Shaping a Midwest Climate Resource Network Tool

Shaping a Midwest Climate Resource Network Tool

With the Midwest Climate Collaborative / 3 months

The Midwest Climate Collaborative (MCC) is charged with facilitating the development of a coherent Midwestern response to the climate crisis, which includes fostering a robust network of practitioners, activists, organizers, educators, and researchers who are taking on climate action. Responding to feedback from the initial Midwest Climate Summit, the MCC formed the Climate Asset Map working group to explore creating a new tool to inspire connections, relationships, and access to resources. Public Design Bureau worked in partnership with MCC’s Climate Asset Map Working Group, with support from the Midwest Big Data Innovation Hub, to understand the opportunities, needs, and priorities of people who would use this tool and to offer recommendations for its creation. 

To understand the needs of people working on climate issues across the Midwest, PDB designed a survey that drew out their experiences, priorities, and ideas. To dig into additional detail about specific needs, PDB developed an interview guide to support conversations led by the MCC team, focusing on topics like understanding how information feels up-to-date and how people prefer to search and filter for information most relevant to their area. Survey and interview information was synthesized into a detailed report of priorities and recommendations, which Climate Asset Map Working Group member Daniel Poynter utilized to develop a prototype. Designed to continue to elicit feedback from the people who will use the tool in their work, the prototype debuted at the Midwest Climate Summit in February 2023 and is available online here.

Process + Outputs

  • Story-Driven Survey: The survey we created was widely shared with potential users, and sought to draw out the experiences of people searching for information related to climate in the Midwest. This included their accessibility needs, content desires, and models for categorizing and organizing information. Respondents shared not only what they’d like in the future, but stories about their current efforts to search out critical information — telling how they work around search results populated with reports from other regions, or how they struggle to distinguish if an example policy was passed and how, or how they dream of reaching the actual person on the ground who could talk with them about the details. These rich stories helped highlight existing gaps as well as assets and served to inspire the tailored vision for this new tool. 
  • Supplementary Interview Protocols: To supplement the lessons from the survey, we created an interview protocol that prompted for additional detail to understand expectations about a Climate Asset Map. The protocol explored analogous visual examples, prompting for feedback about search and filtering by using recognizable systems like Zillow and eBay. We also supported the team through the whole process of interviews, from recruitment through debriefing key stories, creating straight-forward templates and tools. 
  • Detailed Synthesis and Direction: We drew together input from 70 robust survey responses, 3 interviews, and the lessons of the working group to create an actionable report to guide not only the first prototype but future development of the Climate Asset Map. We created an internal, directive report for the working group to use, which outlined the intended audience for the tool, how the tool should work, what content it should include, and what features were critical to start with to build a prototype. The report also highlighted potential future options and considerations for the development of the tool. We also created a visually compelling external report to share with interested colleagues and potential funders.

I thoroughly enjoyed working with Public Design Bureau! They helped us develop a critical tool for collaboration on climate in the Midwest by helping us identify and connect with our intended audience. They listened to our initial ideas and helped us better understand what our audience wanted and needed in this new tool. They pulled together a lot of different data points from our working group and surveys to summarize how our tool could be most helpful and reach the most people. We are thrilled to share this new tool, the Midwest Climate Resource Network, with advocates, practitioners, researchers, and more in the Midwest!

Heather Navarro, Director, Midwest Climate Collaborative