Success = More Soul, Fewer Shortcuts
The warm weather is long gone, but hosts Eunice and Erika are still nerding out with David Favela in Barrio Logan, San Diego. In this episode, they ask how we can put numbers on the success of communities and businesses. For David, the answer lies in the spatial and soulful statistics. To help understand the story, Erika and Eunice reflect on the importance of “mixing up” how we gather, analyze, and talk about data.
Mixed Methods: A research practice of collecting and analyzing both qualitative and quantitative results in the same study effort (Shorten & Smith, 2017). We advocate the implementation of this method of analysis in the design process.
Qualitative Research: A practice of capturing contextual and observational information from people who have direct experience with the research area or question. Information is collected individually in surveys or by in-depth interviews or in group settings through focus groups or observations. Qualitative research can highlight the quality of spaces and be used for exploratory data collection or verifying quantitative findings.
Quantitative Research: A practice of gathering measurable, objective data that allows for numerical comparisons and statistical analyses. It is often used for hypothesis testing with a specific, defined methodology. Quantitative research uses large data sets and can produce generalizable findings.
Harvard Catalyst’s Community Engagement Program outlines the steps of mixed methods, including a conceptual framework, additional research resources, and guiding questions.
Throughout the episode, David shouts out the small businesses that enrich the texture and culture of Barrio Logan.
- Barrio Art Crawl, hosted monthly by the Logan Avenue Consortium and Barrio Logan Association.
- Sew Loka, owned by Chicana fashion designer Claudia Biezunski-Rodriguez.
- Mujeres Brew House, Latina-owned brewery with beer cocktails and inviting outdoor space.
- Salud Tacos, the hot spot across from Border X Brewing.
- Diagnosis: Use of qualitative research can identify the opportunities and challenges on a given project. This exploratory phase is when design can be a public-health intervention ,because we can identify community health issues.
- Evaluation: Use of both quantitative and qualitative research methods can assess and evaluate the success of proposed and implemented design strategies. Success can be defined by a technical, emotional, or behavioral perspective.
- Validation: Quantitative data can provide a valuable estimate, but due data collection can miss the holistic understanding of design.
It may also be necessary to dive deeper to validate findings on a project-to-project basis. Data collected at the neighborhood level is an average of all the variation within a community, but impact can only be understood by validating what is actually happening on the ground.
We invite you to nerd out with us and explore some of these interesting data sets in your next project.
- EPA: EJ Screen
- NASA: Normalized Vegetation Difference Index (NDVI)
- American Forests: Tree Equity Score
- Trust for Public Land: ParkServe
Inhabit Summer Jam 1 Episode 3: “Success = More Soul, Fewer Shortcuts”
[Cue low rumble and clock ticking. Cue “Vacaciones” by Timothy Infinite / Epidemic Sound.]
Eunice Wong: Hey, Erika.
Erika Eitland: Hey, Eunice.
Eunice Wong: In our last episode of Summer Jam, we said we’d like get to the indicators, kind of get to the nerdiness. The numbers, the data that we love. This is what brings us together. So as my kind of research buddy and one of the best research-minded people I know… Set the stage for us. How do we start talking about metrics?
Erika Eitland: Well, let me break down some indicators. Okay, this summer is over. Alright, no more tan lines, there are red leaves outside and on the ground. When you and I first started this season, it was warm out, we were in shorts. We were like a cocktail is such a nice thing. Now, it’s like I need the warmth. So, even as I’m joking about fall, we can have real quantitative numbers: the temperature outside, what’s our humidity. Or we can have qualitative things like how cozy does my sweater need to be so that I can be properly outfitted.
Eunice Wong: Important!
