The Right to Solve - A city co-creating its future

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.

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  • Thanks Chris, yes putting them in the mix would have been better, although I think if I move it now it will be out of order, in the conversation chain and might further confuse any newcomers.

    So although it all seems disjointed there are quite a lot of aspects in putting this new approach together.  At the ideas camp a lot of discussion was around process whereas here on the platform its been more around actual products and ways to communicate.

    All the ideas and insights here will be taken into the workshop, but we are envisaging about 6 main areas of focus to develop pilots from and then have to somehow fit them all together.  So the areas at the moment are: The Role of Data, Online Discussion/ Development Channels, Ways to Work Together Offline, Co-creation, Sourcing Existing Solutions, Handling and Assessment of Ideas.  These are broad areas, and all have a lot of scope for creative thinking and would all be a part of the whole process.  In the workshop we will ask attendees to choose which area they are most interested in developing and shaping.  Any ideas offered through GeniUS! page will be shared in the groups where they are most relevant.  From the workshops we can hopefully craft a pilotable model and have a go at trying it out in the city on a small scale.  We can tweak it as we go until we collectively feel its ready to go at full steam.  Although it will be amazing if we win the bid, we want to create something we can take forward anyway building on what we have already, just maybe at a smaller pace to start with if we don't win.

  • Hi Heather, Sorry if I got the wrong end of the stick, but it did look like this was the council saying "this is what we have decided to do" rather than "here's a few more ideas". If they were just more ideas to throw into the mix it might have been better to put them in the thread with all the other ideas instead of in a standalone thread.

    Also, given that there was already a large number of comments in the discussion if you are going to have a breakout group physical meeting it would probably have been best if they had read through the other comments first. This output just seems so detached from the existing discussion, instead of taking forward the existing knowledge they seem to be trying to create from scratch in isolation without the benefit of what had gone before.

    It just gave the impression(rightly or wrongly) that we weren't being listened to. Hopefully, like you say,it was just teething problems of trying something new.

  • Also, the prize is a prize, not an EU grant and the stipulation is that it is to build innovation capability and capacity in the city. The money may be used to seed fund pilots that come from this new way of working. We have been asked to budget EU1m for our project idea in the next bit of the process. Again we will be looking at how we break this down at our workshop and taking ideas from everyone there. :) hope this helps!
  • Sorry that should say July not june!
  • Thanks for this constructive criticism folks! We went off to work through the problem and discussed our idea with 20 other cities and these were some of the ideas we got through that process. They were people who love and breathe 'innovation speak' so this is reflected in the notes back, sorry , we needed to be clearer that these were ideas to chuck into the mix from them and us, not in any way seen as the definitive way forward!! If you the people of York don't like the way we are evolving the ideas, please please suggest ways you think it would work better! This needs to be developed by us all for us all, and it needs to fit the unique flavour of our place and our people. There are a bunch of components that we need to explore: online channels like this and social networks and sny other online ways we can think of, offline channels which we have been discussing here and with community groups , how to change internal systems in the city to enable people to have insights, ideas and take them forward here, all sorts of jigsaw puzzle pieces we need to put together, together.
    We will be developing this lot further on 9&10th June and I really hope you can help us then.
    The overarching message is, we really and genuinely want to work out a way to empower people to make the changes, we really want to work out how best to support everyone to do that but we need you to help us to achieve that as we haven't done it before and it is brave but also scary for a council to 'release the grip' but we need to make that happen. If we can crack this the future will be much more exciting and prosperous here, in terms of our every day quality of life, opportunities open to us and chance to progress faster. So, new organisation might not be the way, but what would be the right way? Over to you! :) and thanks- we need this challenge from you!
  • Agreed, adding another organisation into the mix doesn't empower, it just creates more red tape.

    Social media; where an indication of how much activity there was around a certain issue would provide a list of what is most important.  

    Getting the blue-ish coloured green traffic light bulbs changed to proper green may seem like a trivial issue but there are enough people concerned enough to make a point of joining in a discussion on the subject then through this process it's an easy win compared to the bigger issues that perhaps are too complex for the majority of inhabitants of York to concern themselves over.

  • I have to agree with Antony. This has no relation to the discussion at all. In fact I think it sets a very dangerous precedent. A pattern of open innovation that says we ask for involvement from the community and then twist the feedback to do whatever we wanted to do in the first place. I think this will turn people off to the whole idea of being involved at all. No one wants to be tricked through clever branding to pretend it's open and independent when it's not. The council needs to release it's grip.

    Also, how does this relate to the competition anyway? If I was running a competition to give away 5 million Euros I'd want to know that I was giving the money to a city that actually needed the money to make transformational change, could explain how they intended to spend the 5M and what the expected long term outcomes of that injection of finance would be. From what I read you plan to bootstrap the whole thing with very little budget which will carry a very high risk of failure. So why would they give it to you?

  • In response to the request for open/honest feedback: did this solution really follow from the discussion? Two worries: (i) this language isn't really accessible to residents, and (ii) does innovation need a 'delivery organisation' quango? An alternative is to provide funding to an innovation network made up of anyone who wants to join, but includes problem owners, interested residents, funding sources, community groups, academics, etc. An open innovation network (social network, plus sponsored meetings) would more efficiently provide opportunities for peer-to-peer / grassroots innovation rather than spawning a 'gateway' body that needs to consume precious funding to justify it's own existence. Instead, we need to connect problem owners to problem solvers and get the seed funding directly to where it makes the most difference.

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