learn how social impact design has been applied in a meaningful way for our local immigrant and POC entrepreneurial community in Portland, Oregon.
Mariel Alvarado (a graphic designer of CommunicArte) attended the !mpact Design for Social Change workshop at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. The workshop challenges each participant to address any social issue by generating and implementing an idea follow the design methodology, design strategy, also known as design thinking (a process most attributed to the Bay Area organization IDEO). Mariel, passionate about supporting her fellow Latinx community in Portland, Oregon, chose to address the issue of economic security for Latinx business owners in Portland. Specifically, she proposed the question: How might I increase the safety net of Latinx Oregonians employing the skills I have? She set a project goal of helping Latinxs sustain strong companies and feel empowered to expand their business(es). After a week of researching, ideating, designing and prototyping, she pitched to the class the first iteration of a dining passport for Latinx-owned restaurants in Portland.
fall + winter 2017
Mariel and Erin Stevanus (of studio b:ask)—who coincidentally also attended the same workshop in NYC—fleshed out the idea, and in Fall 2017 pitched to the Portland Mercado the co-creation of a dining passport that would feature all their vendors. The Portland Mercado is a thriving market of 16 food businesses and 3 consulting services owned by Latinxs and other people of color. During the following 12 months, Mariel engaged with all the vendors in a process of co-creation to define the content and parameters of the booklet.
SPRING + SUMMER 2018
In concert with the principles of design strategy, Mariel gathered feedback from the Portland community in multiple workshops. Additionally, Erin assumed the role of Project Amplifier for Buen Provecho (formerly known as El Pasaporte Project), to promote the project at different event and within circles of interest. In April during Design Week Portland, Buen Provecho was presented as a human-centered design project to support the Portland Mercado. In June, The Portland OpenIDEO chapter invited Buen Provecho to gain feedback and engage the participants in several design sprints. As of recent, Buen Provecho was involved as a project sponsor in the Social Impact Lab, an 8-week design challenge organized by the Portland OpenIDEO chapter.
If we’ve learned anything about social impact design, we’ve learned that projects will naturally evolve to meet the community’s needs — regardless of the amount of planning. After spending more than a year getting to know the vendors, Mariel better understood the challenges in owning a food cart, and the life cycle of a food cart. As hard as it is for a restaurant to survive in the first year, a new food cart has a unique set of hurdles to jump. Although Mariel had a completed coupon booklet in hand, ready to go to press, she decided to pivot.
Here we’ve created a digital collection of the stories from these entrepreneurs at the Portland Mercado. Perhaps one day Buen Provecho will be released as a coupon booklet. Nonetheless, we’re pretty excited to share this vibrant and intriguing content that tells the stories of business professionals that preserve their culture and actively share it with the Portland community. ¡Buen Provecho!
Buen Provecho was developed following the design strategy illustrated below.
Develop an understanding of the social issue from ethnographic research.
Nodal Relationship Map
Refine research to define a point of view.
Wheel of Reasoning
Generate a long list of ideas that respond to
«In what ways might we address this social issue?» as crazy as the ideas might sound.
Create the first version of your idea/product built up on your previous research and mapping.
Test your idea with several audiences that represent different cultural, racial, and SES backgrounds.
Analyze users’ feedback and integrate what you learn to refine the idea/product as many times as you can.
Buen Provecho was designed to
Highlight the inherent value in Latin American Food
make meaningful connections between Latinxs and the rest of the portland community
increase visibility of latinx-owned businesses in portland
Buen Provecho’s pilot features the Latinx entrepreneurial community in Portland.
Why the Latinx community?
<< words by Mariel, Buen Provecho founder >>
Let me take you back to the early '90s, to a Venezuelan-Polish-American household in SW Portland, Oregon.