Erika Eitland: The “public health-er” in me is like, we need to get to indicators because we have to measure impact. And we’re going to introduce a new term, which is “mixed methods”. This to me is the secret sauce that we need to be bringing into the design process. And effortlessly David talks about this as he’s thinking about Border X and the impact it’s had on the community. So I’m really excited to just to get back to Barrio Logan, and understand how can this not just be a unique situation in San Diego, but how can we anticipate and bolster this type of success? How do we truly measure those soulful experiences, those ratatouille moments we brought up in episode one? And how do we quantify and qualify these things? I’m Dr. Erika Eitland.
Eunice Wong: And I’m Eunice Wong. Today, we’re going to talk about measuring impact. I keep going back to our walk through Barrio Logan.
[“Vacaciones” fades out. Cue music, cars, and laughter from the brewery tour Erika and Eunice took with David Favela in April 2022.]
And there’s this ripple effect of Border X Brewing in the neighborhood that we’re all able to see and feel it was the art crawl that David mentioned, it was a brewery itself. But there’s also all these small businesses that have come.
Erika Eitland: Yeah, well, the fact that you and I got left behind on the tour.
Eunice Wong: We got distracted.
Erika Eitland: We got distracted. There was this lovely small business called Sew Loka, we, you know, we stopped, we got this fabulous t-shirt, new hair, “mujer, you are worthy,” and it was this tiny little shop, but just like filled with all these wonders That experience of walking through as immigrants, I think, felt so at home, even though we had never been there before. So there is those quantitative qualitative pieces of we spent money in this neighborhood, sure. But like, we got so much more out of that.
[Barrio Logan street sounds fade out.]
Eunice Wong: And when we’re talking about impact and effect, it’s about measuring success. The age old phrase, what gets measured, gets done is actually true, right? It’s central to modern decision making, and policy and business.
Erika Eitland: Well, and hello, I’m here for indicators, okay, because, you know, if we think about food security, you can quickly go into the quantifying of cost of food, the distance it takes to get to healthy food, percentage of people with diabetes, or students on free and reduced lunch in that community. These are quantifiable measures of something that is such a human experience and critical for measuring our success.
Eunice Wong: Yeah, and I think design we don’t measure impact as consistently or systematically as we should. So for this episodes, it is not about solving this problem, but reinforcing why measuring impact matters, and how it can optimize design. So when Erika and I were talking with David back at the beer garden, we really wanted to know what his measures of success are, right?
David Favela: So to me, it’s like I can talk about all kinds of things. But if I don’t survive, if I don’t succeed, then this is not a sustainable model. So I think the first measure is, are you a successful business number one, and that’s just measured in, you know, cold, hard numbers. After that, though, I think it does touch on the more softer side. And they’re not quantifiable in such a way I can tell you the one that means the most to me is I am happiest when my brewery is full of people from the community but also from other communities. And there’s this incredible blending and incongruity of different people from different walks of life. I remember on Thursday nights, we have a Latin jazz jam that brings retired white bankers from La Jolla, you know, super wealthy and then there’s a motorcycle club member with tattoos all over his bald head has six-inch knife hanging from his shoulder, and they’re both grooving to the same music and having a good time and we’ve never had an issue. And it’s there’s a very interesting kind of tension. Not in a negative way kind of like this. Hey, we’re this is different. It’s not a nightclub. It’s not a bar. You know, we’re all here because we we just want to relax and enjoy ourselves. You know, for being in the heart of the Barrio and in what some consider a fearsome barrio we never had, you know, nine years, hardly any issues. I mean, it hasn’t been zero, but it’s far below anything you’d find. And even downtown San Diego, where there’s a ton of restaurants we have far less than that.
Erika Eitland: What I love about this last part of the conversation was unknowingly, David introduces this next critical concept for us, which is mixed methods. This is a research approach that collects quantitative and qualitative results in the same study. Earlier, I talked about indicators when it comes to the changing seasons. But we can apply the same approach to street design. As an example, we could talk quantitatively about crash rate, delays at an intersection, travel time. If we go into the qualitative side, this is more personal. It’s about how happy you feel on that sidewalk, if you can walk without tripping over your own shoes, how comfortable you are in different seasons, or if you feel you belong.
