Over on Forbes, I wrote about the new civic movement of participatory budgeting, and how youth are making decisions about how to spend city budgets to improve their communities. I interviewed UChicago alumna and SIPA professor Hollie Russon Gilman for the piece; she’s the author of a new book on the subject, Democracy Reinvented.
“Design thinking,” “human-centered design,” or just “design” is becoming so popular we can’t keep up. A few years ago, I had to explain why design is important; now, there’s non-stop questions about how to learn more. There’s so many great courses, toolkits, readings, and online tools for design that we decided to mobilize the collaborative power of the Internet to consolidate them into one master list. Whether you’ve just heard about this whole design thing, or you’re a design master looking for some new exercises or visual tools, this Google doc is a great place to start. And it’s open, so please add your favorite resources!
I left my California beach town vacation early to return to frozen New York for the democratic tradition and right of jury duty. For two days, I sat in a stale room with intermittent wifi with over 100 citizens from across socio-economic backgrounds. Unfortunately, what should’ve been a privileged and proud citizen experience turned out to be a futile, inefficient, and outdated process. I say this not to diminish the importance of diverse citizen juries, but to acknowledge the frustration I saw and heard from my fellow citizens in the room, and experienced myself. At the end of the second day, my peers and I cheered and sighed in relief as we heard that we are free from serving on a jury for the next several years. I was at once thrilled that I was done with what was a dreaded and annoying process, and saddened that most citizens would leave the court house with even less confidence or interest in their government.
“As a country, we haven’t invested in or changed the ways we engage with democracy; we’re interacting with 20th century institutions in the 21st century.”
A graduate student in public policy, I’ve been involved with government since high school. What struck me as I sat in the jury room is that while I’ve interacted with the government in many ways as an employee, student, and engaged citizen, for many in the room, this is one of the only times they’ll interact with the government this year, and they were left sorely disappointed in how it functions. (more…)
A few years ago, as a member of Young Professionals in Foreign Policy, I had the opportunity to meet Alec Ross, a senior advisor on innovation to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. A few days ago, he came out with a new book on the industries that will shape and drive the next economy. I interviewed Ross about the book, the challenges and opportunities individuals will face in gaining jobs in these new industries, and how governments can help us prepare for the future. You can read the interview and review of the book over on Forbes.
‘Tis the season for being overwhelmed with “best of” lists. Last year, I added to the list of lists with one of my own, of the readings that transformed my year.
Some of best things I read in 2015 covered life and how we live, tell, and write about it. A few covered the things we don’t often think about, and the rest filled the potpourri of my various interests. I hope you’ll enjoy them as much as I have.
A note on how I read: I swear by Pocket for saving, categorizing, reading, and sharing everything that doesn’t come in book form.
Innovation is hard work–much harder than the headlines will admit, and much more complicated than the colored post-its let on. While researching government innovation, I’ve had the opportunity to interview several leaders of innovation teams in cities across the country–and the conclusion from all their stories is clear: innovation is not sexy work.
Innovation is at its best when it’s supported by data, research, and lots of outputs. It doesn’t happen overnight–it takes patience. While many exciting new start-ups disappoint, the companies and cities doing real innovation that leave us pleased as consumers and citizens are putting in the time and effort to build lasting innovations, sometimes in unnoticeable incremental changes. Sometimes the output is a great new app; other times, it’s changes to a boring process that makes a big difference.
That’s not to say that innovation is not also exhilarating. But I’d argue that the best innovation isn’t sexy–it’s not a fun and quick creative brainstorming session followed by a perfect product that solves a problem. (more…)
Voluntourism is when individuals take trips abroad for the purpose of “seeing how others live” and “giving back.” The problem is, these trips can create simplistic, self-serving narratives. Voluntourism can be harmful to local communities, while primarily benefiting the voluntourists — maybe even providing them with the perfectprofile picture. On the other hand, good intentions exist, and exposure to alternate realities can be valuable. The question is, how do we create a better volunteer model?
We need a new framework for volunteering abroad that is empathy-driven rather than sympathy-driven: the Leadership Growth Experience (LGE). Voluntourism falls on the sympathy-driven end of a spectrum, implying pity and exoticism of foreign communities. LGE is on the empathy-driven end of the spectrum, focusing on dignity and understanding. During an LGE, volunteers seek to engage with and learn from the community they are interacting with. The focus is on fostering empathy, humility, mutual multi-cultural understanding, and experience working with constrained resources. (more…)