Civic Night: Expectations and ideals

Go and talk to real people. This statement is the credo of UX designers and researchers. GO AND TALK! So we did. This week we were validating the format of the event that is supposed to bring people with different socioeconomic backgrounds together to talk about local issues. We call it Civic Night. We created a flyer for the event and put it in front of people on the streets of the East Side of Austin.

PrototypesHere’s what we heard right away:
– “What is it going to be about? Donald Trump of course!”
– “Stop right there. I don’t do politics.”
– “This is an interesting idea. It’s like Saturday Night Live.”

Ok, maybe using the word “politics” twice in such a small flyer was too much. It conjures up negative feelings in some people. Other than that we got a lot of interesting comments on the concept from participants and heard some amazing stories.

One of the participants took a special place in our minds. He inspired us so much to realize this concept in real life! We met him in a parking lot of Sonic. Well, first we met four young guys sitting at a table and eating corn dogs. We asked them to participate and heard “Yeah, sure, but we don’t know anything about politics, but our boss does!” They pointed at the black pickup truck just a couple of feet from us and we saw a man sitting in the driver seat. We thanked the guys and went to the boss.

Let’s call him Omar. He wasn’t excited to talk first, but when we briefly described the idea, he started to open up. He is a construction trainer and leads a group of students on construction projects. Omar used to live in East Austin, but can not afford it anymore, so he moved outside of the town. He told us how he met Steven Adler once – he and his group were building houses for homeless people, and the mayor just showed up one day! He said then he and his wife are just starting to get into local politics, so he liked our concept because it promises to be fun. “I didn’t participate before because it is too serious. Your idea sounds like fun”. Omar is Mexican American. When we asked him who he thinks is going to be the audience of an event like this, he said: “I don’t think minorities will come. A lot of Caucasian people will”. When we asked why, he said: “Because minorities are just trying to maintain, you know: eat, drink. They don’t worry about things like this.”

When we come back to the school to debrief on the first day, we were pretty excited. We knew we need to redesign the flyer, and we hoped it will communicate the idea better so more people will be as excited as we are. We changed the title from “Party. People. Politics” to “Community Central” and “local politics” to “local issues”. But talking to people on the next day, we didn’t see much interest either.

interview Drea
We spent a lot of time analyzing WHY we had a significant success on NextDoor and very little on the streets of the city. We started to talk about the potential participants. Who are they? Where do they live? What race are they? What economic class do they represent?

27 participants. And there is a trend. A socioeconomic class divided people into two groups pretty clearly.

The results of the experiment with middle-income people indicated that a majority are interested in the concept; they prefer a live show over a recorded show; they prefer a comedy show with an interactive component that sparks community engagement. They were willing to exchange contact information and learn more about the project.

The results of the experiment with lower income people in East Austin (a big part of them were representative of minorities) were inconclusive because most of them did not find value in the concept. “Nothing is going to change” – we heard. “I’m not into all this politics”. Changing a prototype did no change their reaction. Not interested.

The main goal of Civic Night is to bring people together. To make change together. We know there is a very specific situation in East Austin – complicated relationships between new transplants and long-term residents. But how can we bring them together if they don’t see WHY should they do that? This question keeps being unanswered in our heads. We believe that COMMUNITY is a necessary element of change in Austin. Talking about hot topics is the only way to empathy and productive relationships. Unfortunately, we have not yet found the appropriate language to describe the concept and the benefits of the concept to all potential participants of the event such as it. We will explore the ways to gain this understanding.

But we got support from the other, very important players of this project – comedians. The SME interviews with them validated the value of the concept and the fact that comedy is such a powerful human interaction that can influence what people think and do. We were cautioned about the difficulties of politics and humor and identified a well-established comedian who is interested in working with us and connecting us to the comedy scene. We showed up on a comedy-show hosted by her to feel the atmosphere of comedy and get a better sense of how exactly it might work with community building and discussing local issues. We will explore this opportunity more.Comedy

These were the experiments and developments of this week, but we are still getting results from last week’s experiment, which are pretty exciting and give hope!

Even though we didn’t promote our landing page online since the very first post on NextDoor, we are still getting subscriptions! The amount of email addresses we got has doubled since the last week! (so far we have 50 people signed up on our website, 24 of them were signed up in last 6 days, 3 days after our Next Door promotion). It does look like our tear-off flyers worked! The most popular flyers were put on in Austin Bouldering Project building that also gives us a tip on who is the audience who is interested in an event such as Civic Night.


Next week we are going to develop an experiment that outlines/explains Civic Night concepts that have been discussed this week by the team, e.g., comedy show, trivia show, salon format, and media platform and also develop a new experiment with target customers to better understand expectations and interest.

We highly appreciate any thoughts and comments on the topic and would love to discuss it with anyone who has something to say. Please, feel free to contact us and we will happily talk over coffee and move some stickies around with you.

To learn more about Civic Night visit our website!