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Ideation for more Connected Neighbors

Over the past quarter, we researched civic engagement in East Austin neighborhoods. Moving forward, we have been exploring different angles within our research and ideating around the opportunities we defined.

One of the largest opportunity spaces, and the one that piqued our interest most, is the gap between residents within the same neighborhood. Without genuine resident connections, the neighborhood’s ability to champion its unique needs within the city is diminished. Inspired by amplifying these voices, we decided to focus our ideation sessions around sparking conversations and aiding the realization of shared interests among neighbors.

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Ideation for us happened in many ways. To start, we took the insights that we uncovered while synthesizing our research in the last quarter, matched them up with various design patterns, and then spent two minutes with each combination coming up with as many ideas as we could.

For example:

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Other ways we came up with ideas?

Random Word: We used a word generator and matched the word to an insight
What-Ifs: We came up with a list of What-Ifs, “What if it were made for children?” And reframed out idea through a different lens
Sketching: Many new ideas were generating through the act of taking one idea and drawing it out
Lastly: Taking walks

Overall, we had well over 200 ideas on sticky notes up on the wall. Some seemed reasonable, some half-baked, and many absurd.

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We’ve chosen three ideas we like, and hope to explore further.

1. The Neighbor of the Month

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This idea came from the notion that many long-terms residents don’t feel invited to patron the new businesses in their area. But what if the new businesses were their champions? Local business can select a resident, new or old, and support a project they care about. Donations can be collected and other neighbors looking for local volunteer opportunities can pitch in to help.

Additionally, we thought we could leverage the fact that going to a coffee shop for its wifi is a common practice, and so we put the Neighbor of the Month on the wifi connection splash page.

2. The “Austin is Me” Traveling Truck

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There is a lot of “othering” that takes place a both a city level and within neighborhoods. It’s easy to disassociate yourself with someone and create false stories when you aren’t able to have a conversation or voice your concern.
The “Austin is Me” truck is inspired by a man we met named Hancock, who had to move outside of Austin because he could no longer afford his taxes. He told us, “Austin is me, and I’ll have to heal when I leave here.” His words were inspired. Austin is all of us.
The city needs a way to go to its people, and the people need a way to come together. Take a food truck + an ice cream shop + a talk show + a pop up shop, and the traveling “Austin is Me” truck is born.

3. The Neighbor Portal

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Product Hunt for neighborhood projects brings the power to take initiative back to the residents. Have a project you’d like to do in the neighborhood? Add it to the portal, watch other residents vote it up and volunteer to help, then receive a small sum of grant money to get the job done.
With these illustrated ideas, we hope to reach deeper and gain further inspiration. We look forward to working through the next layer of details and seeing where our diligence guides us.