By David Post, Ph.D.
In the course of my travels to over 60 countries around the world I have seen and learned a lot. One thing that never ceases to amaze me, no matter where I am, is how local innovation and seemingly small ideas can cause huge ripples in a community.
Some of the most creative ideas to make a village, community or city smarter come from residents; people who see an opportunity to make their lives and the lives of their neighbors better.
These community based approaches—which are created for communities, by communities—can dramatically improve local quality of life while spurring economic and community development. As importantly, effective ideas and approaches can be shared with other communities to catalyze more widespread change and improvement. IBM looked for some of the best of these ideas when People For Smarter Cities partnered with Zooppa, a crowd sourcing community.
Nearly 80 videos were submitted from around the world, showcasing smart solutions, big and small, for water, public safety, healthcare, education and more. Eight were chosen as the best and the brightest – the ideas that had the potential to dramatically change their city and the lives of citizens.
Take for example, our first place winner, Granby Park. In 2013, Upstart, Irish non-profit voluntary arts collective, transformed a vacant Dublin site into a pop up park – a place of creativity, nature, imagination, play and beauty for everyone. For four weeks, there were free arts events, outdoor cinema & theatre performances, live music, educational activities and a pop-up café open to the public. All the materials used in creating the park were recycled, up-cycled or borrowed, and the project attracted over 500 volunteers and over 1,000 funders. GranbyPark was such a huge success with local residents, tourists, and the city council, that Upstart is currently working on a downloadable app to help other communities build their own parks, as well as offering workshops across the country and beyond.
This innovative idea is an inspiring end-to-end project.
The video by Mia Mullarkey shows how an empty space in the city is used and repurposed into a community park where various projects and performances take place — resulting in the creation of jobs as well.
In Israel small-time inventor Izhar Gafni proved everyone wrong by doing what they all thought was impossible – building a bicycle out of cardboard. After three years of hard work, dedication and innovation, a working prototype of a cardboard bicycle that looks, feels, and rides like a bicycle was born. Now, through his start up, Cardboard Technologies, he is moving forward to fulfill his vision: manufacturing cardboard bikes that will be durable, sustainable and low cost.
The 3rd place video, submitted by Giora Kariv, shares Izhar’s accomplishments and showcases a greener and cheaper means of transportation in the city. By transforming raw material — cardboard — into a recyclable bike, his idea helps reduce urban traffic load and air pollution while increasing accessibility.
Citizen engagement can do amazing things for a city and community. Whether in public safety, vacant spaces, sustainability or health, the world is becoming smarter and more efficient thanks to the people who live in it.
‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.’
If you have an idea to share, submit them in the P4SC Ideas & Insights section. Or feel free to join our People For a Smarter Planet Twitter chat tomorrow, May 29th at 12:00PM EST. You can hear more about the winning videos and projects from the People For Smarter Cities & Zooppa contest as well as share your thoughts and ideas on how you can make your city smarter through citizen engagement.