Eunice Wong: And right now, I think we are in an age of data transparency, right? Like there’s a wealth of information at our fingertips from the CDC, to the Census, walk scores from the EPA. And I feel like we always do this as kind of a shortcut, right? Like, we draw a little radius around the park, it’s like Ta Da!, now you must all have perfect access to this park. But we’re not asking, you know, do you feel safe to feel included? Welcome? So when we mentioned the qualitative methods, this can be collected through so many avenues, the surveys, interviews, the focus groups, and I think they’ll really enrich the kind of hard numbers with more of the feeling and the emotions and the behaviors of space.
Erika Eitland: But for most researchers, they’re just like, give me some satellite imaging, you know, give me an NDVI score. And it’s like, what’s the quality of this? Like, you’re telling me it’s there, but it could be not nice. I might not want to cross a three lane, you know, thing of traffic to get to that little piece of grass come on, people. All right. So we got to get to a important question, though, Eunice. We’ve told all these fine people, what mixed methods are, but like, why do we need mixed methods? I think we need to break it down for them.
Eunice Wong: So I think it’d be quite useful to think about why mixed methods is so effective through three key steps diagnose, evaluate then validate. Diagnosis is the first step, it’s really just an opportunity to identify what we’re really solving for design is only a public health intervention if we know what the health crisis is. So metrics can also be diagnostic. Number two, evaluation, the data we collect allows us to assess and evaluate design strategies, you know, is it working from a technical perspective, but also from an emotional or behavioral perspective. And number three validation, we may also need to dive deeper to validate those findings on a project to project basis. So data collected at a neighborhood level, you know, you get one stat, it’s probably an average of all of the variation happening within a community. So how do we validate what’s actually happening on the ground.
Erika Eitland: Right, and I think this goes back to what we said in episode one, where we’re often doing and designing like parachute science, we can drop in and take off. And we’re not actually measuring those hard or soft numbers. We’re not measuring the number of ratatouille moments. But we’re also not looking at sort of the hard metrics. Mixed methods are central to this virtuous cycle and design. Because what it does is it allows us to start to learn from each project that we do and be like, Oh, with a little bit of humility, and a Post-Occupancy Evaluation, we realize that we did not do everything that we intended. So I want to turn it back over to David, because he’s really talking about how do we make mixed methods successful, we have to really put aside our assumptions about the site, the neighborhood or the people. And he kind of gets into both these qualitative and quantitative metrics that I think you all will appreciate.
David Favela: Yeah. So one of the things we quickly realized when we first open in Otay Mesa, an industrial park, that if you drew a line, latitude line from downtown San Diego and said there’s North San Diego County and South San Diego County, you would have found nearly what was it 85 breweries North of Downtown, you would have found one or two tiny breweries south of downtown. And what’s the difference? South of downtown is towards the border towards the Mexican border, predominantly Latino community, multicultural communities. And there was nearly a million people there. And so they were being dramatically underserved. If you were growing up in any of those communities, and you wanted to go have a brewery experience. And at that time, there were hardly any downtown and now there are but 85 breweries North specially North County, which is a full almost hour drive if you lived in South Bay. And we realize when we opened our brewery that we had tapped into this like underserved market like we had a line literally the first day we opened we rolled up the door, my brother and I. And there were like 50 people waiting to come in. And we had never served anybody, we had never tapped a keg. Since college days, it was just really craziness. But it really that was kind of like one of the first lessons I realized, and as I reflect back on it is that there are tons of underserved communities out there where people have a lot of assumptions. That either “Oh Latinos or people of color, don’t drink beer or craft beer,” “don’t want comfortable, safe, fun environments where they can come with family and friends,” “aren’t going to be willing to, you know, pay slightly higher prices than a malt liquor store, you know on the corner”. And they’re all false. They’re all false. We’re all human, we are looking for connection and an opportunity to enjoy each other’s company. And I feel when we expanded to Los Angeles, we were absolutely opening up in a brewery desert, you could go to Google Maps and just put breweries and you could see us just like this lone, and people would tell us, they’d say, Thank God, you opened up here, because otherwise we’d be drunk driving 30 minutes and all around in order just to go to a great place. Now, I just walked down the street, or, you know, I can take an Uber here or whatnot. And I think that says a lot about how people perceive our communities and perceive people of color and lower income people too, as well.
