Impact360’s focus is on developing and deploying tools to help researchers and practitioners. Tools to do what? Climb the convergence pyramid through building stronger connections, integrating their approaches, and conducting inclusive problem solving together, which are our three pillars. Why? To reduce natural hazard impacts and disaster risk. 

We don’t just research and make the tools; we use them to facilitate projects so we can test and refine them, as well as provide a service for integrating research and practice. 

Our first project kicked off in October 2019 and is with NOAA, with support from NOAA’s Office of Weather and Air Quality. The goal of the project is to integrate research and practice to support the NOAA National Hurricane Centers (NHC) efforts to update and modernize the design of their Hurricanes.gov website. Our work is aimed at facilitating the creation of evidence and recommendations to support NHC’s strategy for improving the public’s experience using hurricanes.gov. NOAA’s vision for the public is for them to reliably access usable information so that they can use it to inform their decision-making before a forecasted tropical storm or cyclone makes landfall.

We believe deploying inclusive problem-solving tools for integrating research and practice will help NOAA create a human-centered design strategy to achieve their vision of the public’s experience using hurricanes.gov. To help us refine and apply these tools, Impact360 is working with designer and researcher Robert Soden, through his affiliation with Co-Risk Labs.

A primary objective of our involvement in the project is to integrate scholarly research into a process that would not have otherwise included it–in other words, foster an integrative approach. To our knowledge, this is the first user experience project to integrate scholarly research on risk communication and protective action decision-making, as well as scholarly researchers, meteorologists, and professional designers, within a human-centered design process.

This project will help inform how we approach and facilitate projects with partners in the future. We are using this project to inform the development of our inclusive problem-solving toolkit we call Toolkit360. We are evaluating concepts we have created in the past year and incorporating lessons from Robert’s experience and expertise. And we are accomplishing the project objectives using a collaborative process that Impact360 breaks down into 12 tools:

  1. Assess (the problem space and specific situation)
  2. Cast (the participants in and stakeholders of the project)
  3. Align (participants along shared goals, objectives, and interests)
  4. Review (empirical evidence and scholarly research literature)
  5. Discover (through conversations with Hurricanes.gov users)
  6. Represent (our collective understanding of the problem)
  7. Frame (the solution space and desirable outcomes)
  8. Interpret (the design opportunities and challenges)
  9. Generate (creative ideas from past research and best practice)
  10. Shape (testable prototypes to evaluate proposed solutions)
  11. Solve (through testing what promising solutions are feasible)
  12. Integrate (the identified solutions into a viable strategy)

The first step of this project was strengthening connections between researchers and practitioners with relevant expertise. In the past couple of months, we held about 20 group and individual calls with NOAA to understand the problem and the organizational situation. These conversations helped us to assess the challenges and enablers within, and associated with, NOAA for integrating research into practice–specifically NHC operations. We talked to and assembled an interdisciplinary working group of non-NOAA researchers and practitioners who will provide guidance, feedback, and contributions to project activities. These individuals did not previously know each other, but creating these connections for integrated knowledge is ideal for this project. 

Ultimately, if our facilitation and tool applications are successful, the project will provide NHC with a strategy they can use to evolve hurricanes.gov. Through the use of this strategy, the NHC will better meet the needs of a growing diversity of public users while incorporating best practices of user experience design and integrating findings from past scholarly research.

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Reducing natural hazard impacts and disaster risk requires better communication and collaboration between researchers and practitioners. We want to hear from you: What are the challenges and victories you encounter with integrating research and practice in your work?

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