York’s idea for the Bloomberg Philanthropies Mayors Challenge
In York, we are seeking to re-balance the relationship between the city administration and residents: from a parent-child relationship to an adult to adult relationship. This parent-child relationship has evolved over time, where the council takes an overly parental role. This is an issue for both residents and the council as it dis-empowers people and reduces trust.
In this respect, cities (York included) have an increasingly unbalanced relationship with residents. There is an unfortunate culture of solving the "wrong" problems with solutions that don't always fit or meet the needs of communities. And with the challenges faced by all cities, of reducing budgets, increasing population and a more dependent population, this problem will only grow if it goes unchecked.
Our approach to tackling this problem is our "Right to Solve" initiative, which builds on our existing open innovation model and takes it to a whole new level. We will create a new delivery organisation that is co-owned and provides a way for both council and residents, businesses, city partners & community groups to use for sharing Ideas, insights, problems and solutions.
This new organisation would possibly be a social enterprise, probably not be council branded (much like GeniUS! isn't) so it is SEEN as stand alone, would include people who can make the right links for solutions (so would include council staff but also others) and would include the ability to access and push solutions or ideas through new approaches to finding and procuring solutions for the city, or co-creating them if they don't already exist. It would also provide support with pilots, funding the delivery of training (to council and external) to increase capability within the city to engage with this approach.
In terms of building this in practice we will use an approach where we work with communities to develop an initial version with the most important parts needed for it to work. We’ll jointly test that out through a practical pilot and then add to that once the basics are working right. This first version will draw on existing resources and approaches, such as GeniUS!, community conversations, community hubs etc. or anything else that we identify that can form the solution.
We will then build on these initial pilots and co-create the longer term solution in an incremental fashion, listening to residents' views and experiences of the pilot solution and incorporating their ideas to ensure the solution is sustainable in the longer-term. Future developments could include things such as mobile apps, touch screens, the York TV channel etc.
So both the council and residents would use this same vehicle. The council would use it to help with delivering the strategic priorities (by seeking solutions to OUR problems); residents et al would use it to highlight and solve problems pertinent to THEIR communities.
The impact of this would be the establishment of that Adult to Adult conversation. It is a bold move, as it cedes control to residents, which will be uncomfortable for some, but with that it also shares responsibility with residents, resulting in a more balanced relationship. This will future-proof the city. It will mean we get better solutions to our problems, that are more innovative, co-created, relevant to residents and the council, cheaper and transferable. This will increase trust in the council and in citizens and will create a more connected, self-supported city, empowered to respond to our collective future challenges.
"The Right to Solve" - A city co-creating its future.