Flora Massah

Food Sovereignty in Chicago

Co-designing storytelling for systems change with urban growers

Co-Design Workshop


Lead Design Researcher



14 weeks

4-person team




Co-Design Prep

Co-Design Facilitation



Importance of sharing back

insights from our research

to the community.

Context: Community Navigator is an organization that supports urban BIPOC growers in the greater Chicago area. They partnered with our class to strategize how storytelling can increase awareness and create more opportunities for the network. The challenge was to find ways these organizations connect with one another, re-frame the public conversation about “food deserts,” and create a narrative that can drive systems change. 

Approach: I conducted primary and secondary research to learn about the current and historical context of food systems in Chicago, as well as understand the needs and desires of the stakeholders and the role storytelling could play to support their goals. Synthesis of this information guided our design of the workshop. I analyzed the workshop findings and distilled the key insights.

Methods: Primary and secondary research; trauma-informed practices; co-design workshop with community members.

Key Findings: Three separate domains for storytelling emerged from our project – storytelling within the community; storytelling for others; and storytelling for decision makers. We also found that as a fairly new organization, Community Navigator needed to solidify a collective identity and agenda. A key storytelling opportunity was found in explaining the 'why' (how the food system came to be this way) rather than solely focusing on the current landscape.

Outcome: Identified important community desires the organization needs to address moving forward, as well as several strategies and recommendations for how to implement.