Last week, we had our first community engagement event in New Orleans: a design thinking breakfast! These events are hosted by Tulane University’s Taylor Center, as informal and playful community-building spaces for experimenting with design, design thinking, and related methods for social impact.
We spent the morning at Fritai, a Haitian restaurant located in the historic area of Tremé, one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city known for being the center for African American culture, including being the birthplace of jazz. The Chef and Owner of Fritai, Charly Pierre, opened the doors of this beautiful space and welcomed us with an amazing spread for breakfast. Offerings included fruits, scrambled eggs, fried pork, plantain biscuits, and a delicious black bean sauce, among others.
The food and the space served as the perfect backgdrop for our short experimentation with design thinking, an approach used by businesses and organizations to generate new ideas and solutions for difficult and complex problems, resulting in experiences, services, and systems that best serve the end users’ needs. In this Design Thinking Breakfast, we experimented with the question: How might restaurants contribute to community wellbeing? We focused on three main and interrelated aspects: health promotion, social justice, and cultural preservation. Working in groups, attendees shared their different experiences and ideas, presenting them at the end, while engaging in discussion with Chef Pierre.
Attendees had fruitful conversations, yielding ideas to further connections between restaurants and the local community. We discussed ideas to highlight healthier choices, while also acknowledging the need for profitability to make such activities feasible and sustainable – an ongoing challenge in our work. Aspects related to health promotion were discussed alongside the role of restaurants to promote economic development and social mobility in the communities they serve, which is a key area of interest in historic communities, like Treme. As I write this, our team is reviewing the ideas presented, helping us plan for future conversations, including members of the New Orleans restaurant community.
Stay tuned for future events coming up in 2023!
We hope this will be the first of many workshops to come. If you are interested in learning more about these upcoming opportunities, make sure to follow us through this page and our social media. We are also welcoming ideas for future workshops and locations! Share your ideas in the comments below or reach out directly to email@example.com.
Lastly, we want to convey our gratitude to Charly Pierre for opening the doors of Fritai and sharing his food and morning with us, to the Taylor Center, Prof. Chris Daemmrich, and Noah LeJune for making the activity possible, and to our attendees for their full participation and engagement.
Until next time!