Scenarios of Urban Life
SUSTAINABLE EVERYDAY a european projects that had visualised future scenarios for everyday living.
Collecting ideas for mysociety.org
Interesting and seemingly popular idea collecting site run by Westminster Policy 'wonk' Tom Steinberg.
mySociety.org is a charitable project which will identify, support and develop internet based projects that have real world impacts at very low cost per person helped.
Our work splits broadly into two phases. The first phase is to gather ideas, and the second consists of building real projects based on the best ones. Over the next few weeks we will gather ideas, and create a 'long list' of the best. In late November, we will pick two projects as winners. The second phase of the project consists of taking these winning ideas, seeking funding for them and building development teams to deliver them.
mySociety.org will support projects that have three broad attributes:
1 Founded on electronic networks. This includes the internet, mobile and telephone networks, wireless, fax and anything related.
2 Real world impact. The projects must have an impact which is above and beyond helping users to use their computers or mobiles more efficiently. We understand that there is a degree of philosophical ambiguity here (isn't faster browsing a real life impact?), so we've developed the following list of desirable outcomes from projects.
3 Increased social capital, preferably bridging between groups.
Reduced social exclusion
Improved human capital and employment prospects
Decreased occurrence of common social problems
NB Projects are not limited to these outcomes - if you've got something good which doesn't fit in here, please let us know anyway.
Low or zero cost scalability. This is key. We are looking for projects that cost the same (or virtually the same) to run for ten or a million users. This doesn't exclude the possibility of SMS based services, but it does rule out one-on-one tuition or building a site just for your community.
Other Lower Priority Attributes That Would Be Nice
Development Community. The possibility that projects will attract self sustaining development communities.
Low maintenance. Projects that are as reliable as a trusty screwdriver are desirable. Simple tools than can go online and never be thought about again will have an advantage at the early stages of MySociety.org. Again, this isn't a hard and fast rule, just a project reality at this stage.
Things People Already Do, Done Better.
To get better answers you have to ask better questions
I spent last Saturday morning in a draughty school hall in Whitechapel for a meeting on crime and anti-social behavior. The 3 hour meeting was a chance for the council, the police and the local anti-social behavior unit (ASBU) to inform and consult the local community. A chance to make local residents aware of the services available to them and to understand what they perceive to be the issues around crime and anti-social behavior.
Ignoring the not insignificant problems with crime in this area (burnt-out homes, racial abuse, graffiti - the 'youth' are responsible for all of it), the 'consultation' itself was shocking. Although the meeting was pitched as 'the communities' chance to tell us what we should spend on to improve the crime situation', it quickly became an aggressive exchange between embittered local residents, the council and police bodies.
The residents felt they hadn't been listened to in the last seven years - why should they be listened to now. The ASBU defended everything they weren't doing and the local councilors were only concerned in promoting the things they personally had achieved in the last years. All thoroughly unconstructive.
The meeting was 'facilitated' by an independent agency, but it seemed facilitation was more about ordering the food and the video projector than creating the right context for constructive exchange. The key skills of the faciliator himself were to be the biggest person in the room with the loudest voice.
There must be an opportunity to improve this kind of consultation event. This is the only one I've ever been to but I suspect that it is not an isolated example of bad practice. The councils already have a rhetoric of listening to residents - but not one of understanding them. I also suspect that they don't have any experience of how events could be better than this, or how much value they could actually get out of them.
The methods and techniques designers use to create the right conditions for a productive workshop and a basic understanding of user research could go a long way of improving these event for all involved. Councils could be helped to ask better questions and get more value from the answers, they also need help in communicating what they have achieved. It's not that LAP3 hadn't done anything - they just hadn't told anyone about it.
Innovative Public Procurement - DARPA style
DARPA have been working on developing unmanned vehicles for the military for over a decade - and without much success. Now that the Pentagon want a third of their vehicles to operate unmanned by 2015, DARPA have had to search for a radical solution- so they're running a 'Grand Challenge': A million dollars for the fastest unmanned vehicle across a prescribed course between LA and Las Vegas on 13 March 2005.
Initially they expected 50 or so entrants - they've had closer to 200, including some of the leading figures in robotics, who admit they wouldn't usually work on defense contracts. $1 million might sound like a lot of money - but DAPA reckon one entry alone is already worth $25 million in donated time and hardware and nobody has crossed the finish line yet. What's more DARPA will reserve the right to military usage of the technology whilst the teams themselves maintain their IP for non-military applications. And we thought brainstorming was a smart way to get a lot of ideas fast.
Read more in Wired ...
Dumbar says clients should be seen and not heard
Graphics legend Gert Dumbar was in typically go-getting form last week at a Crafts Council bash celebrating Dutch design.
'Don't listen to the client', was the first piece of advice kicking off his talk on working with Governments. He then boasted that the Netherlands has fewer people in Government procurement - ergo less red tape - than any other European country.
'There are too many clients and too few designers', he added, in case anyone thought he was going soft. To finish, he showed off his work with the Dutch police.
When asked what the stripes on his police car represented, he smiled, 'jail'.
From Design Week
Open to Ideas: Futurelab's website
The Nesta Futurelab has a very good website. Not only does it showcase it's own work on technology and learning it also showcases work from others that is pointing in the same direction. In the research section you can read work in progress papers, findings papers and other resources - such as literature reviews, that might be valuable to others working in the field. The site invites the public to submit unsolicited ideas via an application form providing they are in accordance with the futurelab criteria for submissions.