Erika Eitland: Yeah, definitely. I am just irritated.
Eunice Wong: Yeah. Okay. Listen, if I could build off what David said, just now I have a bit of a hot take, or maybe just something to get off my chest, like, come on, take the assumption that some people don’t drink craft beer, like I’m offended. And all this talk about assumption busting. And even with our three main benefits of why mixed methods is important, I can already anticipate or the pushback, maybe, you know, I can just hear it in my head, oh, getting all this data that’s going to take longer, or you know, all this extra engagement we should do, it’s going to be so labor intensive, aka expensive. And you know, how necessary is it really to do mixed methods to that I say, if we care about these neighborhoods, and we care about the people that occupy the spaces we design, it’s going to be worth the effort, it’s going to pay off in the end Here’s the thing, you know what, it’s ultimately less risky to do mixed methods, like we’re using this fancy term, but and like people think it’s more expensive. But if we think about the total cost of a project, you know, from the moment we have a release of an RFP, and we’re going to design this space, all the way to the point where people are having birthday parties in a brewery. There is actually so many opportunities to optimize the economic success, if we are thoughtful in that diagnosis that we’re talking about, as well as the validation. And if you’re a repeat investor, this is better for you, because you’re now creating a community that is more profitable. And to those people, you are going to get a better return on investment, both that qualitative and that quantitative analysis lets us do you know, our due diligence, but you will get a better return on investment because you’ve done this kind of risk analysis and this deep dive into the metrics.
Erika Eitland: Right! Because it’s unlocking those ratatouille moment.
Eunice Wong: Yeah, exactly.
Erika Eitland: We need to go from shortcuts and saying that this isn’t important. It’s expensive. My timeline. To actually getting to innovation. I really think this is a story about the value of embedding in the community. And you can’t really copy and paste here. You know, we can’t just like take Barrio Logan, you’ve listened to three episodes. And you’re like, all right, people.
Eunice Wong: Ta-da!
Erika Eitland: We open up a brewery. It’s like, no, no. So I think David’s next story actually shows how metrics can be both, diagnostic and tools of evaluation. And I think that’s really where we have to be headed.
Eunice Wong: Exactly.
David Favela: There are so many different models from an urban designer perspective. Well, how do we create jobs, how to create economic activity, and really the shortcut is will just work with franchises just work with big box stores just go with what’s known. And I understand that sometimes that is, the more likely to succeed, the more—
Erika Eitland: Path of least resistance.
David Favela: Path of least resistance and you know, these are all proven concepts. They just need a physical space to occupy, and they should thrive. But I think what that totally ignores is as you do that, more and more, the opportunities for true grassroots entrepreneurialism actually diminish. And we were faced with that on the street.
Erika Eitland: Y’all. I’m gonna hop in real quick because he’s just talked about how we have to avoid those shortcuts, and the path of least resistance because those cookie cutter approaches aren’t working for us. As we get into the next clip. We’re gonna go back to my T shirt and the small businesses that really are central to the success and future of Barrio Logan.
David Favela: Oh, there’s a gentleman here in the community named Chris Zertuche, he managed La Bodega art gallery. He had this and I didn’t understand it at first, but I can see how it was such a critical part of how we evolved. Is he actually worked with the landlords on the larger properties and subdivided them. So if you had a 5000 square foot retail location, there was no one on the street with the business model, or the resources to pull that off.
Erika Eitland: Yeah.
