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'Give a Minute' to Improve Chicago Transportation

BY Nick Judd | Friday, November 5 2010

Emerging from the Twitter feed from Open Cities, a two-day event I'm really angry about missing that was produced by Next American City, is Give a Minute — a John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and Rockefeller Foundation-backed project to crowdsource ideas to improve cities.

The project just launched in Chicago, focused on transportation, and will move on to education, in Memphis, Tenn., in early 2011. The project will also launch in New York, N.Y., and San Jose, Ca., later next year. It's interesting because it's an example of a municipal information flow in which part of the elite that determines a city's future has made room in their discussion for the collective wisdom of the crowd. The devil will be in details such as how the opinions coming in via SMS will be collated and presented, and how the elite responds to it sees.

A product of CEOs for Cities, an organization focused on making cities better (UPDATE: Specifically, their approach to this is influencing trends in cities like reducing reliance on cars and improving college attainment rates) and designed by the New York-based firm Local Projects, Give a Minute lets users submit ideas for their city by web or SMS. The ideas are then displayed on a website — the metaphor here is that they're displayed as post-it notes with the city's skyline as backdrop. And here's the kicker: City leaders, like Chicago Transit Board Chairman Terry Peterson, are listening.

CEOs for Cities spokeswoman Natalie Campbell told me today that there have already been about 200 responses, likely thanks to ads placed in the Chicago Tribune. Ads will also appear on buses and the cars of Chicago's L trains, she told me.

Once a week, the city leaders who have volunteered to listen and react will sit down and respond to the topics that come up through this platform, Campbell said.