Wellington needs to become a capital city which leads through bold action.
Recently, I was approached to consider taking over an established annual event which gives a platform for ideas to shape the future of the city. I’ve been involved in the past both as a speaker for one event and voluntary organiser for two others, so know the people and format very well.
My response was:
“…bring those with power together and have them outline clearly and transparently what powers / resources they have (and don’t have) THEN what they are prepared to devolve / make available along with the processes for access. Only then, invite the wider community to impact on those areas as then you’re proposing / designing from the actual rather than perceived.”
Like most cities in the world, much of the power and resources are held by traditional institutions with established processes which aren’t very accessible and / or transparent. Revealing this and spending time *’sharpening the axe’ enables the citizenry to assist in directly shaping the priorities plus collaborate in the action needed.
So here are half a dozen ideas, in no particular order, which I’ve been thinking about for years (stretching back to my Collider days), and which could provide a starting point if some humans had the time / the money / the energy, to start an ‘action lab’ for the city (half of which can be easily achieved with a few grand, educated souls and the space in ones diaries)—feel free to steal, go off and start to actualise them out:
1. Central City Calendar
An event and activity listings for the city in one online portal. Developed through a reverse data-capture process which pulls in details from other places, this takes no extra collaboration or permission from anyone and would create a one-stop-shop for the vibrancy of activities in the city. With email subscriptions available and sorting by categories (like sport or art in a particular region) and an available RSS plus an open API for others to remix as well. In the background, these events would be analysed to illustrate what communities / topics are being served (and more importantly who / what are not – see ‘2. Capital Dashboard’).
A simple adoption of the doughnut economy framework into all the governing councils activities and plotting the activities via an online dashboard which tracks, records and displays visually the ‘health’ of the city. This would include data on such things as:
traffic / public transport use
house prices / commercial rates
councils and other agencies budgets and where it’s going
building projects and their state
amount of green spaces vs urban
recycling / waste
weather and ocean data
police recordings of incidents
listings of new companies in the region by topic (pulled from companies house) etc
Over time the data will reveal trends which can inform policies and decisions. It also becomes a visual connective point for the civic understanding / education on interconnected topics.
A map of publicly owned spaces / venues in the city with overlaying data of past / current / future use along with hireage costs, where this money goes plus processes of access and limitations (meaning conditions of use like only allowed to use certain ticketing, audio & visual and catering suppliers). This would again over time uncover insights on gaps / opportunities, types of use, who accesses, financial transparency of operations etc. and would create a blueprint for a community activation plan.
4. Beautify / Rewild
A open invitation for artistic collaborations to radically beautify the urban landscape through nature and / or art. The city has become grey or any new builds just full of glass and steel. We need more colour and beauty. Any new capital-builds will have to adhere to a new artistic policy before gaining permits to break ground plus demonstrate commitment to carbon zero / regenerative approaches (see #2). All this would be again transparently known, shared, tracked becoming another differentiating point of the city.
Wellington is the windiest capital in the world with a rugby team with an associated nickname, so imagine an annual festival exploring through art, clean energy, installations, discussions, sport powered by and in celebration of this wondrous gift of nature we have here, and stop fricking complaining about it!
Introduce radical legislation to address ownership disparity and free up access to homes, not properties (such as to hinder things like 3rd, 4th, 5th etc. property owners). This is about local and regional government legally ensuring all new construction include social housing considerations and also introducing laws to impact on owners of rental properties to set a certain criteria of health and well being. If this can’t be done at a city / regional governance level then prioritise community initiatives to support and amplify up to national policy changes.
However, there’s certainly enough talent in this city to divert it from the current trajectory. There just needs an honest and brave attempt to uncover what I advocated for in the above quote. Then the citizens and supportive bodies can amplify this as an opportunity to ignite a more city-level collaborations through radical experimentation and positive action.
*Abraham Lincoln once said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
The purpose of this unconventional endeavour is driven by the desire to produce something beautiful and intimate—exploring through conversation, the emerging intersections of interest with two people who have never met before—done by pausing the melee of life and intentionally crafting a space to be human through stories and in time.
“I want to be with those who know secret things or else alone.”
Rainer Maria Rilke
Visually, there’s nothing like it on the planet.
The completed twenty discussions featuring forty intriguing humans equate to 1943minutes / over 32hours, and in terms of the metrics of watches / listens: don’t know, don’t care*. That’s not the reason I started this (see above).
It’s also a wholly commercial free venture and costs time and money in the chunky pre-production investment organising the people, the space, the camera / lighting / mics, hosting of content plus post-production commitment to editing, audio podcast formation, uploading everything, posting online and crafting the subtitle snippets.
