Understanding Different Perspectives

November 24th, 2015


Miguel interviewing people who park on the Canterbury Street Lot


In order to come up with more ideas for the future development of the Canterbury lot, the team needs to understand different perspectives from those who utilize the area. Throughout the past weeks, we have been gathering input from our co-developers, other street community members and our sponsor. However, we also need to have an understanding of the opinions and concerns of those who park on the lot. To gain this insight, we spent a day on the lot interviewing the parkers.


Cast of Characters:

Khulisa Team Co-developers: Amanda, Izabela, Arthur, and David

The WPI Khulisa Team – Alicia, Keegan, Miguel, Tati

Parkers – Those who park on the Canterbury Street lot


Setting and Scene:

It is a quiet morning at the Canterbury Street lot. Only a few cars are parked at 7:50am, and there are plenty of vacant spaces. Our team meets David and Arthur, who had been waiting for us, and we set up the lot’s model on top of two benches. We each prepare ourselves with WPI shirts, pens, pieces of paper to write the basic questionnaire responses, pictures of both the mural and memorial, and flyers to hand out to the parkers who agree to answer the questionnaire later on.

The time passes by and very few cars show up. As the clock hits 9am, the car flux intensifies and suddenly each team member is running around trying to get ahold of each driver that comes into the lot. As we approach the vehicles, we try to be very welcoming and not intimidating. We initiate a conversation by introducing ourselves and explaining our project and what we intend to do in the area, and invite the parkers to a quick discussion through a questionnaire. At first, many present themselves as “late for work,” but agree to answer a couple of brief questions. As we develop the conversation, we ask the parkers their opinions about the lot, the mural and memorial ideas, additional greenery to the area, and ideas of their own. We also ask them about the street community; if they know the parking lot attendants, if they donate R5 or more per day and if they would be willing to pay at least R10 per day if improvements were made to the area.

David is with us during these conversations and helps us talk to some parkers, especially those he knows best. Many people recognize him and are open to the conversation, and he shares with us that he knows where most of his “customers” work, the time they come back and how much they pay him per day. Keegan asks him about a car that had been parked there since the early morning. David explains that the car belongs to a lady whose business is not doing well, and tells us how he does not ask her for money because of that.

Through the course of an hour, we speak to approximately 45 people and distribute flyers to 10 or 15 others who wish to complete the questionnaire online. From the responses, we find out that many people do know or are at least aware of the street individuals who live and work on the lot, and many donate a few Rands per day to them. Most people also seem interested in the idea of having more artwork in the area, such as the mural, and more greenery, such as the memory space and trees. However, although some share that they would be willing to pay more if improvements were made to the area, others also share that they would not pay more and raise their concern that others also won’t.

By speaking with various people, we also discover their concerns about the area. Safety seems to be the most prevalent one. Some parkers feel intimidated by the street individuals in the area and others are afraid of having their cars broken into. The most common desire seems to be for a safer lot as a whole, but a few parkers even suggest that we completely “get rid of” those who live in the area. Although a few of the responses are harsher than others, most seem to support the project and the ideas the team has for the development of the Canterbury Street lot.

At 10:30am, the lot is mostly full. We grab the model and materials, and head back to Service Dining Rooms with David and Arthur to reflect on the input gathered that morning. The next step will be to turn the information acquired into new ideas for our proposal.



The experience interviewing people was both similar and different from what we expected. As we foresaw, most people tried to avoid the questionnaire at first by using the “late for work” excuse. However, after receiving some incentive and assurance that it wouldn’t take long, they agreed to answer it.

As we met different people and received various answers, it was pleasing to know that some of them knew the parking lot attendants and already donated R10 or more to them. However, it was surprising to hear that others would not be inclined to donate R10 if improvements were done to the area, especially after they demonstrated enthusiasm about the possible changes.

The interviews were also eye-opening for our group. As we encountered people from both sides of the “interest spectrum,” we were able to gather input from those who were “all in” for the changes, indifferent, and against it. It was also useful to understand how some people think about the street individuals. During some interviews, a few people suggested that we “get rid of them completely and plant trees instead.” Although we knew about the challenges the street community faces, such as invisibility and rejection, it was still shocking to hear these harsh comments.

The input gathered from the parkers is also very valuable for the proposal we will leave with our sponsor after the project is over. We are going to use their complaints and suggestions to form additional ideas and arguments for our recommended changes. Overall, it was a great experience to see how those who park in the Canterbury Street lot area might perceive the future development of this space.