The biggest lesson I learned from the past few weeks is to bridge the data with ground knowledge. While we could collect data from many sources profiling the entrepreneurs or describing our impacts, the feedbacks from entrepreneurs themselves is the ultimate source to understand the reality on the ground. For example, creating commercial spaces might be good, but it would be remiss to ignore the underlying systematic issue of ownership (why it is always white property owners renting out to minority entrepreneurs, and connecting it to the gentrification issue we have read and seen even during this short two months of time). In my own data analysis task, I noticed that many small start-ups we have helped launching were never annotated or updated correctly on OpenStreetMap, a place where map researchers constantly reference to. Some of these issues are inevitable, as in order to increase accessibility we need to sacrifice data quality by making our intake less burdensome for prospective entrepreneurs, but sometimes this issue is systematic. In my exit meeting, one of my mentors told me a fact that nods to the reminders from DeAndre’s speech, that many reporters and some researchers she has talked to never reached out to her again.
The past few weeks working in ProsperUs and getting to know the green garage and DCERP fellows’ community is an absolute enjoyment. I learned a lot by simply hanging out with others and volunteering with other orgs. I hope in the future I could still have chance to get immersed in the community development eco-system and treasures every step, and everyone I have worked with in this journey.