Contextual Inquiry for People Dancing

Contextual inquiry| Team | 14 weeks


We worked for the non-profit organization, People Dancing. People Dancing supports and promotes experiential and modern dance. The organization had a problem with marketing to youth and hence asked us to work through their marketing practices through Contextual Inquiry.

Contextual inquiry is a process for gathering field data from users and analyzing it for findings that are usually oblivious to the organization itself.


People Dancing had a problem with gaining popularity among its fans and it also had a lack of volunteers and participants in its recitals. The organization also had a hard time communicating with its members.


There were some recommendations regarding the Board of Directors and also some best practices for marketing among the youth.

Research Process

The whole design process could be summed up as follows:

Initial Interview


We met with the Director of the People Dancing and spoke to her about the problem. She clarified any of the details that we were not clear about the problem statement. We gained a clear understanding of the final expectations and also who we need to target for the next interviews. We were also given material to assist us in our understanding of what the organization does.


Background Research

To have a better sense of how dance organizations or non-profits in general worked, my teammates and I performed individual background research on different topics related to non-profits, donations, volunteering and dance organizations. We read each of our reports and we had a complete understanding of the background of this problem.

Interviews and Workplace observations

We scheduled interviews with five people- 2 board members of the organization and 3 dancers, 2 of which were young people. We asked them questions regarding how they communicate and what kind of marketing techniques they used to promote People Dancing. One thing that was uncovered were the problems with the internal communication rather than the external as they had tried marketing in every form and it was not effective. We also attended their dance rehearsal during the weekend and we uncovered some aspects of internal communication that we thought were crucial.


Interpretation sessions

We came together after our interviews to discuss and highlight the main findings of our interviews. The interpreted notes contained the significant statements that the interviewees had made about the problem at hand.


Affinity wall

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We finally came together after all the interviews and brought together our interpreted notes and put together our affinity wall. An Affinity wall is a form of card sorting where the notes are put on separate sticky notes and arranged according to a hierarchical structure. This hierarchical structure brings together related notes and forms a higher idea or statement which encompasses the category. These higher level ideas are all grouped again till one or two statements remain. These highest level ideas are the crucial problem of the organization. To our surprise what we found was very different from what the problem statement was and therefore, we concluded that there was an underlying problem all this while.


Affinity Wall Walk-through


We presented our wall to our classmates and then, we presented our thought process to them. They came up with design ideas or recommendations apart from ours and they asked questions which were useful and helped us cover the data holes in our wall.


Final Lightning talk


We presented our recommendations  for a couple of our findings in a lightning presentation of about 7 minutes and we got our problem and how we are solving it across to the audience. The presentation was highly appreciated.