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What We Have and What We Want: A Neighborhood Study

What defines the wellbeing of a neighborhood? Is it access to health and education, or affordability, or relationships between people—or is it just happiness of people living there?

As part of a project at Design for Social Innovation in SVA, we were asked to “map our neighborhood’s wellbeing.” I have lived in New Brunswick, NJ, for the past year and, even though I have spent a fair amount of time at home, I realized I didn't know much about my neighborhood’s wellbeing. First, what defines the wellbeing of a neighborhood? Is it access to health and education, or affordability, or relationships between people—or is it just happiness of people living there?

I began to think about how I could research effectively. Counting the number of hospitals and schools nearby? Interviewing people? Photographing them. Or just observing? The culture of my neighborhood is very “non interfering” and I wanted to find a way that would give gave my neighbors a choice to answer or not to answer. Inspired from Candy Chang’s "Before I Die" project, I put up posters that said “I have…” and “I wish I had…” to understand what they are thankful for and what they dream of having.

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