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It’s Thursday afternoon in the ThinkPlace Kenya studio in Nairobi and school is in session.
Designers sit, all eyes on the teacher, as he runs through verb conjugation and sentence construction in French.
What kind of future city do you want to live in?
Has the government where you live ever tried to ask you?
Even if they have, it probably fell on deaf ears. We know that traditional engagement practices often fail to generate enthusiasm.
Fill out a survey. Attend a focus group. Yawn, Snooze.
What if we fired up your imagination instead? What if we made it fun?
Selfies get a bad rap.
If you believe what you read, they are responsible for a global rise in narcissism, risky behaviors occasioning death and the damage of public property.
But does it have to be that way? How might we instead build on the positive, broader social impacts of selfies and what would those impacts be? ThinkPlace tackled these questions with the State Library of New South Wales when they wanted to redevelop their permanent exhibition galleries to be stunning, stereotype-challenging and focused on portraiture.
Across all levels of government there is one process baked into the processes of policy and service design that is more or less inescapable.
Throughout the public (and private) sector there has long been a realisation that making change to complex systems without involving or at least consulting those who will be affected is not a great recipe for successful implementation.
But for all the awareness around the need to “engage” citizens there has been surprisingly little progress made in the methods for effectively doing so.
What kind of city do you want to live in?
How sustainable will it be? What kind of transport will it offer? And how will it balance sometimes-competing needs like economic growth and social inclusion?
Most importantly: How much say should YOU have in the answers to all of these questions?
They are questions that many governments – including the ACT Government – must grapple with as they go about the process of shaping plans and strategies for the future of their cities.
How connected are you with your local council? And how much time would you be prepared to put aside from your next weekend to help them prepare their 10-year strategic plan?
For most of us the answers are probably “not much” and… “even less than not much.”
And that’s a massive design challenge.
It’s a challenge that Willoughby Council, in Sydney’s Northern suburbs, was recently grappling with as they prepared to draft a new Community Strategic Plan that would oversee their activities for the coming decade.
Picture your typical global summit with multiple stakeholders.
A fixed seating arrangement at a large, boardroom style table.
Attendees arriving in formal attire, with fixed perspectives that represent their country or organisation.
A strict agenda, ensuring a decision is made in a timely manner.
Highly ordered and stage managed, the meeting is not expected to discover something new. Discussion is intended to close towards a solution selected from a few predictable options.