What if we leverage communities to help new residents in Chicago discover city services and resources? 

Design for




Jason Kunesh

The City of Chicago, DoIT


Jan 2019 - Mar 2019





Design Research

Design Strategy

 Synthesis Facilitation

Cross-team Collaboration

Client Relationship Building

Stakeholder Map

Service Blueprint

Sacrificial Testing​

Moving to a new city is not easy. We found that new residents often learn about resources and information through word of mouth from their community. Moreover, residents rarely go out of their way to find new services that could be beneficial for them. This begs the question: how might we meet residents where they are and leverage their community to help them discover services and resources? In this project, my team and I looked at a specific user group: parents of children with differing abilities. We found that it is often an isolating experience for these parents to find their kids the best education. Thus, our design aims to help these parent build communities to share resources.



Studio Structure

We were the Lakeside Studio, an 18-student consultancy in collaboration with The City of Chicago, Department of Innovation and Technology. We split into four teams, each looked at a unique user group.

My Team's Problem Space
My team focused on welcoming parents of children with disability to Chicago. We dug into how parents, students, teachers, and government officials interact in the complex Chicago Public School system.



Through interviews, immersion, and secondary research, we explored various disabilities, including people in wheelchairs, young adults with autism and students in special education. We decided to focus on parents of children with disabilities because there were many opportunities in the scope that were rarely discussed. Moreover, the user group was accessible to us and we believed designs around this scope could be translatable to other problem spaces, such as CTA.

1. Explore, Research & Define

Once we have a better understanding of the special education system, we identify a key unknown: "would parents feel safe engaging in a platform where multiple stakeholders (parents, the schools, & the government) are involved?" We created more paper prototypes to test different features and the users' willingness to engage. We discover new mechanics to foster a safe and transparent space, including having private groups besides news feed and allowing crowdsourcing to aggregate resources.

3. Test & Iterate

After our user research, we ideated various concepts. We grouped the concepts into 6 themes and turned them into sacrificial prototypes, such as an app mockup and a floor plan layout. We showed these paper prototypes to various stakeholders, including parents, special ed. teachers, and the Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities (MOPD). These testings accelerated our learnings about complex Chicago Public School (CPS) system and tensions surrounding it.

2. Ideate, Sacrificially Test & Synthesize

Once we iterated and finalized our design, we prepared our final deliverables for different stakeholders. Knowing that there would be officials from various city departments, we prepared our presentation to be down to earth, focusing on the stories, insights, design principles, and how those can translate to existing solutions in various departments. Separately, we also shared a detailed folder of our research and final design with our client, Jason Kunesh.

4. Deliver to Various Stakeholders



Parents whose children are in a specialized school often feel isolated because a specialized school is often far from home and thus the parents spend less time at school to connect with the teachers and other parents. 

Insight 1 : Isolation

Individuals use services. Communities share information. Although there is a vast amount of information and resources on the Internet, parents rely primarily on information through word of mouth and struggle to navigate through many different websites.

Insight 2: Community 

After two iterations of research, testing, and synthesis, we developed a set of design principles that drive our final design. Our design principles are:


1. Central and Transparent

2. Communal

3. Accessible

Design Principles

Final Design


Just Show Up;

Just Do It.

As we were doing user testings, we realized we needed to reach more stakeholders. On top of sending out lots of emails, we also showed up at schools, libraries, community centers to talk to people where they are. Just showing up in the community helped us to gain fruitful and organic conversations.

Transparent Communication

One of the challenges working in this project was that we were an 18-people consultancy. Although we split into four teams, there were many collaborative decisions needed to be made as a consultancy. We learned to have cross-team field trips for research and testing in order for each team to have a transparent understanding of what other teams were doing.

Right Deliverables for the Audience

We learned that for each presentation we have, it would be an opportunity to create an impact on the government, where design is rarely utilized. Thus, once we knew who our audience was, we prepared our presentation so that it was easy and helpful for the audience. 


Copyright © 2018 Joanne Ting-Yu Hsu

Email:  joanne.ty.hsu@gmail.com

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