Saturday, September 09, 2006

Rebirth of the New Idea Factory -- with second life at The Sprout Fund

Today, it seemed to me, The Sprout Fund re-launched the New Idea Factory. I was there. It felt good the second time. More open. More dazzle. More digital.

James C. Roddey championed the "New Idea Factory" back in the day. I don't know what was first, that or the Sprout Fund. So, in a way, it is like the Sprout Fund calling back to its roots.

All in all, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

Hundreds of good ideas were shared. Lots of doodles developed.

Sorry, I'm skeptical. I'm a guy who wants to go out of my way to wear a black hat, and that's not allowed in a 'brainstorming session.' To say the least, as I did, I can mostly claim tonight that I have a sore tongue. But, I didn't try to be a party pooper. No way. I did have fun and it was a feel good structure and I'm very hopeful of the outcomes yet to flourish.

This type of meeting is right up my alley. The cycle of 'weed and seed' without the inclusion of 'harvest' has been under my skin for more than a decade. We need to do more than weed and seed -- and lots of those ideas were getting out there today. So, in some instances, I'm thrilled.

And, only a moron can't love AlphaChimp Studios! Peter is great. We need more integration and more graphics to support our stories. We've got too many stories that are NOT strung together.

One of the ideas that I helped to poke along the pathway in our homeroom to the final stage was called "Bob's Bean." The concept builds upon the legacy of Bob O'Connor's of going into the neighborhoods. We need to build bigger, bolder routes along the pathways he blazed from Grant Street to neighborhood spots.

Bob's Bean is a temporary, mobile, coffee truck / chart, that causes civic engagement and has a digital support infrastructure, much like an internet cafe. It can go from place to place, as scheduled much like the Citiparks Art-Cart or the Library's Bookmobile. It has a moderator or facilitator. Expect urban hikes in that neighborhood that day so as to engage everyone.

Huddle, Hike and Hypothesize.

We need to get politicians off of Grant Street. We need venues of common ground. We need to say "free food" and / or drink (coffee, tea, hot chocholate, cider, lemonaid, etc.) and have casual places to mingle, get to know one antoher. We need to hear of successes and failures in various places -- while those places are present.

Think of a traveling internet cafe. Think of a meeting place that isn't owned by anyone -- but by everyone. Think of a place where the shirts get rolled to the elbows -- and sip to admire a mural and then start to lock horns and plan for new actions for the weeks to come.

This would be a monthly, (or so) scheduled function. Sessions would go for the day -- and then go away for another place and another time.

There is $100,000 of funding that is due to hit the streets in "several months" -- complete with RFPs (Requests For Proposals). Yes. That makes the exercise more than just an academic letter grade.

In the past, I knocked The New Idea Factory because it was elitist and more about being 'invited to participate' and less about an attitude of open door inclusion. This event was held at a public school (great) with a $10 fee (more than fair) and lunch was provided (goodie).

The 'New Idea Factory' could have been great boon for the mass production of cookie cutter stuff. I don't want to mass produce fun. I don't want certain specs applied to all aspects of our lives. We've been a 'factory town' for many generations. It has its hang-ups from my point of view.

However, a 'New Idea Distillery' -- that is different. That 'distilling' effort seems to have a much better ring to the concepts that we crave around here.

Case in point: Tom Murphy could take a stretch of land and figure out how squeeze a lot of tax breaks into its infrastructure and how to get new development onto either greenfields or brownfields. He was a mastermind at making new retail developments. And those goals go counter to what I think we need and really want in the end. Let's take a new idea -- and then take it apart to study if it is sustainable, if it is helping our urban core, if it is just, if it is what government should be doing.

Along these lines, I don't want to see something such as this "Bob's Bean concept" be turned into a "dog and pony show" that exists to leverage grass-roots support for hidden agendas. Many have seen and lived through the Tom Murphy styled "Power Points" for various "projects." Spare us of that top-down type of song and dance. Bob's approach wasn't about the computer presentation and vision that fit into a series of bullet charts.

Bob's way was to be there in person. Look folks in the eye. Share a cookie and/or coffee. Shake hands and spill out with an attitude that includes, "just do it." But, there needs to be more if we are to institutionalize this approach. We can't be Bob. We all can't be there at the same time. We can't just 'show up' -- mostly unannounced. We can't always host roving meetings and pull strings so something is always getting done.

I think the Bob's Bean venture could work. The concept builds a mini town-hall that travels and includes digital assets.

As the social following the event I heard a bit from John Allison of the PG. Expect something to run in a week or so that catalogs some of the ideas. I also saw a reporter from the City Paper as well.

Let's roll out the red carpet for these ideas on the internet.

Perhaps many of the ideas, if not all of them, can be pulled into the wiki as well. Some have been there for some time. We'll need forums and FAQs and wikis and in turn, RFPs and real folks to pick up the project and run with them.

Pittsburgh has something to get Jazzed about. Did you hear about the new Jazz concept???


Anonymous said...

A Tour de Burgh? Ideas abound for city A Tour de Burgh? Ideas abound for city -- Projects touted to make region more livable

Mark Rauterkus said...

Who can remember The Thrift Drug Classic? It was a great bike race.

I think that a lot of the special events around town have been killed off by the costs of police overtime. That makes for a lot of overhead.