Reporters’ book
A guide for design-
based ethnographic
     research




Name of the Initiative
Part 1:
Interview
1.1 Description
What do they do? (Description of service idea, e.g. a community garden,
a food coop, etc). What are the de...
mentioned how the food was undistinguishable and unhealthy. Now
    LES gets its own supply of food and the community cent...
1.5. Technologies
What are the technologies that the group uses? How are they used in
system?
       One thing that makes ...
1.7. Perspective for the future
What are the perspective/objectives of the group for the next
3-5 years? What are some of ...
1.9. Indications of other social innovation
Do the users participate in other entrepreneurial endeavors? Do they form
smal...
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Sixth Street Community Center Reporters Book

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The Sixth Street Community Center is dedicated to empowering the Loisaida community by organizing neighborhood residents around issues concerning food, health and the environment. Programs include the Seeds to Supper Program, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), SOS Food, Organic Soul Cafe, and Finding Sukha Yoga School.

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Sixth Street Community Center Reporters Book

  1. 1. Reporters’ book A guide for design- based ethnographic research Name of the Initiative
  2. 2. Part 1: Interview
  3. 3. 1.1 Description What do they do? (Description of service idea, e.g. a community garden, a food coop, etc). What are the demands/problems this initiative responds to? What is the aim of the initiative? What happens and how does it happens? What benefits does it bring to the neighborhood? The Sixth Street Community Center empowers the surrounding community by “organizing neighborhood residents around issues concerning food, health, and the environment”. Some of the current programs at the center include community-supported agriculture (CSA), SOS food, Seeds to Support Program, New York State Against Genetic Engineering, Finding Sukha Yoga Studio, and the Organic Soul Café. In our research, CSA came up as a prominent program at the community center. The main goal of the program is to bring together the community and local farmers. The community members have the chance to receive fresh, organic produce by purchasing shares in the farmer’s harvests. This partnership benefits both the members of the community and the local farmers because the farmers can better focus on growing and harvesting quality crops without having to worry about marketing because the community members enjoy their harvests. The agricultural programs at the community center also educate the community about the food they are consuming and where it comes from. The members of the community center are mainly concerned about spreading awareness of the negatives of genetically engineered food. They are strong advocates and participants in initiatives taken for legislation to try to get genetically engineered food out of our markets. Finding Sukha Yoga School is the Center’s newest program. It is a yoga center that provides a way for community members and yoga lovers around the city to come together, relax, and escape the stress of the city. 1.2 Context What is this neighborhood like? How was it before this new solution took place? The surrounding neighborhood is the Lower East Side/ Alphabet City. The neighborhood today is a very nice, clean, and quiet neighborhood. There are many surrounding community gardens which provide a serene green space for community members to enjoy amongst all of the chaos of the city. There are also many small businesses such as restaurants, markets, convenience and corner stores, and tattoo shops. There are also many schools, but the area seems to be more residential. During our interview with Annette she mentioned that the school system in New York City was getting increasingly worse around the same time the center was developed. She also noted that many of the kids who volunteered and took part in various events at the Center went on to be extremely successful academically, some even earning PhD’s. Also, before the 6th street community center came to be it was in the 1980’s, which was a hard time for the Lower East Side. The area was run down with much crime and abandoned buildings. Annette said that a big problem was the food because old or left over food from the city would be shipped to LES and be the only supply of food for the area. She
  4. 4. mentioned how the food was undistinguishable and unhealthy. Now LES gets its own supply of food and the community center is striving to make this supply even better for the neighborhood. 1.3 History of the initiative How did the project/initiative start? Who took the initiative? Why? Can you describe a timeline of events, highlighting success and failure aspects, major milestones? How far can you go back? How did this initiative mature? How did it turn to be a real enterprise? (registered, formalized etc.) Did it receive public or private support of any kind? Did it help change the public or policy structure? The original building of the 6th Street Community Center was a former synagogue. It began in 1978 as a block association organized by single mothers living in the area found the vacant building. Two women who squatted to acquire the building. Annette Averette being in Legal Aid, helped the women get rights to the building. The founders of the 6th Street Community Center are Howard Brandstein and Annette Averette. Annette originally worked for Legal Aid, but the program she was concentrating on was de-funded, so she went to the center because “they owed he a favor.” There she started a shelter for battered women. She also brought a financial displacement project to the center. Howard was working with Save the Children at the time, and the foundation gave