David Favela: But there were 10 people who could, if they all took a little piece of that, and by doing that, and I think there’s at least three or four buildings that are like that, where they’ve been activated, we call it in a way that now these young entrepreneurs can plug in. And many of them have created thriving online business stores, you walked in bought this beautiful shirt. So now we’ve got you know, instead of just one large retail location, we have 10, small artisan craft cool shops. And that’s added so much texture and culture and beauty to the neighborhood. And personalities. And people who frankly, have enriched things for all of us, I think you’ll recall, when we were walking through, I waved to a young lady in a small shop Sew Loka. So look at crazy. And she has taken over that spot. And I very publicly credit her with the courage during the pandemic, to step up and say, “Hey, guys, you know, we got shut down in March”, we kind of weren’t sure what was going on. And I think in August, when we were looking at another shutdown, she said, “No, we’re not just going to wither away and have this beautiful thing that’s happening on the street get destroyed”. And she said, “we’re going to do this thing called Walk the block. And we’re going to put our shops out on the sidewalk. And then people don’t have to come inside. Everything’s outside”. That first weekend, we did that our sales were three times what they had been before. I mean, there was such a great vibe on the street, people were out and about, and we all kind of needed that after the pandemic. And it’s still to this day contributing tremendously. So she may have one of the smaller shops on the street, but ideas don’t know the dimensions where they originate from. And her leadership and courage are things that have benefited me the largest business on the block, so I always make sure to give her credit, but it’s just a great example. I think of this whole collective action really, on behalf of large, medium and small shops here on the street. We’ve all helped each other in one way or another.
Erika Eitland: Yeah, I’m all about giving credit where credit is due. And this Summer Jam would not be possible without David Favela and all of his hard work to make Border X Brewing something truly magical. And now that you’ve heard this story of culture, data, coolness. We wonder how can you apply it to your life, your design process?
Eunice Wong: I know David didn’t want to be presumptuous, but he is feeding people’s souls. So challenge accepted.
Erika Eitland: Think about the first episode, you know, we’ve invited you in, and we realized that everyone is a storyteller, you are cool. We went to episode two. And we realized the power of embedding and engaging in your community in your projects or civic centers. The G word Gente is really going to be different for any community you’re in. And lastly, in this episode, how do we catalyze change if we’re not measuring that impact?
[Cue “Squeezed In” by Dez Moran / Epidemic Sound]
How are you going to diagnose, evaluate and validate in your own projects and communities? That is the secret sauce.
Eunice Wong: And on that inspirational call to action, inhabit, we’ll be back with another season. This is just the beer before the whole tasting meal. Erika and I are going to stay outside here in the public realm. We’ll be talking to people on the streets and bringing in new friends and faces to the conversation. See you there.
Erika Eitland: Boom.
Eunice Wong: Ding!
Erika Eitland: That’s a wrap! We did it.
Eunice Wong: We did. [laughs]
Erika Eitland: Inhabit is a production of Perkins&Will I’m Erika Eitland.
Eunice Wong: And I’m Eunice Wong. Check out our show page at inhabit.perkinswill.com for the show notes, music, and links to all of the resources and references we mentioned. Follow us on Instagram @perkinswill.
Erika Eitland: This scrappy team is led by Dr. Lauren Neefe, our executive producer who also edits the show. Shout out to Julio Brenes for the illustrations you see on our website and to our research assistant, Olivia Fox. Music by Epidemic Sound.
Eunice Wong: A special thank you to David Favela for inviting us with open arms to Border X Brewing and sharing his inspiring story with all of us.
Erika Eitland: And thanks to our advisory board for being straight with us once again: Casey Jones, Paul Kulig, Yehia Madkour, Angela Miller, Rachel Rose, Kimberly Seigel, and Gautam Sundaram.
All: People, first and foremost. Places. Power. Design. Change. Now.
[“Squeezed In” ends. Snap echoes into empty space.]