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Publicise a Positive Future for Your City with a Simple Competition

Create a simple competition for your Councillors to share their vision for the future of the city.

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Create a competition for your Councillors or elected city officials to promote their views for the future of the city. One that hopefully will encourage them to envision the city as it can be and at the same time give the community (existing and potential) hope for the future.

The competition for the Councillors might work like this -

What they have to do is relatively simple. They need to write a concise statement expressing hope and vision for some aspect of the city's future. It should be suitable to appear on city signage (Welcome or other signs) with their name beside it.

Give the community the opportunity to vote on the ideas expressed, and suggest suitable places for them to appear. Finally, challenge the council to honour the community's opinions and re-paint or create signs using the attributed expressions.

What would this achieve?

A proliferation of positive statements about the future of the city (town) by the people who matter (or believe they matter);

Community involvement in deciding what statements are appropriate and where they should be posted; and

A regular reminder to councillors and constituents alike of some things councillors believe are important for the future of the city (an incentive to commitment).

In addition it might open up other avenues or opportunities to spur your community representatives to support initiatives like setting up Charlotte Fliegner's TEDxLocalGov, creating some of Amanda Drescher's Infographics to Inspire Change and/or leveraging the branding ideas of Meghan Dufresne ( Urban Oasis) and Vincent Cheng ( Reclaimed in Detroit). In fact any of the initiatives proposed that might depend on local government (eg. " Embellish the Ugly" from Sarah Fathallah or " Re-purpose Vacant Buildings into Homes for the Homeless" from Peter Marshall)

How can you do it?

First plan your approach to collecting the councillors 'words of wisdom': maybe with a few trusted friends. Also decide on how the community can vote and suggest signage sites.

There are several ways to set this up.
My personal preference would be a web-site (possibly a blog site), where councillors post their wise words, voting buttons for the posts (positive only) and allow moderated comments for where signs should appear.
The website should explain the main features of the competition (especially that it is for councillors only to enter and for everyone else to vote, and suggest where the sayings should be displayed.
If possible get the press 'onside' (see below)

Alternatively it might be possible to do it all through the local press. Radio, television, social media, local businesses, sanctioned bill posting and any other methods you can think of could be used to promote it. This should be possible as there is no real commercial or political advantage to be gained.

If you are going to use a web site you will need to set it up in advance, possibly even before telling your friends (let alone the press), but even getting hijacked may not hurt the ultimate objective.

As for approaching councillors - if you know some personally or are prepared to approach them in person you can pique their interest by asking for a minute of their time and their business card - then write on the back of it something like "You (and your fellow councillors) are invited to promote the future of the city - visit www.xyz.com (the URL)" and leave it at that or choose what other words you think will spark interest.
Curiosity and/or social pressure should do the rest.
If you prefer use letters, postcards, emails or any other approach you think will work.

Using the press and media - a press release, or the ear of a local journalist or media personality, community announcements - you can probably think of other ways. Point them to the web site or lay out the plan if you are going to use media exclusively.

When can you do it?

Whenever is auspicious - probably not the week before Christmas but maybe as a Nwe Year's resolution for councillors?? or after some other event in the city

Anyway -

Set a date to start the competition (but it wont matter if some councillors jump the gun a little if everything is ready to go beforehand).

Set a firm closing date possibly five or six days prior to an expected council meeting - find out how and when the results can be officially presented to council (again it won't matter if the results are 'leaked' or even pre-published).

You will need to think how to limit competition entries to councillors (although again if rogue entries are really good councillors probably won't mind 'endorsing' them anyway). The main idea is to engage and then commit the councillors. If the press wants to control it, through publishing councillors statements, they should also support or take on the polling themselves too.

Who can do it?

You can do it in person or as a group (in Detroit maybe Steelcase employees/managers ??), or relinquish it to the media if that's appropriate. The important "ownership" issue is that 'councillors own their statements'.

Promote it through local businesses, public noticeboards and any other avenues to which you have access.

If the idea takes off - when the closing date arrives publish the results then challenge the Councillors to carry it through.

Possibly geotag and map the signs for posterity.

What do the Councillors get?

Attribution, approbation and possibly kudos.

What do you get?

Probably notoriety but hopefully some contacts and avenues to promote other OpenIDEO concepts appropriate to your city.


What if it doesn't get off the ground?

Re-purpose the web site and move on - but hopefully you will still have gained some contacts and had some fun along the way, at minimal expense.



What resources (money, time, people, technology, etc) will your concept need to be successful?

Probably a website - perhaps a purpose-built Wordpress theme or similar - with associated costs. Otherwise - mainly time and effort with a smattering of materials. Possibly courage and perseverance with a bit of cheekiness thrown in.

What steps could you take to implement this idea today?

Start designing a website/theme/template. Begin planning some of the details appropriate to city structure and circumstances.

How can your idea be scaled so that it's implemented in cities around the world?

I think local government structure probably varies quite a lot around the world but the idea should be scalable and culturally modifiable. Melbourne (for example) is a fairly large city (with a Lord Mayor) but actually consists in part of other cities like Fitzroy and Carlton - so it might just be a case of choosing which area(s) to target.

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