Wellington’s second Civic Hackathon will run over the weekend of 7th and 8th March under Hack Miramar, though it is a city wide collective. This blog looks at the challenges and ideas that have started to form around the weekend as people start to consider how it is approached.
The weekend itself follows a chaos theory format. Everyone gathers on the Saturday morning, the challenges are laid out, people lay out ideas to solve those challenges, then form into groups based on interest. The groups then spend two days creating solutions then finally presenting them to a Dragon’s Den at the end of the day. We’ve invited the Mayor and Deputy along with some others to sit on that panel.
The challenge is simply. How do we increase Community Engagement in Wellington? The problems are easy to define:
- The community feels that their input into consultation by various local and central government agencies is value less. That regardless of what they submit, they are not listened too. This has created a feeling of apathy and this can be reflected in our appalling turn out figures for elections.
- The councils, some of them, feel that they are spending a lot of time and money on a process that is not working. The Greater Wellington Regional Council says that this is potentially an issue that is more important than transport. They don’t understand why we engage on some things and not others.
- Other Councils have created the problem themselves, the WCC has reduced the number of public consultation staff from around seven, to one. This underinvestment has slowed engagement.
- We have many different residents groups and community groups that simply don’t know about each other. They often have the same ideas and projects, but don’t connect to make that stronger.
- There is poor information about what is happening in our community. From alcohol license applications, resource consents, road closures, public notices, events, hazards, ideas, and a plethora of data, we have no central view of that as a city.
- The community has a, at times, fractious relationship with big business. Large industry is seen to bully its way into the community with their interests being put forward in deference of the residents of the area.
- Lobby groups are seen as unfairly skewing the consultation process. A well organised group can change a consultation outcome through active lobbying while the community feels side lined, or forced to form their own opposition groups.
So how do we change this?
- We could look at how we could visualise the data that exists on a single view. Some kind of map. The ability to see at a glance what is happening, or planned to happen, across the community.
- We could take back the process of consultation off Council’s all together. This has been attempted in a couple of places already, with mixed results.
- We could “hack” Neighbourly. Neighbourly provides a digital platform that connects people at a local level and has been quite successful doing so. If we took that base platform and added to it, could it provide us with more connective social tissue? Could we plug people together with skills, resources, material, and other green tradable items?
- We could make wifi free in areas of low socio-economic types and provide education to people on how to connect. Increasingly being disconnected from the internet means that you are disconnected from the community.
- We could create charters for high-impact business and industry. What we expect a good neighbour to be. How we expect them to engage with us.
- Rather than running consultation sessions in a town hall style, where strong characters have a voice and those who are less confident are left with none, we could run mini-hackathons, even over two hours, on issues that the city is facing. We could build a step-by-step cook book for that process.
- We need to understand how we combat apathy. Why is it that the Island Bay cycleway ended up with nearly eight hundred submissions where other projects, like the conference centre, had less than fifty?
The challenge is clear. The answers are many. What we need is people who will come that weekend and do something. That is the only pre-requisite. You don’t need IT skills, there will be people there for that, you don’t need to be a city-planner, you just need to come wanting to do something.
We are looking for community residents from all parts of Wellington, coders, GIS specialists, mappers, statisticians, application developers, and anyone in an interested in tackling this challenge.