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Made in Lower East Side: The Beginning

In OpenIDEO’s Vibrant Cities Challenge, our global community tackled the topic of urban revitalisation for struggling cities. Feeling inspired by our challenge efforts, community member Eric Ho wanted to bring some vibrancy to NYC.

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In OpenIDEO’s Vibrant Cities Challenge, our global community tackled the topic of urban revitalisation for struggling cities. We started by learning about what makes our cities tick and what vibrancy means to each of us. Then, we collaboratively designed and refined concepts to celebrate local pride, activate communities, and encourage new avenues for revitalisation.
 
This Realisation phase is an opportunity to tell an ongoing story of how our collective challenge efforts are being carried forward – in the case of this story, by OpenIDEO community members.
 
Feeling inspired by our challenge efforts, community member Eric Ho wanted to bring some vibrancy to a neighborhood that he cares about: the Lower East Side (LES) in New York City. A diverse area with a rich culture and history, the LES was traditionally a working-class, immigrant neighborhood that has undergone extensive gentrification and development in recent years. However, as Eric learned when he started researching the neighborhood, vibrancy is still a concern in LES; in fact in just one section of town, Eric counted 212 vacant or unused lots and stores: 
 
“Vacant lots and stores are everywhere in the Lower East Side of New York,” says Eric. “When I read through the many well thought-out and diverse ideas that came out of OpenIDEO’s Vibrant Cities Challenge, it was natural to make the connection and take the first step towards realis ing these ideas.”
 
On OpenIDEO we often invite community members to consider how they might take forward one or more of our challenge concepts – but implementation can be more complex and challenging than we might anticipate. In Eric's case, he knew he wanted to get involved, but wasn’t sure exactly how. So, he started by contacting other community members who had authored concepts he was excited about, including Sarah Fathallah, Matthew Rouser, Matthew Goble, and Rebekah Emanuel. Over the course of a number of video chats and emails, they decided to collaborate more deeply to bring renewed vibrancy to the Lower East Side.
 
Months of planning and strategising later, Eric, Sarah, Matthew and Matthew have been joined by three other core team members: Chloe Tseung, Rick Lam, and Tamara Greenfield of the local community group Fourth Arts Block. Together they’ve formed an initiative called Made in Lower East Side (MiLES), a multidisciplinary, 12-month design research project to co-create solutions for vibrancy – specifically in ways that best meet the needs and aspirations of local community stakeholders.
 
As Eric puts it: “For MiLES to be successful we have to engage organizations and residents who truly know the neighborhood and understand the issues at stake, and also ensure that diverse voices are heard throughout this process. Only by enabling local communities to take ownership of the process can this project have a long term impact.”
 
 
To kickstart their efforts, the team have just applied for a City 2.0 grant as part of the 2012 TED Prize and they are actively looking for other funding opportunities as well. Regardless of the outcome of the grant, the team are committed to bringing renewed vibrancy to this stretch of the LES, and hope that their pilot can be scaled and brought to other cities.
 
Eric is also keen to note the role that our OpenIDEO community has played in this project: “We are very lucky to have a team of dedicated and talented individuals working on MiLES in their spare time – but we wouldn’t be working on this without our fellow OpenIDEO community members who inspired this project!”
 
Good luck Eric and team! We’ll be eagerly awaiting news about the grant decision, as well as your efforts to bring vibrancy and revitalisation to your community.
 
Are you making plans to implement a Vibrant Cities concept in your local area? Let us know at hello@openideo.com so we can help share your story.
 

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DeletedUser

Amazing! This is incredibly central to life in urban centers and I hope that it spreads to other neighborhoods and cities worldwide. Keep us posted!

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DeletedUser

Thanks Jenn. We also hope to make this a short-term project for a long term change in different neighborhoods around the world and we have a lot to learn from everyone in this community here as well!

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