Outside the Code for America offices in blockee vision.
There is a strong history of Place Making apps at Code for America. Every year about half of our Fellows are self labeled Urbanists. They like to make things:
2012 - Blockee
2013 - Streetmix
2014 - Transitmix
These are the next generation of urban planning tools. They each let you reimagine your community and because they are online, you can easily share out your designs. They key to each though, is that you can remix and collect all the variations. Design, technology, place, engagement, and conversation all wrapped up into some fun websites.
Each of these apps have spread across the planet. They have become an integral part of how professional planning agencies do their jobs. They are changing how the practice of Urban Planning gets done. They are getting VC funding. And these successful apps are what we made when we weren't even really trying. These are side projects we poked at when we weren't busy doing our day jobs. Imagine if Code for America took urban planning serious.
That opportunity is here though. Code for America is creating focus areas - public health, safety & justice, and economic development. Each of which are policy areas that urban planning effects. Us Urbanists have been talking and we've got a plan. We want Code for America to use our unique combination of skills with the internet, with government, and with people to start seriously building place making tools.
We will win influence in the Economic Development Focus Area, to channel some of its attention to place making projects. We will do so by curating a list of highly refined and implementable project ideas, building communities of support around those ideas, then executing. Small projects that solve real needs. Small projects that start big discussions. Once we've got the attention of the Economic Development lead, we will argue for resources and staff support from the rest of Code for America. Once we've proven to the org that place making is where its at, we expand to the other focus areas as well.
Why not an Urban Planning Focus Area
Starting a new Focus Area with staff and funding right now will be a huge distraction to everyone. It will be hard. Making friends and building real products will be easier. Our strategy is delivery. Anyways maybe we're wrong (we're not), so we want to learn that right away.
Why Place Making
We've distilled the practice of Urban Planning into a bunch of different skills and government departments. We decided that making the argument for place making as a route to economic development will be the easiest and allow us the most room for experimenting. Economic Development is our most requested service by mayors, the practice is stuck in waterfall style master planning, the tools are all digital, there are lots of support groups yet no one else really using tech as their lever, and the Brigades are our secret weapon.
What can you do?
- Start collecting Place Making project ideas and discuss them here, in this very forum, under the Urbanism tag.
- Join us in the #urbanism Slack channel.
- Make friends, build prototypes, create partnerships