changing) and youth development (what it takes to raise healthy children and teens). Kite’s Nest and GHPN are organizations working primarily with youth and families; but we know that in order to truly support the children growing up in our city, we have to help shape the conditions necessary for youth to thrive. In recent years Hudson has undergone significant development, and has garnered attention as a tourist destination. But we're concerned that the young people growing up here are often left out of the picture. Raising Places was an opportunity for us to bring together a diverse group of people, to strategize about how the city can develop with and for the kids and families of our community. Raising Places enabled us to look at our city through the eyes of its kids, and to invite all of our neighbors to do the same.

OUR TEAM: Our Design Team and Youth Advisory Board

Kite’s Nest and GHPN began this process by building a core Design Team: a group of local residents who bring a range of perspectives and experience in these two areas: 1) building better communities (urban planning, economic development, community organizing, architecture) and 2) building better childhoods (early childhood development, youth development, school systems, out-of-school time learning).

 Design Team: Nick Zachos, Zebi Williams, Jabin Ahmed, Tom DePietro, Cedric Fulton, Kamal Johnson, Willette Jones, Victor Mendolia, Maija Reed, Brandon Santos, Jennifer Stockmeier

Design Team: Nick Zachos, Zebi Williams, Jabin Ahmed, Tom DePietro, Cedric Fulton, Kamal Johnson, Willette Jones, Victor Mendolia, Maija Reed, Brandon Santos, Jennifer Stockmeier

 Our Youth Advisory Board: Monique Rivera, Jasmin Ahmed, Melina Hayes, Pierre Rice, Trevor Slowinski, Steven Kritzman, and Adonis Ragland. Not pictured: Irlande Louis.

Our Youth Advisory Board: Monique Rivera, Jasmin Ahmed, Melina Hayes, Pierre Rice, Trevor Slowinski, Steven Kritzman, and Adonis Ragland. Not pictured: Irlande Louis.


September: Identifying issues, framing our goals


Our team began by identifying some of the assets that exist for youth and families in our community, in addition to some of the biggest challenges we see. Through a collective process we had to come to consensus around three key challenges that we felt were at once pressing and actionable. We camp up with:

  • Unemployment and lack of career training
  • Racism and lack of representation in our institutions
  • Lack of affordable spaces

During our first intensive weekend together in September, our team spent time exploring each of these areas, led by four facilitators who had joined us from Chicago. We began by discussing our assumptions about the root causes of these community challenges. Where do they come from? In small groups we discussed historic poverty, the legacies discriminatory policies and institutions, cultural barriers, and other deep social, economic, and political structures and attitudes that create the challenges we face today.

Our facilitators then trained us to think about writing positive goals: specific statements that speak about an aspirational future state: “I want   (people)   to   (new behavior).” Our team came up with over 100 initial goals, but then -- through discussion, voting, and more discussion -- narrowed it down to three:

  • I want city leaders to prioritize job training for youth
  • I want our police department to speak and interact positively with the community
  • I want city government to prioritize affordable and accessible spaces

In small groups, we then created research plans to learn more about each of these goals. Who do we need to hear from to understand the complexity of this issue?

September-October: Research and listening

Over the next six weeks, Design Team members conducted interviews and research activities with teens and parents; employers and people who run job training programs; police officers and school resource officers, police administration and individuals from the school board; property owners, renters, and people displaced from their homes; and people working in local government and economic development. The purpose of this research was to better understand the needs, assets, aspirations and lived experiences of these community members, so that we could see these issues through a range of perspectives and lenses.

November: Synthesis


Our team came together for a second intensive weekend in early November. On our first day together, we gathered and synthesized what we had learned from our dozens of interviews. How do we make sense of a wide range of data? We moved data points around on the wall, looking for patterns, connections and themes between and across interviews -- and then we generated a series of core insights that we could pull from what we had heard. Working from these insights, we then worked together to formulate questions (or “opportunity statements”), starting with the phrase “How might we…”

Insights about youth employment:
In synthesizing their research, this team discovered that finding the right job isn’t an individual task - it takes an informed and connected team. They also learned that current systems for communicating job opportunities are outdated and hard for youth to access. Finally, they saw that even though there are several existing job training programs, they can beare out of reach for youth in Hudson due to both knowledge and transportation barriers. From these insights they wrote the following opportunity statements:

  • How might we support each Hudson youth to create and expand their team and network?
  • How might we make posting and looking for a job in Hudson as easy as posting and finding an Airbnb in Hudson?
  • How might we bring accessible job training to every youth in Hudson, wherever they are?

