NYCHA's Connected Communities- Impact and Evaluation

NYCHA's large open spaces, which hold the potential to extend a host of benefits to local communities, are not being fully utilized due to budget and staff shortages. The team was tasked with investigating methods to evaluate the outcomes and process of participatory design – which centers residents as the experts of their communities – to expand its application into future NYCHA projects. 

The study consisted of desk research, interviews with participatory design experts, and fieldwork at Pomonok Houses, a NYCHA campus where a participatory design project was piloted in 2019. Key informants include NYCHA staff, resident association leadership, campus management, an urban planning consulting firm, and NYC Department of Recreation and Parks staff. The interviews provided insights into the best practices for participatory design and key contextual factors to develop an adaptable evaluation model for NYCHA. 

Based on these findings, the team developed an evaluation matrix assessing three areas: fidelity of project implementation to best practices; design outcomes such as evaluation of space, health, and safety; and participatory outcomes such as social connectivity and empowerment. The team then applied the evaluation matrix to the Pomonok Houses Pilot Project, gaining insight into its usefulness, applicability, and future challenges. Finally, the team proposed recommendations within three overarching areas. First, NYCHA must incorporate evaluation planning into all stages of project development. Second, implementing data collection strategies is essential to making future evaluations possible. Third, improving community engagement and participation will ensure evaluators are able to collect vital resident feedback.