But when something so pleasing and unique manifests the effort is justified.
I recently organised an exclusive gathering just for those who have participated in the project to celebrate and connect them i further conversation with the growing community:
*Postcript: Back in 2006 I started the MediaSnackers podcast. In 5 years I produced about 200 podcasts (which included a few dozen for other clients at the time). The stats were in the high hundreds per episode and it drove traffic to the website into the thousands per month. 15 years later, what success looks like is very different.
What you don’t decide to do is as important as what you do do.
Scott Belsky (Adobe’s Chief Product Officer and Executive Vice President, Creative Cloud plus co-founder of Behance) gives a stunningly insightful talk which I revisited recently. It challenges us all to think about how to design / assess businesses and / or understanding our own business potential based on using a differentiating what we decide to do / don’t do:
“Self-awareness is the only sustainable competitive advantage you can find.”
Am hoping Mr Belsky won’t mind that I took the model discussed and made it available for download below as a blank template (just right click and ‘save as’)—it certainly helped me in some of my thinking about new service offerings:
Watching a Shirky talk always means leaving with a huge amount of pearls, but check out the above plus the quote below and tell me it doesn’t resonate with any creative endeavours you have been involved with:
“…they don’t care that they saw it in practice because they already knew it couldn’t work in theory.”
If you work with a client or in a corporation / organisation which doesn’t get what you’re trying to do even though you have showed them the solution, forget changing minds, time to change the company you keep!
Then surround yourself with people who take care plus improve each others output.
A set of icons which ignite kiwi-centric interest and conversation.
A few months ago I came across a set of icons and a wonderful offering to the world:
Imagine a similar available set of visual icons which provide pictoral micro-stories of Aotearoa; as the world is still going in and out of varying degrees of lockdown, this ‘graphical tourism’ is a way for these tales to permeate across borders (both digital and real).
Here’s what fell out of my brain regarding what could be included in the set for starters:
Places: The Beehive, Hobbiton, Mount Taranaki, Milford Sounds, Huka Falls, Moeraki Boulders, Milford Sound, Rotorua Hot Springs, Franz Josef Glacier, The Remarkables etc
People: Gandalph, Golem, Jacinda Ardern, Sir Peter Jackson, Sir Edmund Hillary, Lorde etc
So if you’re a designer or agency who wants to offer the world something distinct, feel free to take this idea, give it a home and action with the agreement that the set of iconograms created will be gifted to the global community for use under Creative Commons 4.0 (CC BY 4.0) license.
Will share on with the many other agencies and organisations I know once making this live. In the meantime, throwing it out to the cyber-world to see if it ignites some creative souls who want to take a crack. Let me know if you do take it on please.
In 2004’ish we connected through a comment I left on your blog. You called and we chatted. You had a lot to say and I was hungry to learn. You shared stories, highlighted people and ideas I should be aware, plus taught me to explore ‘better questions.’
At the time I had just come out of working in the public sector and failing at my first business in the youth work and corporate social responsibility space.
In 2005 during one of our long phone conversations, we were discussing the intersection of my youth work and growing interest in the new media landscape. I referenced young people as ‘media snackers’ and on the call you purchased the domain and challenged me to do something with it.
It took another 6-9 months but in June 2006 mediasnackers.com was launched focussed on ‘how young people create and consume new media.’
Five years later it would have a supporting staff of seven, over a hundred podcasts, dozens of video podcasts, authored a book, have worked with a vast array of clients from local /national government, UNICEF, executive leadership bodies, Ubisoft, marketing agencies, charities etc. plus have delivered on multiple countries on five continents… all because you bought a domain!
Throughout the years since, you have continued to champion and challenge, commend and berate—our long discussions about tepid and sigh-worthy institutions plus traditional business models / thinking always igniting my creativity and amplifying my intentions—and I delighted in how you uncover insights utilising superb lyrics to make a point:
There is a crack, a crack in everything That’s how the light gets in
Leonard Cohen, Anthem
Thank you g for all that you have revealed and amplified for me.
For being my mentor.
For being a friend.
Good ones listen then uncover. Help you move forward or pause to think through a tough decision. They highlight pathways based on experience and intuition, revealing pitfalls and dangers along the way which more untested souls wouldn’t have understood existed.
I’ve been lucky enough to both have wonderful mentors in my life as well as also being mentor for 3 years on the Culture Hive Digital Marketing Academy plus on many occasions with new TEDx license holders in New Zealand.
Mentors can be friends, bosses, colleagues, family. Sessions can be structured or not. Often or little. What matters is that they add value. Reveal and compliment.