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OpenIDEATOR Insight: Mike McDearmon

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Mike McDearmon leapt into the Vibrant Cities Challenge with gusto and his stellar Decode the Codes concept was selected as a winner. He describes himself as a "jazz drummer, design researcher and technology uber-nerd from Phoenix, Arizona" and for the past few years has been working for a Tokyo-based virtual reality technology company. Very recently he's moved to New York to work with an architecture/engineering technology firm – and to soak up some epic jazz music.
What first drew you to get involved in OpenIDEO?
I like to try and wrap my mind around big-picture questions that I don't always get to tackle directly in my day-to-day projects. OpenIDEO provides a venue to collaborate with a global community on these kinds of questions and on social issues with huge potential for positive change.
And how's the ride been so far?
Great! I've been amazed how engaged the community is and how much I've learned in just a couple of months on OpenIDEO. The way folks share their knowledge and resources on a challenge topic seems to have a snowball effect as the discussion gets rolling – if anything, it's a little overwhelming to see just how many creative inspirations and concepts are posted in response to a challenge.
Your Decode the Codes concept created quite a buzz on the Vibrant Cities Challenge – can you give us the lowdown on the idea and its background?
The idea for Decode the Codes came after a few years of collaboration with the Phoenix Urban Research Lab at Arizona State University and some local community-building organizations in the downtown Phoenix area. The one common thread that seemed to link all of the various projects we worked on was the difficulty of deciphering local ordinances, codes and policies – something we felt could actually be quite simple if the information was represented in such a way that it actually encouraged entrepreneurs to get involved in their community rather than discouraged them. This led us to develop the Decode the Codes idea and the Vibrant Cities Challenge motivated us to iterate it further through consulting experts and entrepreneurs.
So where to from here?
Downtown Phoenix has taken huge steps in recent years – much of it has been thanks to the hard work of local non-profits that want to make the city a more vibrant and community-oriented place for everyone. My goal is to piggyback on their efforts, share the knowledge generated from this challenge and push a pro-decoding design plan with city officials.
What are your future plans around design + social impact?
While I would love to do this for a living, my goal in the meantime is to keep the collaborative juices flowing by contributing to the OpenIDEO community. I learn something new every time I log on thanks to the great resources shared by others – and the site only continues to become a richer library of knowledge with each new design challenge!
Cheers Mike. We hope to enjoy more of your collaborative action in future!
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