Crime: An MLP Map and Intervention Matrix

We began Assignment 2 by reviewing the project prompt, analyzing Geel’s diagram, and reviewing Brezet and Joore’s A Multilevel Design Model. We had a really hard time getting started, specifically because our group has struggled with the broad scope of our topic. We had difficulty paring down our topic in Assignment 1, and we wanted to make sure that our deliverables for Assignment 2 went into depth on a more specific scale.

Since we wanted to tighten our focus for Assignment 2, we brainstormed about how we would approach this project. We thought it might be interesting to focus on one person from Pittsburgh that had been convicted of a crime, and look at the landscapes, regimes, and niches which contributed to that path. This would ensure that we weren’t making assumptions about crime in Pittsburgh, because we would be focusing specifically on the facts of one person’s experiences. We liked this idea, so we did a little research about infamous/well published criminals from Pittsburgh that we could analyze in-depth.

We found some information about the LaRocca Crime Family, a Pittsburgh mafia group, which originated in 1910. Only a few years ago, there were articles in the Pittsburgh Gazette claiming the group was still active. We thought this might be an interesting study of crime in Pittsburgh over time, so we started drawing a Multi-Level analysis of John LaRocca’s life and influences. While this was a really fun approach to the problem, we hit a wall with this approach because we couldn’t find enough information about John LaRocca’s childhood life or societal influences.

Next, we researched nonprofits in Pittsburgh in order to identify present niches in our topic area. We used this research as a jumping off point to identify niches which we could elevate to regimes in the future. We looked at Pittsburgh nonprofits which offer job counseling, therapy, and shelter/food to ex-convicts and the homeless. We also explored groups which work with high-risk kids, and the strategies they employ in giving high-risk kids a better life. We used these nonprofits to identify points on our map, and from there branched out to look at government interventions like tax cuts and work release programs. We also considered how life has changed for ex-convicts over time; the digitalization of criminal records and the expansion of probation programs has had an impact on ex-convicts and anyone in the system.

Through our research, we began to notice some trends in our map. We saw societal mindsets and ex-convict joblessness as primary barriers for lowering the conviction rate and rehabilitation for those convicted. As we worked to identify our intervention point, we struggled with finding one solution which addressed functional problems and abstract cultural norms simultaneously. Given how expansive and controversial our topic is, it felt naive to assume that only a few solutions would turn the tide. However, we did identify a few simultaneous interventions which, when performed simultaneously over a cyclic iterative approach, could change perceptions in Pittsburgh and the realities of life for ex-convicts.

Our intervention matrix focuses on varying scales of intervention across individual change actors, infrastructure, and the overall Pittsburgh community. We chose to use this matrix because we felt that it was a great way to identify intervention points and paired well with our MLP map. On an individual level, we focused on creating connections between individual community members and giving mentorship opportunities to ex-convicts. We thought this would be a great small scale way to aid rehabilitation and change perceptions among mentees. On a medium scale for the community, we thought that a Pittsburgh-made documentary about poverty and crime in Pittsburgh could improve community perceptions. If a community documentary were marketed broadly, and offered community discussions and panels with ex-convicts from the documentary, we might see an increase in Pittsburgh empathy towards convicts.

For us, this was different than a traditional design process mainly because of the very large scope of our work. This widening scope has been a difficulty for us, however, we found MLP helpful because it asked us to focus on change actors and reflect on the present. This helped us analyze on a smaller scale before expanding to look at the larger implications and social issues at hand. In some ways, the three levels approach is similar to a traditional design process, because both ask the designer to expand and contract their thinking over the course of the project.

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