Sue Braiden

Chief Adventure Diva, Adventures With the Estrogen Army

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What are the best tools for fostering citizen-led urban innovation, making it easy to identify needs, solve problems and share knowledge?

I live in a dying city. I want to do something about that.

More importantly, I'm interested in helping create a citizen-directed effort to:
• identify needs,
• solve problems, and
• share knowledge.

I'd like to help create an innovation launchpad that allows everyday people to work together through these 3 activities in a way that has a meaningful impact on social and economic problems in our city.

I recognize the power of simple technologies to fuel broad collaboration that makes it easier to look at other communities and ask:

• what works?
• how can we make that work here?

When I moved here I was lucky enough to be part of our current mayor's campaign team. Part of my job was to look for ways of integrating tools and services, like Baltimore's 311/CityStat, which have radically changed the way government services are tracked, deployed, and made more efficient, transparent and accountable. They make it easier for citizens to access services and add value, but are not really designed to put them in the driver's seat as the real innovators in creating healthier, more resilient communities.

I am interested in finding similarly simple and innovative tools that make citizen-directed community-building possible.

In particular, I am interested in these types of tools:
• discovery tools (things that make it easy to find what's working in other communities),
• collaboration tools (things that make it easy to work together to solve problems and share resources), and,
• broadcasting tools (things that make it easy to share what works more broadly).

Hence, the question:

What are the best tools for fostering citizen-led urban innovation, making it easy to identify needs, solve problems and share knowledge?

Thanks so very much for any insights and resources you are willing to share!

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    Jul 19 2012: I hope this does not come across as smarmy but I really believe that something like TED talks and TED conversations does all of the above extremely well.
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    Jun 20 2012: All three of the tool-types you are searching for are actually readily available now. In fact, they have been merged into one tool which is free of charge, sustainable, infinitely expandable, fully portable and easy to operate. It was invented in 1934 but only recently has technology been developed which makes it work reliably. It is a Web of interconnected data processing devices which occupies the whole Wide World, thus the name "World Wide Web". Now get to work Ms. Braiden!
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    Jun 20 2012: There has been, and continues to be, such a HUGE amount of work on this question. Some things you could look at are the website for the BMW Guggenheim Lab, which is addressing precisely this issue. Last year they were in New York, now they are in Berlin, next year in Mumbai. Another high quality resource is the Human-Centered Design kit from IDEO and their HCD community, in which people share cases of application. Open IDEO (separate from HCD) had a challenge that closed recently in which participants shared about 350 inspirations, which is to say examples of promising models in different places to revitalize ailing cities, then the community put forward I don't know how many solutions, and IDEO chose the ten best.
    A bit of research will quickly turn up useful stuff already gathered for you to peruse.
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    R H

    • +1
    Jun 19 2012: The city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in the US was a steel town that was given up for 'dead' like your neighbor Detroit but has made a dramatic turn-around. I also understand that the State of Michigan (not necessarily the city of Detroit) is regarded as the best place in the US to transition from one job to another. Possibly contacting their respective Community Chest departments or Urban planning dept's may be informative as to the techniques they used.
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    Gail .

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    Jul 19 2012: The only way I can see that happening in any meaningful way is to convince people that they can make a difference. Of course, you won't be able to find many who are able to say that honestly, and if you understood the damage our current economic model imposes on MOST, you wouldn't be looking for ways to use the current economic model to fix what the current economic model profits from destroying.
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    Jun 22 2012: The free market.
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    Jun 22 2012: edward, I certainly agree! I am instinctively a net-centric researcher and knowledge worker, so it's where I want to start. I am also hobbled by a tendancy to reinvent the wheel ... lol. Over the weekend I was scribbling out the design for a web site community hub to get things started, and realized I was probably going to waste a lot of time and effort creating an infrastructure that likely already exists, when more than anything, I want to invest that energy more directly into the activities of reasearching, talking, harvesting, synthesizing and sharing.

    When I first started thinking about what an effort to foster community engagement for this kind of problem solving and resource/knowledge sharing might look like, I thought about the tools I already use, such as forums to invite discourse, web databases to capture the knowledge and resources we glean along the way, and software such as the enterprise version of the "Personal Brain" application to reveal connections between allies, resources and knowledge we might not otherwise see. While I think each of these may be a component, I realize that there may be stronger and more integrated sets of tools already in place with a focus on citizen-directed urban innovation.

    It seemed like a a good idea to ask the question first before diving in, and I am very glad I did! You folks have already provided me with such a rich set of resources to explore, and I am deeply grateful : )
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    Jun 22 2012: Fritzie, I've been absolutely thrilled with the resources you've shared. Thank you so much!

    I've spent a fair amount of time today immersing myself in the IDEO.com IDEO.org and HDCconnect.org sites in particular, and am finding the storytelling based approach of the latter to be an excellent model for sharing knowledge products on economic issues. Just a brilliant wealth of resources here, and exactly the kind of thing I was hoping to come across.

    I can see making immediate use out of the HDC Connect platform as it offers a simple way to find natural allies and begin talking, sharing and drilling down into some reall rich knowledge products.

    Thank you!
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    Jun 22 2012: Thank you so much for taking the time to share such valuable resources with me! Several of these already look like potential springboards into a local effort with a lot of global national allies.

    RH, I have to admit it never occurred to me that Michigan would have this kind of potential. As you pointed out, I live just across the pond from Detroit, which is fraught with so many social and economic challenges it's hard to know where to start. I sat at the table with their city planning team when they were also looking at the CityStat/311 model, and recognize they may still be an ally in a more citizen-directed kind of engagement. I'll definitely take your advice and look deeper into the resources the state at large may have to offer regarding tools for engaging a broader participation on community revival.