Insights about police-community interaction:
The design team’s research showed that police can often choose who they interact with, but how they interact is limited as members of law enforcement. They also found that police often don’t understand the level of impact they have on the community. From these insights they wrote the following opportunity statements:

  • How might we support police in shifting their scope of responsibility from symptoms to root causes?
  • How might we leverage the power of community to incentivize change within the police force?

Insights about affordability
Through their research, this small group learned that there’s a common perspective in city bureaucracy (and beyond) that economic development should focus on tourism, attracting development, and expanding the tax base, and that that will be good for everyone. They also saw that renters in Hudson (both commercial and residential) are experiencing uncertainty, precarity and displacement at an accelerating pace, which also creates emotional and psychological challenges for people, including families and kids. From these insights they wrote the following opportunity statements:

  • How might economic development in the city of Hudson include children and families?
  • How might we better protect people from being displaced from their homes and businesses?

November: Public "Ideas Lab" Event


On Sunday, November 5, we we invited hundreds of community members to join us in sharing stories and brainstorming ideas in response to these opportunity statements. Our Raising Places Youth Advisory Board also joined us, helping to run the event and supporting people in their brainstorming and sketching. Over a hundred people showed up to the event, generating over 250 ideas. We’ve compiled all of these ideas into a single PDF document, so that everyone can see them, here -- we were so inspired by the creativity of everyone, of all ages, who came to help us brainstorm.  The ideas ranged from new programs, campaigns and digital services, to new policies and plans for the town, to new businesses and systems of support.

November-January: Exploring and testing ideas


Our team spent time reading the many, many ideas that had been generated at our public event. While we wish we could move forward with every one of them, our next challenge was to narrow in (a bit), choosing ideas that were both (potentially) realizable and also relevant to our group’s experience, interests, and expertise. We mapped these ideas on the wall too, arranging them by theme and choosing several to take into the next phase.

Then, from November - January, we returned to our small groups to create visual mock-ups of each idea, in order to gather feedback from community members. This is called prototyping - testing ideas before we try to make them happen. Again we had dozens of meetings and conversations with youth, parents, school administrators, social workers, housing advocates, city officials, etc., asking questions like: “What do you think about this idea? What do you like, and what don’t you like? How would you imagine yourself using this? Are other people or organizations already working on a similar project? Who else should we talk to?” With each conversation our ideas changed and evolved.

February: Synthesis

We came together for our final intensive weekend in early February. We began by sharing what we had heard and learned from our feedback sessions. Each small group spent hours synthesizing all the new information, in order to choose which ideas they wanted to move forward with, and then working to clarify and revise each concept. We than had the task of creating a large poster for each concept we wanted to move forward, to illustrate the name of each idea, what features if might include, a roadmap of what might come next, and some key questions, both big and small, that we still have. These were our ideas:

Youth Employment & Entrepreneurship
Job Search Hub (physical)
Job Search Hub (digital)
Internship Program
Youth Entrepreneurship Program
Youth-friendly Transit Schedule

Positive Police & Community Interactions
Community-driven Police Training Program
Youth Liaison App
Community & Police Workshop

Affordable & Accessible Spaces
People-friendly Parks Plan
Increased Protection and Services for Landlords and Tenants
Zoning for Children and Families (and Everyone!)
Menu of Inclusionary Housing Policy Options
Community Land/Housing Trust

February: Public "Action Lab"

On Sunday, February 4th, we held our second public event at the Hudson Area Library. The goal of the event was to continue gathering feedback and input on the ideas we were moving forward, and to begin developing partnerships and alliances with others interested in helping to turn ideas into action.  This time, we had worked hard to reach out to certain decision-makers -- like the superintendent of schools, the head of Probation, and leadership staff from the Dept. of Social Services -- in addition to community members, youth, and parents. Our Youth Advisory Board also joined us, helping to run the event. Again over a hundred people showed up to share their input and feedback. The event began with a presentation by Joanie Hunt (Promise Neighborhood) and Sara Kendall (Kite’s Nest), and then turned into an ideas Open House: an opportunity for everyone to engage with each idea-poster, to ask questions of Design Team members, to answer some of the questions we had outlined for each station, to share their feedback and reactions, and to sign up for the projects they would be most interested in helping bring to life.

February - April: Piloting & Implementation Planning - (where we are now!)

After our public Action Lab our team spent time reflecting on the conversations we had had about each idea, and reading through peoples’ feedback and responses. Again, we took some time to decide which ideas we wanted to move forward: if a project didn’t seem to have much community support or interest, we decided to leave it behind. Once we had made our selections, we worked on outlining next steps for each idea: a plan to “pilot,” in a small-scale and do-able way, each project. Over the next few months we’ll be piloting eleven different projects, and beginning to develop implementation plans for each one.

February: Synthesis




from raisingplaces.org