them some money to buy the building for around $15000. After the acquisition of the building, they started CSA, which was one of the city’s first Community Supported Agriculture programs. They started CSA in response to the USDA’s approval of chemically enhanced food. Annette wanted to start CSA because she is a cancer survivor and therefore is very conscious about what goes into the food she in eating. Annette also started the Organic Soul Café at the center and believes that everyone has the right to know what they are eating. In addition, the center also participated in lobbying to pass bills against genetic engineering in the food industry. The sixth street community center has gone through many changes in programs over the years, some including summer camps for children, a design studio and music classes. They also started the 6 B/C community garden next door. They do not receive any government funding, so the 6th Street Community Center relies on funding from private companies such as Whole Foods, Donations and quick grants. 1.4 Main actors Who are the users of this initiative? Who are the promoters of this initiative? Is there a difference between users and promoters or are they basically the same? Describe users and promoters lifestyles? Do the users work as a group or groups? Is there a network of related organizations and/ or individuals? Do they have any form of connection or exchange with other similar initiatives? Was the group inspired by other examples? Do you know counter examples, (of service ideas that did not take-off), cases that went wrong? The main actors of the Sixth Street Community Center are is the community of the neighborhood itself. Howard Brandstein and Annette Averette are the two primary movers and shakers at the community center. A volunteer named Beverly Spencer contributes a lot of her time to the café as well as the community center itself. There are also a series of volunteers that support the community center as different events occur. The neighborhood as a whole is a main part of the center and it is not required to apply for membership to the community center itself.
  5. 5. 1.5. Technologies What are the technologies that the group uses? How are they used in system? One thing that makes the Sixth Street Community Center unique is the Organic Soul Café. Our group was fortunate enough to experience an excellent meal from the Cafe prepared by head chef Beverly and other OSC volunteers. The delicious vegan meal costs $11 per person and $15 with salmon included. Farmers from the CSA program give extra produce to the Organic Soul Café kitchen, and the remainder of the food comes from Whole Foods. A different menu is available every serving night, which is two nights per week. 1.6. Communication What communication materials do the group have? (e.g. website, brochures, postcards, etc). What is the main purpose of these materials? e.g. to keep participants updated about activities (internal communication) or to get more participants (external communication)? Does the group want to have more participants? A volunteer set up and runs the Sixth Street Community Center website. (www.sixthstreetcommunitycenter.org) The main purpose of the site is to promote the Community Center and generate more community involvement and awareness. They also have excellent pamphlets and hand-outs available outside the doors of the facility. One main form of communication is the Sixth Street Weekly Newsletter that includes everything from an event calendar to an organic food recipe. The group would love to have more participants. They are really interested in bringing lots of people together to spread awareness and achieve goals for the greater good. They hope to eventually find a volunteer to come an set up a weekly e-mail and use social networking website such as Facebook or Twitter so that more awareness of upcoming events is made.
  6. 6. 1.7. Perspective for the future What are the perspective/objectives of the group for the next 3-5 years? What are some of the success factors and possible risks in the short medium and long term? The Community Center wants to encourage more sustainable and organic means of agriculture throughout the surrounding community and NYC as a whole. Over time they also would like to see that means of genetically modified food is stopped and that we return to organic farming processes and support the struggling farmers. In the mean time they would like to see more active community members so that their center and initiative can grow to achieve their long term goals. 1.8. Problems and opportunities Are there any specific issues/problems/barriers that pose threats to the initiative? Are there any main areas of concern among the participants (leaders and users alike)? Are there any opportunities that could be explored (that are currently not explored)? Because they own the building, the Sixth Street Community Center has had many opportunities to support many different types of initiatives. They are constantly re-inventing themselves to fit the needs of an ever-changing society.
  7. 7. 1.9. Indications of other social innovation Do the users participate in other entrepreneurial endeavors? Do they form small initiatives on their own? Are members involved in other “sustainable” services within the community? (Ex. Food Co-op, carpooling, community gardens, etc)? Do you see evidence of wider networks that these users contribute to?   Most of the participants at the community center do participate in other philanthropic endeavors. (See above) 1.10. References Howard Brandstein Annette Averette Web: www.sixthstreetcommunitycenter.org www.sosfood.org E-mail: csa@sixthstreetcenter.org info@sixthstreetcenter.org sosfood@sixthstreetcenter.org Address: Sixth Street Community Center 638 E. 6th Street New York, NY 10009 Phone: (212) 677-1863 Fax: (212) 677-7166

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