Addressing racial wealth gaps

Our Commitment

Pillsbury United Communities

Report date
August 2017

What has been most instrumental to your progress?

1a. Communicating with the community on channels that are most familiar to them.

Pillsbury’s Innovation Team learned early in the process that the modes in which we communicated with our target population made a difference in gathering accurate information. We found one-way communication such as flyers and surveys to be ineffective. As such, surveys were only about 2% of the communication we used. Two-way communication of various forms, such as Facebook messenger, texting, engagement events, and one-on-one conversations worked much better. We quickly learned how each person we were engaging preferred to communicate and then used that channel of communication for that relationship. We found that face-to-face, hour-long conversations were the most effective. It often took about 15-20 minutes to gain the person’s trust and then authentic responses and true dialogue occurred. This helped individuals to understand our goals and Pillsbury to understand what the community wants and needs. We referred to these as 1:1 empathy interviews with significant time dedicated for each conversation.
1b. Deep engagement through immersion.

With the success of 1:1 empathy interviews, our team decided to go deeper in engagement through immersion. To do this, we engaged six individuals in shop-alongs. Pillsbury staff arranged for Innovation Team members to walk alongside individuals as they went about their normal grocery shopping experience. These shop-alongs included dialogue and observation to gain a deep understanding of potential customers’ shopping behaviors, barriers, and assets along their grocery shopping journey. This portrays an authentic interest in people’s life stories and genuine concerns for their needs. These engagements helped us establish trust with the people we are most trying to serve.
1c. Clear vision and purpose of project.

After conducting the empathy interviews we saw “wellness” as a main desire and need for our community. Because the human-centered design process is iterative, it is easy to stray from a main goal and go where the wind blows. To avoid this pitfall, we anchored the rest of our learning and discovery around the goal of wellness. This proved very important as other topics came about, such as finances, which we had to choose to leave behind so we could continue to focus on wellness. It also allowed us to innovate around the idea of wellness, not predefined, but as the community sees and experiences it.

Key lessons learned

2b. Project management of design thinking consultant.

Pillsbury is dedicated to the human-centered design process where community members co-design with program staff to create a solution that is relevant and sustainable. However, because a project of this size and scope is new for the Pillsbury Innovation team, we underestimated the full scope of the work. We quickly realized that we had insufficient bandwidth for our in-house team to stay close to the project at all times and maintain progress. This led us to use consultants to help build out our team. However, the budget for consultants was insufficient to achieve all of our goals. Pillsbury staff and the consultants were collectively too optimistic regarding the amount of work and time needed to complete that work.

Reflections on inclusive, collaborative or resourceful problem-solving

We found inclusivity to be very important to making the process work. Though pleasantly surprised, community members were not driven to share with us based on gift cards for time spent in interviews, shop-alongs, etc. Instead community members were seeking genuine, sincere interactions where their stories could be heard and their opinion listened to and respected. We found that our one-on-one dialogues were crucial to our progress on this project. To be inclusive of the community we seek to support with North Market, we had to be willing to take the time for long, deep conversations—waiting for trust to build—and be able to patiently engage for 1 to 1.5 hours with one person at a time. By taking this time we not only connected with the people we seek to support; we connected at a deep enough level for community members to truly show us their vulnerabilities. This allowed us to co-create solutions around their actual needs, rather than their perceived needs.

Other key elements of Community Innovation

We found creating User Journey Maps, beyond the point of contact, to be crucial to designing services and incentives. For example, Pillsbury’s Innovation team conducted shop-alongs. On one shop-along a staff member joined a single mother on her grocery shopping trip. She was starting a ketogenic diet and was trying to simultaneously look up recipes and shop while managing multiple children. We observed that shoppers such as this woman need support before entering the grocery store so she can be set up with recipes and grocery lists ahead of time. Also, this woman could have used support after the shopping trip. Her journey continues as she makes a dish and hopes her children will enjoy it. We saw many possibilities in how to support customers for meal preparation through cooking demonstrations and in-store samples. We also see ways to incentivize early planning and meal preparation to support each individual on their whole journey towards wellness.

Understanding the problem

This work has led to much more clarity about the need that we defined in our grant application. When applying for the grant, using human-centered design for North Market was not yet a reality. However, through the process of human-centered design we have gained four crucial insights into components that must be embedded in North Market for long-term success. First, we must give customers a sense of control. Many of our customers will be using food stamps and have been given restrictions on what they can purchase and when. However we can increase their sense of control which will help customers feel dignity and be satisfied with their experience. Second, we must remove risk from the equation wherever possible. Many of our customers are from low-income households with limited resources for purchasing food. We must find ways to mitigate the risk of trying new, healthy foods through sampling tables and family cooking nights, to name a few. Third, we must focus on the entire journey of wellness and encourage customers on the path through rewards for incremental successes and small wins. And finally, we must remove stigma and judgement while continuing to build trust with our customers.

If you could do it all over again...

Pillsbury’s Innovation team did not anticipate the sheer amount of work—physical and emotional—that a human-centered design approach to this endeavor would take. Looking back, we would set aside protected time for the team to do their work. Dedicated, mindful, concentrated time is needed to shorten time between iterations. Iterative processes can lose momentum if not done in rapid succession. It would have been helpful to know this at the start so that we could have prioritized resources and foreseen the need to bring on additional resources as necessary.

One last thought

We found storytelling to be of high importance and something that should be budgeted for in the future. When working in an inclusive manner with multiple partners, you must have the ability to bring whoever is in the room immediately up to speed on where you are at with the project. We did not have enough resources to do this—many partners, specifically healthcare related, are not used to innovation. It would have been very helpful to engage leadership along the way and quickly catch leadership up to speed as the iterative process unrolled. Likewise, community members struggled if there was too much distance between one spring and another. A method to quickly get all design team members on the same page would have greatly helped the process. Storytelling methods, such as short videos or one-page marketing pieces designed for specific audiences along the way would have been very helpful to continuing momentum.