Powered by 'us'
SCY have been working with The City of York Council (CYC) to develop the city's open innovation approach to tackle present and future challenges at both strategic and operational levels. As part of this, the city has opened up the process of solving the bigger medium to long term challenges through conversations with the cities communities, including businesses, academics, residents, community groups and charities.
This agile approach is called GeniUS! as it involves the power of ‘US’ all working together. The process includes an online platform for placing questions/challenges and for posting solutions, as well as gathering offline conversations and research found elsewhere. The most promising ideas identified and discussed are further developed with support from our team through intensive workshop sessions and going through a proven process to create a tangible ‘pilot implementation plan’. The innovation team help to secure resources when needed, navigate around potential barriers and using their experience and contacts within the council system, aid the idea providers to develop alternate ways of addressing the big challenges. Through this collaborative pilot and scale approach, better solutions can be made real with the community behind them.
We would love to share our approach with Glasgow, to develop a similar relationship with communities who have experienced similar challenges. In this way communities are engaged to co-design their own solutions with your support.
In Glasgow a huge amount of transformational work has taken place over the last few decades to build a future facing and robust city, making it one of the UK’s main creative and economic powerhouses. Despite this however, there is an uneven spread of benefits and impact of these changes, with areas of deprivation and poverty, poor health, and high unemployment still existing in the peripheral neighbourhoods. Glasgow's stated challenge is a need to find a mechanism to engage communities in co-creating the solutions to these intractable city-wide social and economic problems.
There is a need to connect with people both online and offline to more deeply understand why problems exist and who in the city understands them the most. Co-developing the best solutions and working together with those affected by the problem, with creative, technical, and other solution providers often provides better solutions at lower overall cost.
As well as building relationships and trust, the solutions with the most impact can be found when designing them with those affected by the problems. However, this requires a mechanism and process to allow for positive, ‘solution focussed’ idea generation and development to be facilitated between these diverse groups, and a process to navigate any barriers in taking the best ideas through to reality.
Our approach has its basis in unlocking the physical assets, knowledge capital and creative potential within a city. There is a vast talent base on our doorstep and anyone can be part of finding new and sustainable solutions to the city’s challenges. In an open exchange of people, problems and ideas, in York we are increasingly working as one to develop innovative new solutions to challenges and to put these to the test. Our open innovation platform and process, GeniUS! developed with support from NESTA, has given rise to exciting new pilot projects. At a city level, this new way of thinking has opened up the collective intelligence and resources of the community and partners turning them into a powerful problem-solving tool. It has also ignited a renewed sense of collaboration, with citizens, civil servants and businesses exploring new ideas together for mutual benefit. GeniUS! is a systematic solution for solving challenges and engaging residents, communities, companies and academics in that process. It's not a project-specific solution and can therefore be applied to any suitable challenge. This is a low cost platform and development process which could also work well in Glasgow to engage communities in co-developing solutions to challenges they face. This multi-award winning practice has been in place in York for nearly 2 years. In that time it has undergone continual review, development and improvement. We are currently sharing our approach with 4 other cities globally.
IMPACT ON ECONOMY
GeniUS! draws on the knowledge economy of the city and also seeks to increase inclusion of city communities, residents and businesses in the process of generating ideas and developing solutions. This often leads to local SME's being involved in creating and delivering solutions.
Through the process of peer review using both offline conversations and research then conversation on an online platform and follow on workshops, as well as the support offered by the innovation team to shape the ideas into implementable projects, new innovations can be de-risked and economic impact can be realistically gauged. At the workshop stage the evidence base and business case can be developed in advance of the pilot for each challenge. If the solution is not deemed economically feasible then it will not go beyond this phase.
Each individual challenge is different in nature, but through the process of refining the ideas and developing the evidence base and business case for each during the workshops, a clear 'benefit margin' can be explored and can be presented to the council's senior team. Where economic benefit and social/environmental benefit is demonstrated, the project can be funded to pilot stage to 'test it out'.
IMPACT ON CULTURE
This is where the biggest impact can be found. The community is at the heart of the project and through working on the challenges posted, real relationships can be developed with the motivated individuals and businesses looking to make a difference in the city. Challenges are well understood at grass roots level and solutions fit closely with the problems when they are suggested by the people who live with those problems.
Bringing in creative, digital, and hi-tech innovative companies to the mix also links new imaginative and technological solutions to the challenges, alerting the council of new innovations and trying out new techniques quickly.
The 'idea providers' win in this project as their ideas are supported, resourced and very quickly implemented with them closely involved in the process. We have specifically focused on making sure ideas are responded to quickly, and that business and community see their ideas come to fruition quickly and effectively.
Everyone benefits, the community through better solutions to their problems, the local authority through many more brains helping to develop solutions which best fit the problems, the local businesses and innovators who can develop solutions for their own city, and who can be rewarded for their efforts through support and city endorsement.
IMPACT ON ECOLOGY
Consideration for environmental impact is inherent in the whole project, which emphasises 'smarter' solutions rather than just cost effective ones.
The GeniUS! approach also has elements that fall under the sustainable cities theme, in that it enables more efficient city administration and a move of city service delivery towards a more open and future-proof model, where residents and businesses in the city are engaged with the shaping and delivery of city services, and solutions to city problems are more effective. This can mean better outcomes, reduced costs of delivery or a combination of both.
One of the early challenges on the York platform tackled environmental sustainability head-on. i.e. How can footfall and transport be used innovatively to generate income and improve environmental sustainability in the city?
One proposed solution to this challenge involves fitting paving stones in the city centre which generate electricity as they are walked on. This can dramatically reduce the city's carbon footprint.
When selecting the best ideas from the platform, one of the criteria to get to the second stage is to demonstrate a solution which considers its environmental impact. Through embedding the open innovation process in the city we also hope to receive many more environmentally sound solutions as we progress.
IMPACT ON POLITICS
The solution enables greater engagement and a more active dialogue between the council and citizens, helping move to a model where there is greater discussion and engagement on solutions at a much earlier stage in the political decision making process. It enables a break down of barriers between the council and residents and fosters an 'Us' mentality, rather than 'them vs. us'.
It facilitates the co-identification of areas on which to focus and the co-design of solutions with people in the city as well as politicians and council officers (such as residents, community groups, businesses, universities etc.).