On June 3-5, we hosted the only U.S. location of GovJam. GovJam is an event which brings together individuals with varying experiences to "jam" around a common theme related to public services. Like a musical jam, the outcome isn't predetermined and it is largely guided by the unique skills and experiences of the participants.
In our area, it also served as an opportunity to understand how service design might be applied to the government or public sector. Service design isn't commonly considered in the private sector of Northeast Ohio, much less the public sector! But, most people would probably agree that there are many opportunities for improvement in the public sector.
This year's global theme, (T)rust could have been selected specifically for our region. Not only is our county still recovering from a huge corruption scandal where the highest ranking county officials have been implicated, we are part of the "rust belt", an area of the United States that has suffered from population loss, urban blight and economic challenges. As of late, we are thankfully becoming more of a recovery story, a poster child for cities emerging from a somewhat troubled past.
GovJam CLE consisted of designers, MBAs, civic leaders and most importantly, individuals who are excited by the prospect of creating a better community.
After the reveal of the theme, our group brainstormed the definitions of both trust and rust. What problems and ideas do these words bring to mind? Our conversations included transparency, information flow, inclusion, the tension between old and new and very specific problems like potholes and parking.
We initially narrowed our idea to an app that allows citizens to report non-urgent issues like potholes and litter. Fortunately, we found out that this already exists! It's called SeeClickFix.com. More importantly, we slowly learned that no one was terribly excited about prototyping this idea anyways. It was a perfect lesson. Everyone thought that others wanted to go in this direction and didn't want to derail the whole group but in reality almost everyone in the group and hoped GovJam would be an opportunity to work on a prototype with deeper implications.
And that's how BLDRBORO started to emerge. BLDRBORO addresses the issue of innovation within a community. We agreed that governments tend to be more risk averse but oftentimes this stunts innovation within the community. As our community strives to overcome our population and economic struggles, entrepreneurs and innovators have craved opportunities to test ideas without the regulatory barriers that are not only frustrating but leave little to no room for change. Real change and innovation cannot come without space for failure.
BLDRBORO is an experimental neighborhood for designers, innovators and civic leader to test ideas on actual citizens (including themselves). Essentially, a geographic area is designated where individuals opt to live knowing that the rules will be loosened. This may mean certain inconveniences in daily life but with the hope of a deeper learning that could be applied to a larger population in the future.