• UX for Good and the CeaseFire Challenge

    This weekend I had the pleasure to attend UX for Good in Chicago. It was an amazing event, spearheaded by Jason Ulaszek and Jeff Leitner, that focused on solving problems for five social causes: unemployment, urban violence, public education, community mental health, and cross-cultural understanding. I was part of the urban violence team.

    Graphic Facilitation Poster at UX 4 Good

    There were nine of us experience designers, a visual designer, and a kick-ass volunteer coordinator. We worked with a group called CeaseFire, based in Chicago. CeaseFire is a campaign that is tackling the problem of urban violence by treating it as a public health problem. Their premise is that if you can stop the violent behavior, and you can shift society’s norms around violence, there will not be as many shootings and killings. They have a network of interrupters, outreach workers and more who go into high-risk neighborhoods and work with the individuals most at risk for causing violence. They support those individuals however they need to, to get them to put down the guns. There is a movie called The Interrupters that just premiered at Sundance that focuses on the work that they do. Our challenge was to look at ways to educate the larger community about the work CeaseFire is doing, to change the larger community’s perception of violence, and channel their support of CeaseFire.

    Our team spent the 14 or so hours we had trying to better understand the problems that CeaseFire has, how they work, and what kind of help they need and want. We developed a whole host of ideas of how Well Intentioned Individuals can participate and support CeaseFire.

    Members of CeaseFire

    We also developed a model for interaction and context. This model shows the different levels of engagement that can be taken in the different contexts. The model starts in the center with the actions a person can take in their living room, such as educating themselves, donating money and blogging about CeaseFire. It expands out to actions they can take in their community, the CeaseFire community, the client community, their city, and lastly the world. This model provides a framework that the various ideas we came up with can fit into.

    Awareness Building in Context

    Most of our team members are local to Chicago. They will be following up with different members of CeaseFire to see how these ideas can be put into motion. There is a lot of work to be done, but the initial connections have been made. I’m curious to see how things develop.

    One thing for sure is that the conference has changed me. Listening to the stories and watching the videos of the work the interrupters and outreach workers has changed the way I think about my city, San Francisco, and neighboring Oakland. I think all the participants of UX for Good were profoundly touched by the causes and teams they worked on. While the organizations we worked with certainly benefited from participating, I think it’s the effect that work had on us individually that will prove to be the most important.

    There are 13 thoughts on this idea

    1. The real truth

      This organization is a joke. Their “employees” are thugs and criminals and drug addicts that they tout to the media as REFORMED. The truth is many of them are still active in their criminal lifestyles and the organization turns a blind eye to it. How can an organization effectively motivate young people to make positive choices when they don’t even require their “employees” to have a GED? What a ridiculous waste of taxpayer dollars.

    2. Chiara Ogan

      Actually, if you look at an evaluation report done by the National Institute of Justice (PDF: 7.2 MB) for the US Department of Justice, what you say is by and far not true. While there are risks to hiring high risk individuals for work as interrupters and outreach workers, they do have drug testing, background checks and require a high school diploma/GED. Of course the system is not perfect. But they have a 41-73% drop in shootings and killings in CeaseFire zones. That seems like a pretty good use of funds to me.

    3. Tanarra Schneider

      @ the real truth … a name change might be in order.

      I would suggest that you take a look at the facts, even do some research before you react and “share.” But given your position on the CeaseFire Interrupters, it’s clear that you don’t believe people are capable of change. Or deserve a second chance, ever. So, rather than attempt to compel you to change – I’ll simply ask you this…

      If you left a war zone, free and clear, and could forget about everything bad that had ever happened, or that you had ever done – would YOU choose to go back to that same war zone and relive your experience and risk your life everyday as a way to convince others to make different choices? And would you do it on call, 24/7?

      I think I know your answer…

    4. Tanarra Schneiderr

      @ the real truth…

      I was graciously reminded by my ux4good team that our responsibility as UX designers is to learn, and probe, and find empathy … Even in situations like this…

      So, I’m curious…have you had direct interaction with CF that has helped you form your perspective? Are you willing to share it with us? If so, please let us know. We can provide a forum.