Saturdays were lazy in our house. Once we got moving, we often began the weekend with our family tradition of making arepas for breakfast. My father would combine the water, oil, salt and Harina Pan (pre-cooked corn) in a bowl, and shape the dough into balls. He’d flatten the mounds of dough into inch-thick corn cakes and pass them onto the griddle. (My father would sometimes humor me by shaping the arepas into hearts, diamonds, any shape—sometimes even my dolls would get a mini arepa.) As the arepas’ shells took on a golden-brown tone, my mother would grate cheese and slice avocado. These Saturday arepa breakfasts taught me to love and take ownership of my Venezuelan identity.
I visited my father’s country, Venezuela, several times as a girl and young adult, but never had the opportunity to grow up there. Naturally, I developed my Venezuelan identity through my relationships with my abuelita, my father, los primos (cousins), and listening to compact discs of Venezuelan salsa—gifts from relatives abroad. But, if there was one link that kept my connection to Venezuela alive—more than anything else—it was the food. Las arepas, las cachapas, los maduros con queso rallado, las hallacas, las galletas María Puig, y el Pirulín. Those sweet and savory flavors gave me access to being part of the Venezuelan community.
Over the years, I built strong ties to the immigrant Venezuelan community in Portland. I witnessed the power in coming together to cook and share food. Along with their ingredients and recipes, Venezuelans share their memories of their lives back home, and fill the room with their music and joy.
Fast Forward to modern times.
Portland has made a name for itself as a destination for creative, high quality, locally sourced, and relatively inexpensive food. Chefs are pushed to invent new flavors and never settle with anything ‘traditional.’ One particular trend is the wave of "Latin-fusion"—restaurant’s take on Latin American flavors combined with national food trends (power foods, different diets, kale! bacon!)—which has gained considerable strength and profit in parts of the Portland food scene. One would think that this boost in interest in Latin American food would directly benefit the Latinx population, however, the reality is that most of the Latin-fusion restaurants are not owned by Latinxs.
The lack of Latinx-owned restaurants is not happening in a vacuum. It is a symptom of income inequality and occupational segregation. In 2012 89% of small businesses were owned by White Americans that do not identify as Latinx (Oregon Community Foundation, 2016). While the percentage of Latinx-owned business is on the rise, in 2012 only 5% of small businesses were owned by Latinxs in Oregon (OCF, 2016). Latinx Oregonians have a lower median and per capita household income than do White Oregonians (OCF, 2016). That is a obscenely large income disparity. To learn about more findings in detail about the state of Latinx Oregonians (population, education, employment and income, and health), you may do so by reading a phenomenal 2016 report authored by the Oregon Community Foundation titled: Latinos in Oregon: Trends and Opportunities in a Changing State.
Percentage of businesses owned by white and Latino Oregonians, Survey of Business Owners, U.S. Census Bureau
Per capita income, American Community Survey, U.S. Census Bureau
Another study found that Latinxs are more likely than any other community of color to work in the service industry in Oregon (Coalition of Communities of Color & Portland State University, 2012). Occupational segregation is also expressed at the [Multnomah] county level by the finding that Latinxs are more likely to find in jobs in the service, farming, fishing and forestry, construction, and production and transportation sectors (than their White counterparts).
Latinx Oregonians face occupational segregation (CCC & PSU, 2012) and lower per capita and household income, despite being more active than than their White counterparts in the workforce (OCF, 2016).
Currently, Latinxs make up 15% of Oregon’s population and 9% of Portland’s population (U.S. Census Bureau). Their language, culture, food, values and experiences will only continue to influence the social fabric at the state and city level. Fortunately, people in Portland value cultural exchange and inclusion, support locally-owned businesses and appreciate exceptional food. Buen Provecho PDX speaks to all of these values.
Buen Provecho PDX was founded in order to raise the level of visibility of immigrant, Latinx and POC owned businesses and help these business owners make meaningful connections in their communities.
Customers get authentic Latin American food and experiences and feel involved in a socially-just community. Latinx and POC business owners connect with Portland foodies and tourists interested in the local food scene. Latinx and POC-owned businesses in Portland are more visible in the restaurant industry and reduce marketing costs.