The Red Hook HUB
How might design support communities as they recover from the lingering effects of Hurricane Sandy?
The HUB is a public communications system that helps inform, connect, and engage Red Hook.
People can share and access community information at the HUB’s physical locations and online platforms. Content includes emergency information, local news, events, and community initiatives. Pressing information and leading news is posted in an official flyer called the HUB Weekly.
As Storyteller, I served as an embedded visual journalist to document activities, help engage community stakeholders, and support the design team. I was involved in conception, systems design, project launch, and promotion.
The HUB is now managed by our partners and community stakeholders.
Design/Relief Objective: create and implement a placemaking design solution for communities affected by Hurricane Sandy.
Working collaboratively, Team Red Hook hoped to effectively and efficiently engage community participation in besting the challenges of our limited timeline and budget: 1.5 years / $30K. (Additional funding was secured through partnerships to maintain HUB activities, and our timeline was extended due to the approval process for HUB installation.)
Creative placemaking is not linear. While we roughly employed a five-phased design process, one must embrace that community-driven design is fluid and dynamic, iterative and ongoing. It requires trial and error. It must adapt to the changing needs of the people it serves.
Extensive conversations with local stakeholders highlighted a need for more consistent, trusted, and publicly accessible information. Focusing on the 80% of residents who live in public housing, we partnered with the Red Hook organizations that shared our objective: create a communication and information system to serve Red Hook. We hosted a series of workshops at community centers to better define Red Hook’s informational needs, considering content, locations, management, and displays. We created the Re Hook HUB.
In our initial design phases we did not prioritize web development. It quickly became clear that redhookhub.org would be an essential component to the project, and lacking substantial resources, we tapped a local hackathon to kick things off.
At its core, the HUB is a network of people and local organizations working together to share important information.
Managing the website, collecting posts, publishing weekly news bulletins, and maintaining bulletin boards requires an immense deal of coordination and commitment. Developing the HUB’s back-end was our greatest design challenge and further emphasized the importance of strong partnerships and a community-driven design process.
The HUB has launched at the Red Hook Public Library, the Communications Working Group, and at www.redhookhub.org/
We secured additional funding through our partners to hire a full-time HUB coordinator, and Red Hook native Dabriah Alston is now in charge. Creating jobs that employ local residents and support community development is what creative placemaking is all about.
The HUB is a prototype that will be used and tested by in the coming year. We hope that it will help inform future efforts to improve communication and the sharing of community information.