Contextual Inquiry

Contextual inquiry & creative solutions for an Ann Arbor non-profit.


This project was part of a course during my first year in grad school. The purpose of the course was to expose students to the contextual inquiry process while also consulting with real-world clients. I was placed on a team with three other students and we tackled this project together.


We were assigned to the Ann Arbor Community for Traditional Music and Dance, also known as AACTMAD. AACTMAD is a place where you can "(c)onnect with a great community while you dance, play music, hear and feel traditional music made just for you. Non-profit AACTMAD volunteers welcome you at lively music and dance events every week. Fun, easy to learn, no partner or experience necessary." The group hosts local events in Ann Arbor and is known for their popular "Dancing in the Streets" event that takes over the streets of Ann Arbor with traditional dances. For more information about the group check out their site:


In 2017 AACTMAD was struggling with growing their numbers. The groups growth had become stagnant for about two years and the leaders of the group were afraid that once they retired from their positions the group would disappear. AACTMAD initially started as a single group that focused on Contra Line Dancing but over the years the group had become more of an umbrella organization housing Contra, English Country, and Swing dance groups all from Ann Arbor.


My team and I created interview protocols and divided and conquered to conduct interviews with members from the AACTMAD organization. We each conducted at least one interview and performed as note-taker for another interview. After collecting transcriptions and notes from the interviews we compiled the information into affinity notes. We then went through the affinity wall process to better understand the common problems and issues across the different interviews.

My group members and myself working on the affinity wall.
Our completed affinity wall.


During the interviews I discovered that the group was not functioning as a cohesive unit and the different dance styles were still functioning as individual silo units, a fairly common problem I've encountered in corporate America. I also discovered that there were no formalized methods for tracking numbers at events. They thought they were stagnant, but they did not have any proof to back that up because nobody was formally tracking attendance at events. I also discovered that there were a lot of internal communication issues. We decided that with stronger internal communication, formalized procedures, and a cohesive group culture, AACTMAD could share ideas more easily and present a stronger face that will be attractive to potential members thereby helping the group to grow. From what I have observed, it appears that AACMTAD has taken our recommendations and implemented them. As of 2019 the group has a new website where they post documentation about the group to build group memory.


Download the report here.

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