Mar 22, 2010

Seattle Should Be That City

Seattle is at a crossroads. Will Seattle rise to global prominence or lag behind other cities?

Last Saturday, March 13th, a group of Seattle residents put on a Building Day to address this question. The goal being to start building the tools needed to make Seattle a carbon neutral city. Over 70 members of the Seattle community participated, from government, nonprofits, entrepreneurs, business owners and many other groups.

The answer to the question depends upon our ability to stimulate innovation and promote cross-sector collaboration. Building day started the discussion about how to create innovation engines and tool building for a vibrant regional economy.

The "unconference" is part of a bigger project, called "Seattle's Innovation Engine" and is the brain child of Sustainable Seattle Board Member Joe Brewer. I along with a host of Seattle residents are involved with making "Seattle Innovators" a success.

Last Saturday's event was just the beginning. I want to share the details of the event, what's happening next and show you how to get involved.

Why a Building Day?

We called this event Building Day because we feel that Seattle has done enough planning and talking. We want to start making, doing, building, and inventing. In one word innovating towards neutral.

Our main purpose of this event is to start building the infrastructure needed to even think about making Seattle carbon neutral. Thus, this day was a chance to start thinking about what tools, systems and structures we need in place to start down the path of carbon neutrality.

Our outlook is this: we can do more together than we can do on our own. All the tools that were brainstormed and articulated by participants were at the core related to strengthening our ability to collaborate with one another. A movement map, that shows what projects are being undertaken and what people have skill sets useful to other is an example of one such tool being designed.

Here's a link to a detailed description of Building Day.

Taking It To The Next Level

Obviously one event and one day of tool building is not going to be enough to meet our goals. Building Day was just the first step. It's a catalyst to take collaboration to the next level.

Currently we are doing several things to harness the momentum of building day:
  • Creating a web of online forums to build tools for collaboration;

  • Writing an in-depth case study about Building Day to further develop our idea and strategy;

  • Expanding our network to include an even broader set of skills and perspectives.

The forums will be useful for people that attended the event to continue collaboration, and be an opportunity for others to add much-needed input. We will continue to seek individuals from all sectors of our community to be involved with Seattle Innovators. This project needs as many diverse opinions as possible to succeed.

We Need You

We do not have all the answers and will never pretend to. Collaboration is what we believe in, which is why we want your knowledge and expertise. This project is just starting out and we are open to new ideas, new points of view and new criticism. If any of this fires you up or if you think you can lend a hand in any way please reach out.

We are looking for builders first of all. For example if you have experience starting businesses, building brand-new software, designing new systems or just enjoy making things from scratch, then you are a perfect fit.

You can get more information here

What We Learned

Learning is everything. Here are a couple things we learned from putting on this event.

Lessons learned:

1. Set a date and work towards it. Joe picked the date of March 13th before we knew exactly every detail of putting on such an event, or what exactly we wanted to accomplish. The time constraint forced the team to come together quickly and initiated action. We were forced to learn and figure things out. We did not have a luxury of large amounts of time, thus eliminating laziness.

2. Get attendees involved. Our event was not a typical conference. No speakers (except less than an hour dispersed through out the day by Joe and others), no panel discussions. We actively engaged attendees and discouraged passive participation. This was the key to the success of the day and energized participants, because they were actually participating.

3. Lack of resources is not an excuse. Do not let yourself or your organization trick yourselves into thinking that you lack resources to do a similar event. If you have the passion and will, take what you got and make something great.

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