Edmonton is a City of innovators, connectors, artists, entrepreneurs and problem solvers. Too often people have good ideas that can’t get traction due to barriers in process, jurisdiction or simply risk aversion. Significant work is being done to foster an innovation ecosystem in the business and technology sectors, but where do average citizens go who want to solve a problem or create something in their community? Many of the components already exist in the City to support certain kinds of community led projects, and our Neighbourhood Resource coordinators doing an excellent job of working with community groups to facilitate these connections. Social Innovation programs like RECOVER, Vision Zero Street Labs (launching soon), and Abundant Communities are all conduits and inspiration for community led innovation. Staff at the City also often have ideas for new ways of doing things, but can’t always make it happen within their scope.
I propose an inspiration or idea lab and facilitator that can play the connector role both internally for staff and externally for community members, creators, makers and innovators with ideas for making our City a great place to live. Creating a place where risks can be taken and anyone with an idea is greeted with, “Yes, let’s figure it out!” and then helped to navigate whatever City processes or departments are needed to remove barriers and/or support the effort, can offset some of the natural tendencies to say no to anything that’s out of the box, we don’t have a process for, or upsets, the status-quo. During a crisis, it’s natural to contract but the opportunities in a crisis are only captured if we can tap into our creativity.