Watch it! Resident on the lookout. Design of a support service for neighborhood WhatsApp groups to improve safety

Thesis by Welke Wennekers (TU Delft Industrial Design Engineering)

In the coalition agreement (May 2018) the municipality of The Hague has expressed that they want to support neighborhood WhatsApp groups (NWAG’s). The goal of providing support is to increase citizen participation and to improve neighborhood safety and safety feeling. Currently, there is no city-wide approach for supporting NWAG’s.

So, the question is: how to set up a support structure for the long-term success of NWAG’s?

This is answered in this design project and supported by the research conducted throughout the project. To set up a successful support structure, insight were acquired into the desires for support and the contributions of support given in other municipalities. The difficulty for police and municipality is that they have many assumptions regarding giving support to NWAGs. Even though these assumptions are either nonexistent or resolvable in reality, they hold back the police and municipality in starting to give (parts of) the support residents desire. The research also showed that support is very desirable for residents. The number of residents starting and maintaining a NWAG increases when any form of support is given. Residents want to receive tools for starting a NWAG and want to exchange information with the police and municipality about their neighborhood. Residents find it evident and obvious that the municipality would support NWAG’s in this way, and do not understand why this is not the case yet. The coordinator of a NWAG has a central role, as he manages the NWAG. Therefore, the design goal was to create support for coordinators. The principle of making a ward WhatsApp group (WWAG) is used, because that group contains all coordinators in a ward, a municipal official and (ward) police. The focus is on helping residents to start a NWAG, to connect coordinators to the WWAG and to outline what the WWAG should do.

Based on the user research, the following design guidelines were set up for providing support to coordinators:

  1. Keep information as well as activities about safety-related topics.
  2. Present information and activities straightforward, so that the purpose is evident.
  3. Aim to include coordinators in decision making about WWAG setup and execution of certain tasks that maintain the WWAG.
  4. Do not impose obligations for coordinators to become a member of the WWAG.
  5. Make clear agreements between all WWAG members for mutual understanding.
  6. Show appreciation for coordinators in person.
  7. Provide practical tools that support coordinators, mainly in the starting phase.

The created support service consists of twelve touchpoints. Touchpoints are means to create interactions between coordinators and the support service. The touchpoints show the minimum means the municipality should use to provide support to NWAG’s. The support service helps residents to contribute to a safe neighborhood to live in themselves. This increases participation of residents as well as municipal and police officials in the neighborhood. This report shows the process of developing the touchpoints and explains the guidelines and touchpoints in detail, as well as elaborating on the implementation of the touchpoints.

Source: Delft University of Technology

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