Near Eastside Legacy Initiative


In the Spring of 2011, the IUPUI Solution Center launched a program aimed at increasing student and faculty involvement with the Near Eastside of Indianapolis. The goal of this program was to organize projects and support the Near Eastside Quality of Life plan. As one of the first programs to work on this effort, the Visual Communications Design Graduate program worked with residents of this community to frame challenges facing their neighborhoods and develop relevant solutions.

John H. Boner Center; Near Eastside Collaboration Taskforce; Near Eastside Community Organization (NESCO); Residents of the Near Eastside of Indianapolis; Schools, Churches and Businesses in the Near Eastside of Indianapolis; IUPUI Solution Center

Alli Schultz
Ashley Davis
Cara Miller
Emily Stump
Jinny Petrofsky
Jo Lam
Nancy Vellinga Patron


Young Bok Hong
Pamela Napier

Collaborative Action Research in Design


The Near Eastside of Indianapolis is comprised of 21 distinct neighborhoods. Each contains its own community resources and neighborhood associations. This community is undergoing a much-needed revitalization that encompasses several of its neighborhoods. Community leaders approached the IUPUI Solution Center to help them understand how they could keep the momentum of this revitalization going by focusing on specific challenges facing the community. 

Graduate students using a participatory research approach worked with members of the community to understand and articulate their experiences within the Near Eastside. Using this understanding, students constructed a framework that would enable the community to create opportunities that promote a thriving Near Eastside.


Because of the size of the Near Eastside, and in order to reach the largest number of community residents, three focus groups were chosen. Student teams worked with community members from businesses, churches, or schools within the Near Eastside. Each of these groups had constraints that required teams to utilize different methods. The business group used methods that required a short amount of time, such as surveys or interviews. The team that worked with the churches had more time with community members and was able to hold longer focus groups. The team working with schools relied on visualization worksheets to allow children to articulate their experiences. In the end, this information was combined to identify challenges and opportunities within the Near Eastside.

Successful Solution

Two sets of solutions where eventually developed for this project. Both took the form of a booklet. The first booklet contained solutions that focused on fostering channels of communication within the Near Eastside. The second booklet focused on constructing purposeful experiences. Both of these solution booklets shared a common framework that was developed to help create a greater sense of community within the Near Eastside. This framework could be used to develop future programs and activities that would be cohesive and share a common goal for the community.  

Implementation and Benefits

Graduate students presented an overview of the research process and the solutions they developed to an open forum meeting of Near Eastside community members and advocates. At the end of the presentation, copies of the research documentation and the Communication and Experience solution booklets were delivered to key community leaders and to the IUPUI Solution Center.

Assignment and Background

Visual Communication Design Graduate students work in collaborative teams to engage members of the community in applied research to master methods for creative problem solving. A participatory design research process is used to frame challenges and form relevant solutions. These solutions range from artifacts, campaigns, to recommendations.