    5. The real truth

      First of all, I am speaking from firsthand experience with this organization. They most certainly do NOT require a GED or HS diploma and I am aware of individuals who are “employed” by the organization who do NOT meet this so-called qualification. Secondly, I have lived in this war-zone and have struggled to educate myself and get myself out. I work in these communities everyday and put myself on the front line so there is no question that I have turned my experiences into something positive to give back to my community. Yes, I am aware of the “drug testing” these employees undergo but I know for a fact that certain factions falsely report the results to UIC. There are definitely people working for the organization who are under the influence of illicit drugs. Anyone who tells me otherwise is either blind to these FACTS or is covering up like the rest of them. There may be some very good people working for Ceasefire but a few rotten apples spoil the bunch.

    6. The real truth

      Please don’t assume that I don’t believe go change but the reality is that any organization receiving my tax dollars should only employ those who have in fact made demonstrated those changes. I KNOW that there are gang bangers, drug dealers, and drug users on the Ceasefire payroll and they know it too. That is unacceptable and it gives a bad name to those in the organization who really have put in the work to make positive changes in their lives. It is simply shameful.

    7. The real truth

      *believe IN change and demonstrated those changes

    8. The real truth

      @Tanarra I find it interesting that you would make assumptions about who I am or what I believe simply because I expose the truth about this organization. I believe wholeheartedly in the human being’s ability to change. What I DON’T believe in is allowing gang members and drug dealers to guide our youth when they are still involved in the same lifestyle. We owe our children and our communities better than that.

    9. The real truth

      And statistics can be anything we want them to be. Anyone living in Chicago can tell you that our city is still devastated by violent crime each and every day. I don’t need the Department of Justice for that. Overall, tell me how much has violent crime gone down in Chicago over the last decade?

    10. The real truth

      If Ceasefire is stands by their employees and the work being done, I would challenge them to bring in an outside agency to audit their work, perform background checks and drug tests and verify education. It can not be done from within because the corruption runs deep.

    11. Chiara Ogan

      I can’t speak for what is actually happening on the streets, I can only go by what CeaseFire, the Dept of Justice, and other press says. The data says that things are getting better (which I know is not the same as good).

      The violence in Chicago didn’t start over night, and it’s not going to stop over night. It’s going to take time. What appeals to me about CeaseFire is that it’s a public health approach. It’s about changing the behavior and social norms. It’s not just more police/prisons/punishment.

      Is that the only answer? Of course not. There are lots and lots of things that need to change in these neighborhoods so people stop shooting each other, crime can go down, and hope and quality of life can go up.

      I too hope and wish that the folks working for CeaseFire all meet the criteria that they say they have (e.g., have a GED/diploma, no dealing or using drugs). It does undermine the work they are doing if they aren’t living up to what they say they do.

      But I’m also willing to cut them a little slack. We are human and humans are imperfect. It’s hard work to be an interrupter or outreach worker and not everyone can do it. I’m sure some of them do slip up. But I hope and trust that the organization will support those people in getting the help they need so they can continue the work and not just shut down. That at least is in keeping with the mission.

    12. The real truth

      The problem with the organization is the they don’t get their employees help. They just turn a blind eye to what’s going on. And these drug dealers don’t need help. They need to be locked up. They are already earning a salary but still CHOOSE to sell drugs. I lived thru many of the same hardships as they did and I don’t claim to be legit and be a leader in my community while harming my community with drugs. I also don’t tell young people to value education when I have no education myself.

    13. The real truth

      And before you try to give me stats about the murder rates in Chicago, that has been on the decline since the 1990’s which has been the trend across the nation. There are other explanations for that (ie different policing strategies and truth-in-sentencing). Amongst big cities, we have not made the same gains as some of the others. In fact, we remain near the top in murder and violent crime rates.

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