on Innovation in the City

On Friday, TEDx televised a themed conference on innovation for cities. It was such a treat to see forward thoughts being put into motion and to know that this motion is likely to carry to the 40 + countries that watched the live stream. (USA really gets to set some culture!)

In the last two years, I have heard leaders of four churches in Atlanta declare that their church has a heart for this city in particular, and for serving it, and for seeing more life in it, and for social justice to be the way things are, not a cause to rally behind. It makes sense that many, if not all, of the churches in the area would have these topics on their heart. What does not make sense is that there were ZERO church leaders present at this event.

SO, here are some things I found fascinating.

The day started with a talk from a fabulous researcher out in Califorinia talking about how so many places want to be “world class” but every city that has that title has people in poverty at it’s foundation.

The next talk was about how we need to educate civics as a discussion of who holds power. (This will raise up a generation that sees the importance in voting and volunteering etc.) Citizen University

Then, an app developer who won some sort of contest spoke about her app that is designed to change the culture of harassment on the streets the same way the culture has been changed about harassment in the workplace. Hollaback! When it happens, there is a platform to inform, and this app shows where on the map it has happened and shows whose prescient these events fall in, so the politicians can be VERY well informed.

We had someone share their idea of journalism of solutions etc. (yeay for different news)

Then the NYC public transportation commissioner talked about how making streets walkable boosted shop sales. And, one way they made parts of NYC more pedestrian friendly was by painting connection pieces of road that weren’t doing much in very bright colors and setting chairs up etc. and making them mini parks. B/c it was paint, the officials were willing to try it. (something of a miracle) And, when they saw how it helped the economy, and streamlined traffic, the idea got to stay.

An architect who lost his eyesight two years prior spoke about how having a city that is friendly to the blind is more friendly to society at large…. (wider sidewalks, more walkable, shops on the first floors etc. all good things) and how society needs the blind etc. to keep us valuing each other. He didn’t say how he does architect work these days. I’d like to know that.

Then a professor in NY talked about her studies of people who work in sanitization. We tend to view them as non persons. But, they are very much people. And deserve appreciation and honor.

We had another architect talk about design. Apparently we as a race know from recent studies that color and shapes of rooms affect our well being, so why aren’t we planning our buildings to be more peaceful! (He also gave a potential reason why the golden ratio is… golden. Researchers somewhere have found that that is the most efficient chunk of information for our brain to take in, so it can process that fastest… ergo, beauty from efficiency. I like that.)

A few people talked about how we reduce our carbon footprint by living in cities. (Not what was originally thought) And, the urban sprawl is because people really want their own homes. Their own nice homes that they can afford, so we “drive till you qualify.” If everyone would live in smaller dwellings, public transportation could work better and we could walk and bike more which would a) be more fun and b) be more healthy! This researcher showed that diseases associated with overweightness have been addressed through diet and that hasn’t helped because we were made to be active. So, we need to be active. period.

Another app was started to meet a need for safe bus transport to school. It’s called “Text my bus.” Students were getting hurt waiting for their bus to arrive. So, creative people saw a need. Now this app sends a text message when a student’s bus is coming down their street, so they don’t have to wait in dangerous spots.

Stuff like this just makes me so happy. And, I want to be a part of it. And, I want the groups that care to be a part of it too. So that was Friday.

Being at a place and talking with people leads to invitations etc.

Fig 1.1

Photo on 2013-09-23 at 23.54

So, because of Friday’s TEDx thingummy, I was told about the Co(lab) summit.

This was a gathering of Atlanta’s educators, business people, and artists. It was amazing. Speakers addressed Atlanta’s issues specifically.  And the whole conference ended with a call to action. (I had to miss that part, but I hope it was phenomenal and that action will ring to answer it.)
A reoccurring theme in Co(lab) was that schools are passive [and boring] and worse, disempowering. Students love learning and need to be free to fail. For where there is no failure, there is no real learning. And in the school or work environment, we don’t need to command and control. We need climate control. People want to learn and grow. We just need to give them the right conditions.
Some chair person for the Alliance Theater spoke about why good cities breath art. It’s not that art is a right to the privileged that resides in it’s beautiful box. Art affects us. We need it around us. Atlanta needs more art. The 10,000 people that walked in the lantern parade show the demand for creative outlets.
Then, on the innovation side, people spoke about how sharing consumption of things is a really good idea and how it works.
i.e.
(and a word about #Lyft : they have been advertising in my facebook news feed for 3 weeks, and looked quite sketch. But, it turns out, the idea is awesome! [please market better])
Speakers also talked about innovation. I didn’t know that 95% of all startups fail. Or that the logical part of  the brain processes 40 pieces/sec while the limbic portion of the brain processes 20,000,000/sec. Or maybe I did feel that. lol.
And a good quote: Shortcuts don’t get you to somewhere great faster, but they get you to mediocre pretty quickly.
One highlighted idea addresses homelessness by helping people in those scenarios find their passion and find employment in that. They have a 75% success rate.
Blue Earth Network <- it’s great.
And, the last part I was able to catch was the Ron Clark dude talking about his school. He makes learning fun! Seriously! After the conference, I found out that there is controversy over him as a person. (Not surprised, people making splashes seem find themselves in the middle of controversies. And, education innovation has to go up against some fuddie duddies. The complaint I heard was that he charges a lot for people to come see how he works. I just looked at the website and it looks like that money goes to kids scholarships. I like that. Also, people don’t value free information very much… so I wonder if he’s playing to that.)
Anyway, this dude is making learning fun in a big way. And, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that he started his school in Atlanta. And, I hope other schools become like his. And, I hope Renovation specifically is able to partner with this team in some way.
So, these are a smattering of thoughts. I feel so spoiled to have had the privilege to attend these two conferences… but I don’t quite feel like I have the leverage to do anything with the knowledge [=power] I now have. Maybe it is the leverage… but it doesn’t feel like that.

Steve Jobs

A big thick book has been floating around and landing itself in the libraries of people I find interesting. It’s a book about innovation and focus and how the world has changed in the last 3 decades, and how the people changing it did that. It is all these things because this book is about Steve Jobs.

Last year I read the first 1/2 and put it down. Sure, it was fascinating. Sure, it was fun to read about the pranks he and Woz did when they were younger.  Sure, it was interesting to see how hard he searched for meaning with the eastern stuffs. And, sure, it was shocking to see that he knew he didn’t need his “core” classes. But, something about it wasn’t clicking.

I picked it up a week ago, and oh my goodness. It’s the best thing ever. We hear about how all humans have challenges, right? It was just fascinating to see what the challenges of someone who purposely bucks the system are. And, my heart was warmed that he worked very hard to keep the right people on the team. There is space for people. For we creative folk, there are people out searching trying their hardest to keep us on their team!

Also, it was fascinating to see the names of the top level people from all sorts of layers, design, entertainment, (in that Disney and then music stuff). And, to see behind the scenes on who was managing for Disney and why that was leading to movies that weren’t as successful as they used to be. And, that is something fascinating in itself… Disney, one of the best companies to work for, was having friction at the top.

All of this sounds like the most interesting TV show ever. Probably because it’s real. If we knew the stories that were happening right now, there probably wouldn’t be a market for Suits. There was such a divide between the decision makers doing things for just money, and the decision makers doing what they love, or doing something that would serve the customers. Making decisions is stressful!

so interesting.