Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

Thesis Idea 1 x 3

I want to help NYC local small business owners to thrive because my favorite thing about living in NYC is going to those unique and diverse places that make me feel like I’m home.

I’m tired of using this term, gentrification, but yes we all know this has been part of the history of NYC and many other cities, the continuing rise of rental when a neighborhood is renovated with new developments and buildings that pushes away existing businesses and residents. I’m not saying that change isn’t right, I do enjoy seeing the city is improving but not at the cost of moving people away. New people move into neighborhoods, and maybe these new people won’t appreciate the old businesses, and there is nothing I can do about that. But I don’t want to see NYC become a big mall that only rich people can afford to live in it.

Here are some of initial ideas:

Idea 1:

According to Colin Kinniburgh in a The New Republic’s article:

“The developers couldn’t have done it without government support, from the federal to the state to the city level.”

He is talking about the Freret neighborhood in New Orleans, that was designed by the state that allowed new businesses to operate tax-free, but not existing ones. Part of the problem is that government is supporting new development, but not doing anything to protect what’s already there. Maybe what existing businesses and residents need is a little push, more opportunities to do something about it and fight for their rights.

My first idea is an activist platform, in which anyone can start an organization in their neighborhood that facilitates interactions of people with local policymakers. People would learn how to create an awareness campaign and events to bring people together to promote people to connect with local politicians. A platform where users would learn how to start a conversation with your local community, how to start a petition, how to get in touch with a local politician, how to start a rally and a protest in an effective way to push laws that will protect local businesses.

According to Jason Del Gandio, a professor of communications and social movements at Temple University in Philadelphia, in an interview for The New York Times, petitions don’t really work on their own:

“No president is going to do an about-face on a major policy because of 20,000 signatures,” he wrote. “But coupling that petition with other tactics like protests, rallies, phone calls, face-to-face lobbying, a well-organized media plan and community outreach creates an environment in which the goals of the signatories can become reality.”

But do people really know how to do this on their own? So I want to create a platform that could make that process easier for anyone to engage specific to gentrification issues.

Pros

If the idea is successful, this could make a real impact.

Cons

Designing a complex system easy for anyone to learn will be a huge challenge.

It would only work for really invested users. Users may think creating an organization on their own is a lot of effort.

Even if users do everything right, there are no guarantee policymakers will do something about the issue.


Idea 2:

Inspired by Jane Jacobs quote:

“Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.”

I think the ideal solution would only happen if everyone living in a community would get together to support local businesses. It should integrate the existing and the new businesses and residents.

The idea I’m envisioning is a platform that helps people to outreach and facilitate conversations between new and existing residents and small business owners with the goal of bringing awareness to the issue and bringing people together to brainstorm ideas to help local businesses to thrive.

Pros

Different than the previous one, this would be at a smaller scale, easier to achieve, people would get together with their local community.

Small business owners would have the opportunity to share their problems, get advice and exposure from these meetings.

Cons

It would only work for really invested users. Users may think creating an event on their own is a lot of effort.

People in the community need to be interested in joining.

These meetings will only be productive if they happen from time to time, not sure how I could continue keeping people engaged.


Idea 3:

This idea probably is the most different from the previous ones. And it is outside the scope of gentrification issues, but an issue that affects women in particular. And somehow that could be combined with my other idea of ending catcalling, which gets me a little excited. When I started doing user research last week, a woman shared with me that it is difficult to be a woman in the restaurant industry.

A lot of small business restaurants owners and managers don’t know how to handle sexual harassment complaints from employees, they either don’t have money for HR or don’t see that as a problem since it is an industry that is dominated by men. Women tend to suffer harassment not only from their coworkers, but also from customers. Which becomes an even bigger issue because of the culture that customers are always right, usually women tend to stay quiet, or when they do speak up, restaurant owners and managers don’t want to deal with the situation to not upset their customers.

Here are some factors that contribute to sexual harassment in the restaurant industry according to Stefanie K. Johnson and Juan M. Madera’s article for Harvard Business Review:

“There are several factors that make restaurant employees particularly susceptible to sexual harassment. First, men make up the majority of management and higher-paying roles in the U.S. restaurant industry. The typical frontline restaurant employee is young, female, and working for a male manager: 71% of restaurant servers nationwide are women, making an average of $15,814 a year. Women, particularly minority women, are often placed in jobs with lower status and are more likely to be hired for lower-paying segments like quick-serve and family-style than for higher-paying segments like fine dining. This difference in power can create an environment where sexual harassment is tolerated, ignored, or normalized, because employees do not feel comfortable confronting others about their inappropriate behavior. The industry’s high turnover rate — 70% annually — can also contribute to this culture, as targets of harassment are likely to leave before making any complaints.”

My third idea is to create an HR platform for women in the service industry, where they can educate themselves on what they can do about when they experience sexual harassment. The platform could also educate small business owners on what to do when they get a complaint to give them the opportunity to create a better environment for women to work. A woman, who has been sexually harassed at work, could file a complaint via the website, and the employer would get notified that this has happened along with actionable steps to solve the situation.

Pros

Help women to work in a safe environment.

Women can keep their jobs.

Businesses will get fewer lawsuits concerning sexual harassment complaints.

If there is a support to the women at the workplace, fewer customers would be encouraged to misbehave in restaurants.

Cons

Owners could react by firing the woman complaining instead of solving the problem.