Nine SF mayoral candidates debating. Four months of innovative projects and prototypes. Three hackathons. And an unconfernece. Together they are the "Summer of Smart " [http://www.summerofsmart.org/home/] a four-month experiment in urban innovation led by the team at San Francisco's Gray Area Foundation for the Arts [www.gaffta.org] along with terrific partners.
Over the course of this summer, urbanists of many disciplines -- developers, designers, planners, journalists, civic leaders, community activists -- are coming together to address some of the most pressing issues facing cities today. We're creating prototypes and projects in collaboration with San Francisco City Department of Technology and many of the candidates running for mayor here. By inspiring innovation at the edges -- of disciplines, of skill sets, of communities -- we hope to show what San Francisco's creative capacity can accomplish using the emerging tools and techniques in government 2.0 and open data.
There are three themes for the summer: Community development and public art (June); energy, sustainability, transportation (July); and nutrition and public health (August). The formula: Brining talented people together for a too short period of time, with too big a goal leads to fast idea generation, fast compromise to get to the essence of those ideas, and original projects. Candidates learn what Gov 2.0 thinking can actually do in a city and how to work with it. Technologists immerse themselves in real urban problems and priorities.
Summer of Smart began on Thursday June 16th with a debate among nine mayoral candidates on technology and open government. http://bit.ly/ig9y7a
The next day TechCentral SF hosted a program on Gamification for Food which explored how to influence behavior change at urban scale. http://www.meetup.com/TechCentralSF/events/21593981/
On Saturday it was onto CityCamp --- an unconfernece where where 200 urbanists came together and set the agenda for Summer of Smart. (See article "Want to fix you're city? There's a camp for that! http://bit.ly/lNVets ) The conversation bubbled with the tweeting of ideas, candidates responding, and people around the world chiming in. To get a sense for all the energy, check out the twitter stream here: http://www.summerofsmart.org/ideas/
We were joined by two candidates at CityCamp:
City Attorney Dennis Herrera showed off the San Francisco Fire App (It applies a crowdsource model to first responders: CPR trained individuals register with the app; in an emergency if they are nearby they can often respond well before first responders. App also stores the exact location of all public defribulators in the city. Cardiac patients often can't be saved because in an emergency its diffuclt to know where the nearest defibrilator is)
And Joanna Rees talked citizen driven transportation planning http://vimeo.com/25337034
The following week saw our first hackathon and urban development weekend! About 100 creative technologies came together for 36 hours to create several projects in the realm of Community Development and Public Art. On Friday night the group split into seven teams; by saturday night they had posted seven projects on the web. All the work is on the Summer of Smart project site http://www.summerofsmart.org/projects/
Some of the projects teams worked on included:
PUBLIC ART SPACES -Facilitating open and found spaces for creative culture.
PUBLIC ART MAPPER-Finding and cataloging San Francisco’s public art from the street.
BETWEEN THE STOPS-Every bus stop has a story.
GETVOLUNTEERED-What if volunteering could be as simple as going to the movies?
THE POST-The Post is a neighborhood bulletin board that bridges the online and street community for democratized expression.
We heard from three speakers to inspire us that weekend: John Gage was Sun's Chief Scientist and created NetDay; he spoke on the blossoming role of citizen, artists, developer, data observer in creating a better civil society. http://vimeo.com/25843772 And Stanford's Margarita Quihuis talked of her pioneering work in the application of persuasive technologies for behavior change at urban scale. http://vimeo.com/25839084
Code for America CEO Jen PAHLKA was our closing speaker saturday-- she shared lots of practical urban examples.
The project has brought together great partners and funders who are fascinated to explore citizen participation and digital democracy in an urban environment. The San Francisco Foundation is our lead foundation: they have deep connections with many community organizations and issues and provide a natural bridge between our creative technology community and SF based organizations. We are thrilled to be working with Code For America, Change.org, Govfresh SPUR, and Craig Newmark (of Craig's list), Serious Energy and The San Francisco Department of Innovation.
In the few weeks we've been at this I've come to realize that Government 2.0 is as much about citizens, engagement and innovation as it is about the formal government itself. Yes there are great swaths of government to modernize, automate and open up. But the most exciting bit is how much service and value can be created in a city by people and organizations that aren't the government but come together to focus on civic problems, often using public data, often setting leadership examples for the City's leadership.
In San Francisco no one gets this more than Jay Nath, Director of the SF Department of Innovation who observes, "The city is a bureaucracy and a monopoly without competition. So its not going to innovate very fast on its own. Government 2.0 provides that innovation." Here's a great clip of Jay discussing some of these ideas with me:
One of the reasons we chose to do this in the summer run-up to the mayoral election is that a campaign is a season for new ideas. We have well over a dozen candidates battling each other over who has the best ideas for the city. Introduce to this mix passionate citizens coming up with ideas and prototyping them, then engaging candidates in the process, and there is a much greater likelihood that new ideas and innovation will become part of the campaign conversation and ultimately part the new administration's DNA.
A few months ago I was talking to one of the candidates who complained, "the problem with this race is the minute any of us has a good idea, another candidate steals that idea the next day." That helped inspire Summer of Smart: Lets generate a lot of good ideas (and prototypes) the candidates can call their own. That helps set the agenda. And improve our city! During our first Summer of Smart weekend former mayor Gavin Newsom, who launched many of SF's open data initiatives dropped by and reinforced this, pointing it really citizen organizations driving this movement
Summer of Smart continues on July 23-24th with a focus on energy, sustainability and transportation. We are working with many of the city's green, building and environmental groups and companies to prepare for this next weekend. Tweet ideas and suggestions with the hashtag #sosidea On August 20-21 we'll will turn to public health, nutrition and food issues. Former Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman and Esther Dyson will be keynote speakers In September, the best of the ideas will be presented and discussed with candidates in a pre election forum.
Ultimately we expect three things to come of this. 1) Great new ideas get prototyped and create new possibilities for San Francisco and beyond 2)The whole gov 2.0/bottoms up innovation meme becomes part of the broader urban conversation. Right now its the province of geeks and some wonks. As candidates, the press and community organizations engage, the whole idea gets a broader constituency. And as candidates race to adopt cool new ideas (which they are already doing) this all becomes part of the fabric of the city. Or, in activistese: in the 60's we protested the establishment. Today we're building an API to it. 3) The two cultures understand one another better. What could be more real than candidates, activist and geeks building real stuff aimed at real problems during a long hot summer. Soon we'll know a lot more about how to apply gov 2.0 in the real world.
A funny thing about this world of social media. Since all candidates now have to generate content and act like news channels on their web sites we don't have to pitch them, they pitch us. They read the tweets, make our ideas their campaign ideas, help us set priorities. The day we announced this candidate phil ting, the SF assessor, put me on his weekly video podcast ( http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/15275777 ) Imagine that: a solid hour on the record wrestling with how to create a more open government!
Its been a fascinating, step and fun learning curve.And we're only one month into The Summer of Smart.