Innovation Projects
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Research Goals

  • Provide insight into the perspectives, knowledge, and behaviors of Austin residents and property managers regarding recycling and composting, with a priority on recycling.
  • Identify patterns and develop personas to help segment different types of behaviors, perspectives, and living situations for residents.
  • Form opportunities areas (How Might We…) based on insights to guide the concepting phase of the project.

Research Plan

Desk Research

Got a lay of the land, a cursory understanding of recycling and composting through existing articles, studies, and data.

  • Literature Review: Recycling initiatives, behavior change theories
  • Quantitative data review: City data - diversion rates, housing composition, census and demographics
  • Existing ARR Resources: Print media, digital media, Ads and campaigns, etc.
  • Tour Recycling Centers: Balcones, Texas Disposal Systems (TDS)
  • Competitive Analysis: Best in class cities - Ex. Portland, San Diego, Phoenix, Seattle, SF, San Jose, San Antonio, Lexington
  • Industry knowledge: Recycling and composting terms, techniques, and guidelines

Desk Research Repository

Field Research

Conducted in-depth exploration of mindsets, perceptions, knowledge, and behaviors of Austin residents and property managers around recycling.

  • Ride-Alongs: 2-3 hours shadowing and interviewing recycling truck operators to learn about back end processes and everyday operations.
  • Expert Interviews: 30-45 min interviews with subject matter experts (e.g. Zero Waste Block Leaders, Advocate Groups, etc.)
  • In-Home Interviews/Ethnography with Residents: 90-120 mins of in-depth interviews with residents in their homes to learn about their experiences with recycling including their habits and routines, successes and challenges, and mindsets and perceptions regarding recycling. Will do both one-on-one and group interviews with roommates and families. (52 residents total)
  • Experience Probes: During in-home interviews, participants will be prompted to complete different activities to reveal more insight into their perceptions, knowledge and behaviors.
  • Property Manager Interviews: 60 min interviews with property managers at their properties to learn about the recycling services and priorities and challenges of providing recycling at multi-family properties. (4 property manager/owners total)

Interview Guides and Experience Probes

Diversity of Participants

Recruited a diverse mix of participants:

  • Single family v. multi-family residents
  • Different income brackets
  • Household size and type (living alone, with roommate, with family)
  • Renters v. owners
  • Self Identified: recyclers v. non-recyclers
  • Location - breakdown by council districts
  • Age, gender, race

Recruitment Guides

In-Home Interview Debriefs

Concluded each interview with an immediate 45-90 min debrief session to document on post-it notes key quotes, stories, and takeaways. Post-its were color coded as followed:

  • Magenta - Background Info
  • Rose - Perception and Feelings
  • Teal - Behaviors and Habits
  • Lime - Knowledge
  • Orange - Other and Environmental Factors
  • Bubble Gum - Nuggets (precursors to insights)

Sample Debrief Canvases

Synthesis Methods

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Synthesis guide

Synthesis Activities

  • Storytelling: Presented debrief canvas for each interviews interview. Created common knowledge by sharing key stories, quotes, and take-aways from each interview. Used supporting artifacts such as photos and completed experience probes to provide context.
  • Pattern Identification: Identified key themes that emerged across the interviews and sorted post-its based on these themes. These patterns continued to be merged, resorted, and/or eliminated throughout synthesis.
  • Insight & Opportunity Area Generation: Wrote insights and opportunity areas for each grouping of themes. These were generated through a 4-step prompt. Each step had multiple iterations.

    1. Gave the grouping an obvious label to summarize the main idea of the grouping.
    2. Asked why to unpack the reason this is happening.
    3. Wrote an insight, a provocative statement of truth formed in response to the question.
    4. Created an opportunity area using a “How Might We” statement to transform the insight into prompts for design.
  • Framework Generation: Created a model, graph, or other visual representation to easily summarize the insights and findings. It was a good tool to have for grounding and directing people through the research findings.
  • Persona Development: The goal of behavioral personas was to create a reliable and realistic representation of the people we talked to so ARR could have an easy reference as they develop programs and messaging.

Synthesis Process Photos