Monday, December 8, 2008

After six weeks of analyzing various aspects of the inner and outer workings of Goodwill, recognizing different problems, and formulating various solutions, my group and I have offered Goodwheels as our final proposal.

Our analysis of Goodwill came from through two avenues: first was an investigation of the circulation of goods throughout the Goodwill system, and second was a series of interviews conducted at various Goodwill stores around Austin. The investigation in regards to the circulation of goods throughout the Goodwill system started at points of distribution, or PODs. More generally, these are the channels through which goods are donated. Once the goods are donated, they are sorted into what can be sold and what can be salvaged. Anything else is either trashed or recycled. Goods that can be sold then head to the floor for a period of three weeks. After the three week time period, any items still not sold are transferred to the Blue Hanger outlet. If the items still do not sell at Blue Hanger, they are divided into two general groups: hard-line goods (shoes, electronics, etc.) and soft-line goods (textiles). Hard-line goods are placed in large cardboard containers called gaylords and soft-line goods are compressed into bales which are generally sold by the ton at pennies per pound. Again, anything that cannot be sold for whatever reason is recycled if possible, or trashed.

It was during our time spent at the Blue Hanger talking to the head of transportation that we were made aware of seven large unused box trucks. Generally these box trucks are used for transporting goods and materials around the city, but more efficient routing cut the number of trucks needed.

The interviews we conducted covered a broad range of topics regarding the public's general perception and awareness of Goodwill. One of the questions that ultimately lead us to an issue of concern was, " Are you familiar with the Goodwill mission statement? " We discovered that while in fact, the majority of people are at least somewhat aware of the Goodwill mission, there was a large subset, young adults and teenagers, who were oblivious. Also, while many people had a general idea of the mission statement, most did not seem to understand that unlike other charity thrift stores such as Salvation Army, Goodwill's efforts and resources remain in the local community.

Through this analysis, we were then able to identify what our goals might be. In a sentence, they were to efficiently utilize Goodwill's resources in order to strengthen community presence and mission awareness. We feel that Goodwheels fulfills these goals.

So, what is Goodwheels? Goodwheels is essentially a mobile Goodwill run out of the converted cargo space of an unused box trucks that could go to a wide range of Austin events. For example, Austin City Limits already attracts thousands of people each year. Goodwheels would be perfect for ACL in that it could drive down to the park area and set up shop for concert goers who otherwise would not have even thought about shopping at Goodwill that day. Fun Fun Fun Fest, another annual music festival in Austin, would also be a perfect candidate for Goodwheels, especially since it reached out to local Austin businesses this year for the first time, allowing them to set up shop at the festival in an effort to strengthen community ties among one another. Other events occurring on a more regular basis could be First Thursdays on South Congress, or even youth sport events like little league games on the weekends.

The redesign of the truck would begin on the exterior. While surveying different Goodwill graphics, we realized that there was not a very consistent visual language. Color schemes, typefaces, layouts, etc. all seemed to change from ad to ad. However, there were some bolder color schemes we found to be visually engaging that we would like to incorporate into our Goodwheels visual language. The sides of the truck would then be painted with a more dynamic and visually engaging pattern and would have only the word "Goodwheels", plus the tag line "delivering opportunity to your community", included in order to cut down on visual clutter. In addition, on the back door entrance to the cargo space, we would maintain the same visual language by including a composition with our pattern and cut down on visual clutter by only having Goodwill's contact info presented in a clear and legible way.

The interior of the truck would house a lighting source, large storage boxes for transportation, a box to collect more donations, a small fitting area with a mirror display, and most importantly, a display rack for the clothes. This display rack would be integrated into the already existing tracking system inside the truck. Currently, the tracking system is used to tie down the large duratainers during transportation. However, by using the metal pieces that hook into the tracking, it would be easy to make a modular clothing rack that could not only be placed on either side of the interior, but also change in size. Also, the color scheme already seen on the exterior of the track would be continued on the interior. In regards to a power source, a generator would probably be best suited for the job. At Fun Fun Fun Fest this year, several businesses used a solar power one, which would be more environmental and cut down on costs.

As far as what might be sold from the Goodwheels truck, we have at this point geared it primarily for clothing that would be selected off the floor at Goodwill stores and rotated according to the event. However, it would also be possible to sell items, such as books and toys, depending on the event. For this, we discussed placing a display shelf on top the clothing rack supports.

Also included in the interior of the truck would be the Donate Your Story wall. Costumers browsing the goods at an event would be encouraged to write on index cards anything they might want to share with others ranging from how Goodwill might have affected that person to stories about the event the Goodwheels truck is present. We feel that this would serve as a median through which people could connect with one another by reading the different comments and stories, thus strengthening both Goodwill's as well as the individuals ties within the community. In addition, we have also discussed the possibility of using this board to showcase stories of people whose lives have already been affected by Goodwill, thereby reflecting to the rest of the community Goodwill's efforts and successes.

In order to advertise the Goodwheel truck's presence at events, we have devised a couple of systems. The first is to circulate door hangers in neighborhoods surrounding the event area. Included on the door hangers would be the times and locations of the upcoming Goodwheel events as well as a note to encourage people to come and donate. The second system would be to circulate cards with the same information around events the Goodwheels truck might already present at. Also, the cards could be placed in businesses around the area of the event prior to its start in an effort to help get the word out before hand.

In conclusion, we feel Goodwheels would be an effective entity in the existing Goodwill system. Its inclusion would mean a huge increase in coverage around the community, inevitably increasing awareness of the Goodwill mission statement, and therefore expanding Goodwill's ability to serve the community.

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