Design your happiness today
Arrow Right
August 9, 2021
A rural city's journey to happiness and wellbeing

One of our favorite projects in 2020 was with the Health Equity and Access in Rural Regions (HEARR) Initiative supported by the Mayor’s Office in Scottsville, VA. Our team was commissioned to explore the health disparities in rural areas, specifically within a ten-mile radius of Scottsville, VA. Our goal was to understand what could make the community a healthy place to live, and overall what could Scottsville do to impact the well-being of their residents.

We started with onsite interviews and observations of the current state of health and well-being. Through this process of research, we identified many pain points and opportunity areas (e.g. more walkable paths near the waterfront, improved internet, etc). Like many design researchers, we went through the process of synthesizing our insights into stakeholder maps, personas, and customer journeys. The result was 64 future state recommendations (e.g. delayed school start times) to the group to improve the current situation and align with the city's ongoing work. 

Then we prepared these new service concepts to be tested and prototyped.

We supported HEARR in running a public workshop to gather insights and feedback from the citizens of Scottsville. This included an original list of recommendations to improve citizen happiness and well-being. These concepts ranged from improving air quality to creating a better sense of community. From this original list of 64, 7 concepts were identified by the community as frontrunners to actually develop further.

We had such an amazing time working with the HEARR group. We are also thankful that the team is currently testing these concepts and integrating additional ideas into their work (e.g. Town Council committee work). 

“The (MMSZ) team brought understanding and enthusiasm to our project by exploring and finding solutions to health inequities in our rural region in Central Virginia. Their philosophy that happiness and equality is at the center of health fit perfectly with our vision.” - Nancy 


The needs of the people in the area were understood holistically and then interventions frames prioritised with the community and HEARR team guidance.
Levee walk by the water around the city
Bridge over the James River separating the counties in the area
Local general store located downtown.



Elliott Wortham & Nuzi Barkatally

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