Wellington: Hack your City V2.0: Community Engagement (What we have here, is failure to communicate)

hacklogoWellington’s second Civic Hackathon is now set for March 7th and 8th. The weekend is to tackle the issue of community engagement. Not only between the City Council and her residents, but also how companies interact with the community, and how we talk to each other individually and through residents group. Registration is open now.

  • We have nearly half a million residents in the Wellington Region and so far less than one hundred of us have responded to the local government consultation on amalgamation.
  • The Airport, long a part of the community, struggles with community engagement seeing in the last two years protest against changes that effect local neighbourhoods.
  • The Convention Centre, a significant investment for Wellington, saw only forty four residents respond to consultation with the remainder being made up of powerful lobby and industry groups.
  • The Island Bay Cycleway, a botched initial attempt at consultation saw the community deeply divided.
  • The Strathmore Community centre shutdown an op-shop to open a satellite site and faced deep community opposition after a lack of engagement.
  • Public meetings on issues that are dominated by confident speakers leaving the rest of us silent.

The greatest complaint against the Council, resident groups, and companies is that they just make up their own minds, think they know best, and that often, a decision is made with a then faux consultation process carried out. That the Council lacks transparency.

The Council and other groups greatest frustration is trying to get people to engage. To get people to engage. They spend significant amounts of money and time to try and make that connection. But we don’t engage.

The Hackathon Weekend is open to all Wellington region residents, we do have a hard limit of around fifty participants, however if there is enough interest we’ll find more room. You can register here or you can email me directly (ian@isisgroup.co.nz) and I will register you directly. It won’t cost you anything other than your time.

The weekend works by the group of us agreeing the challenges we face. Brainstorming those. Then we bring those challenges into various clusters of ideas and ask participants to join one of those groups. Then, the groups set about solving those challenges.

We’ll be back in the heart of Miramar, thanks to Helfen, who have given us the use of their building again and the Council, who have promised to make sandwiches and coffee for the masses.

Over the weekend, all participants are equal. Whether a Councillor, Mayor, lobbyist, company head, resident, or council officer for the weekend you are all on an even footing.

Please don’t think this is purely a computer or technical focussed weekend. We need people from all parts of the community. It is likely that we will run some technical groups to solve challenges (there is an App for that), however we will run pure ideas and discussion groups as well. So don’t be afraid!

We think there are a number of challenges we can work on, and these are just ideas for starting the discussion:

  • How do we increase the volume of residents engaging in Council consultations without overloading the Councillors and staff?
  • How do we balance the residents voices against lobby groups who can dominate the discussion through organisation of networks of people and industry groups?
  • How do we connect ourselves online, and physically, to share information about what is happening in our city?
  • How do we support residents groups to connect to the rest of the community?
  • What do we expect of companies in our city in terms of engagement and community participation?
  • How do we give a voice to people who are timid?
  • How do we turn public meetings into places where we can discuss ideas and communicate rather than places that are dominated by strong speakers?
  • How do we make the process of engagement fully transparent?
  • How could we map all of the conversations that are going on across the city on a Google Maps type of view?
  • How could we provide free wireless for communities to allow all residents to participate in any online discussions and views?

What we are looking for from you for the weekend:

  • A commitment to two days of discussion with a “Dragon’s Den” presentation style at the end of all the various ideas. We’ll ask Councillors and Officers to come along to see what we are doing, participate themselves, and help us take your ideas forward.
  • An interested resident and participant. We want people of all skills, ages, backgrounds, and parts of the city. When you register, put in any skills you think you can bring. If you don’t know, don’t panic! Just register your name.
  • People with ideas and challenges. If you think you have an idea that can help with this hackathon, or a challenge, then we want you to come along and explore that.
  • Technologists. We want you back again please, we know that there are solutions here that will help and we need you to help us. Think transparency, think maps, think layers of visual information, think visualised connections, think apps.

Over the next couple of weeks there will be more communication on the weekend. Make sure when you register that you also sign up to the mailing list. We’ll feed and water you over the weekend.

About Hack Miramar

Hack Miramar is the brain child of Mike Riversdale, Ben Wilde, and Ian Apperley that came together over a beer at The Local. They believe that the city can be made smarter through “hacking” it. That is, taking ordinary things, and making them extraordinary. They believe in positive disruption, doing things in new ways that break old ideas and models. They love beer. But in a responsible way. This is one in an ongoing series of hackathons and education events.

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