Keep Connecting



WHEN | Fall 2016 - 10 Weeks.
FOR | SCAD Sustainable Practices in Design Course.
WHAT | We worked with the City of Savannah’s Office of Environmental Services and Sustainability to understand their department and their relation to other City of Savannah departments. We facilitated and created workshops to help the various departments communicate better and understand the sustainability practice within the Savannah City Government.
ROLE | Design Researcher & Graphic Designer.
CONTRIBUTIONS | Conducted secondary research, lead interviews, developed empathy maps, produced graphics, created presentations templates and design, and lead process book design.

Look at the final process book here


Our lens for this course was the stool of learning capabilities (Peter Senge, 2008). The first leg of the stool is learning to see larger systems. It is about recognizing and identifying systems where organizations take part so they can align their goals towards long-term solutions that nurture their environment. The second leg is collaborating across boundaries. The only way to interact successfully with a larger system is to collaborate beyond the organization’s limits. 

Our Mission Statement

We will empower the City of Savannah’s Office of Environmental Services and Sustainability (ESS) through building alignments and a shared vision for the different city departments so they can work together towards the goals of the 2016 ESS Sustainability Assessment.



As a team, we looked at case studies looking to other cities for inspiration. We looked at four different cities, each case study city made sustainability a priority and developed practices that allow these initiatives to take place. We conducted primary interviews to several department heads within the City of Savannah. Our goal in these interviews was to understand the mission and methods of each city department so that we may find areas of convergence and opportunity for sustainable driven departmental collaboration. After gathering all of our interview data, we developed a more unique and effective method of analyzing our interview data as a class. We use the process of affinitization to analyze and group data points in order to discover patterns that generate insights. 


We wanted to filter the affinitization process through frameworks in order to guide the insights and maintain the nuances and integrity of each individual interview. We created a system map to understand our perceptions of the relationships between the departments interviewed, and created an empathy map for each interview, then we combine them all together and ended up with an aggregated empathy map of the different deparments. Applying the empathy map method to departments was a way to personify them, understand them better and get rid of any assumptions. All these steps lead us to our insights, where we found patterns and connections that would helps us achieve an innovative and impactful solutions rather than following assumptions.



As a class, we strategically chose to focus our efforts more around alignment, designing collaboration and workshop facilitation than around sustainability and sustainable practices. The ESS are the experts on sustainability; what we discovered was needed through our research was a first step towards inter-departmental unity and vision. Our pilot opportunity was our chance of putting our concept plan into action. It was a chance to test our concept through live prototyping with stakeholders. 


Our Contributions

We refine our pilot opportunity, solidify our concept and finalize out study. We developed a workshop kit and a process book for the City of Savannah’s Office of Environmental Services and Sustainability. The main objective of workshop sessions is to align different points of view towards a shared vision that allows greater commitment and therefore generates better results. Our workshop kit gathered all the different components they would need to complete a successful workshop on their own and options for adaptability depending on attendance, time, etc.

We conducted a final presentation where several City of Savannah deparments attended, and we ran a short version of the workshop session and explain our process, final findings and deliverables.


After our final presentation we where invited to present at City Hall. Where we again shared our research, insights and recommendations.

our conclusion

One of our strongest skills as design managers is facilitating collaboration, and that was exactly the main objective of our work with the ESS. We helped them to visualize how the city departments are currently connected and how they would like to be working together in the future. We also provided them with tools to further nurture those relationships, and had the opportunity to test our strategies with outstanding results: a trustworthy environment of collaborative work where every participant was committed to keep being actively engaged in future projects. 


2018© Maria Theron  |  All rights reserved, please do not reproduce without consent.