Entrepreneurial Opportunities for Stand Up, Austin!

We are Stand Up, Austin! And we exist to change the culture of Civic Engagement in Austin.

We’ve been given the opportunity to engineer the context and experiences in which people participate civically in order to shift the perception of civic life.

We’ve found from the readings in the Q4 Theory Class some big ideas that’ve got us thinking about what our theory is for how we are going to design things in our careers and lives. Together, Scott, Maria, and Josh have created a concept that revolves around changing the culture of civic life in Austin. We are doing this by changing the context and experiences in which people participate civically in order to shift the perception of civic activities.

Power Trumps, “Public” Policy

But why did we need to go to these lengths? Why did the city feel they needed to approach AC4D, a small design school, to help them improve civic participation?

“For example, one representative endorsed town hall meetings because they make “people feel like you’re listening.”

…Another representative suggested that stakeholder meetings are “more of a PR move,” that they “make sure people don’t complain.”” – Chris Urbina Meierling

Because our legislative system, a system created to serve the people, have developed into a system that is broken to that cause. Public Policy is no longer created by the people and for the people. It’s created by elected officials. And it is there that I want to start.

In this class, we’ve talked about doctors, designers, and now in this last section of readings ….civic people. What do all these three professions have in common? They all began with a purpose to serve the patients, user, and the citizen.

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One could argue, however, that because it’s human nature to be selfish that when put in a position of power these roles have transformed into professions centered around tribalism. This has caused them to shift more towards inward appeals rather than inclusion of patient, user, and citizen participation.

So if we assume for a second that this is all 100% true. That the reason for low civic engagement in Austin is because slowly our government has shifted to a point where participation from its residents are not apart of shaping policy and in some cases is unwanted.

“Often we’ve already made up of mind on what’s happening before the council meetings.” -Council Representative

What are we to do? This is why we feel that Stand Up Austin!, Key Up, Pulse of Austin, and Housing Assist are all unique and powerful ways to approach this problem. Because they are all centered around the users. The approach we’ve all been able to take, because being designers and talking to people was all new to us, we were able to separate ourselves from the process of fixing low engagement.

We defamiliarized ourselves from the environment in which civic designers  work in by removing ourselves from it to focus on talking to residents and hearing their stories. We were so focused on learning about learning the tools to do human-centered research effectively that we forgot what problems we were tasked to do from the city.

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As a result, once we came back to the prompt in ideation and prototype testing we had rich data for what problems users were actually having and because the research was framed around residents living in Austin our designs actually tied back to civic engagement very effectively.

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“This may be one reason why civic design projects and programs seem to be flourishing in diverse institutions—places where different fields, methods, and theories intermingle without the drag of tradition or discipline. The liberal arts, broadly construed, are especially significant as we engage civics. – Chris LeDantec (Civic Design)

So, then speaking more specifically about Stand Up, Austin! Given the insightful thoughts put forth by the readings in Chris LeDantec, Sandjar Kozubaev, Terry Irwin, and Marc Rettig we thought what are the possible opportunities for our vision for Stand Up, Austin!

“Civic design aims to do more than develop communications, products, and services in support of existing organizations, doing the work they’ve always done. Rather, civic design aims to contribute to new forms of living together – Chris Ledantec (Civic Design)


Upon reflection of the readings, there are numerous opportunities for SUPATX’s broader vision and entrepreneurial role in reshaping civic life.

Value-Based Civics

Stacey Chang from UT Austin’s Design Institute for Health wrote about how Dell Medical School is rethinking medical student education and formation, and how value-based health care is a “transformation – happening across the industry – is opening up tons of opportunities for entrepreneurs.”

“…students of medicine and other health professions need different training. At the Dell Medical School, students transition earlier than usual from classroom learning to clinical rotations in order to clear time in their second and third year, when they are taught design skills.” – Stacey Chang, UT Austin’s Design Institute for Health

Similarly, how might SUPATX rethink how artists are exposed to civic life?

What if we expose artists to our perception framework and demonstrate how their art can create new contexts for civic engagement and lead to the reshaping of perceptions to meaningfully impact the civic health of their communities?

Just imagine the above quote saying “this transformation–happening across various forms of art–is opening up tons of opportunities for community and political organizations”?

Friction For Community

Steve Selzer in his article called “The Fiction of No Friction” tells about how they design friction in Airbnb.

“I’m here to urge us all to design it [friction] back in… I’m talking about intentionally adding the kinds of friction that lead to self-reflection, self-discovery, and personal growth.” – Steve Selzer

We know that comics can talk about taboo topics. This is an example of the opportunity to use friction when co-designing content with comics.

How might we explore friction was a methodology developed with other artists to shape new contexts and experiences to reshape perceptions of civic life?


Analogs (a person or thing seen as comparable to another) for how SUPATX might be productized and brought to market.

Transition Design

“Transition Design is an area of design research, practice and study that was conceived at the School of Design at Carnegie Mellon University….” However, it is now taking place as a conversation and “presented here as an open source concept and an invitation for engagement and co-evolution with educators, researchers and practitioners from design and related disciplines. The areas of service design and design for social innovation are now internationally recognized approaches with networks of researchers, educators and practitioners working to evolve the practice and develop accepted methodologies, tools and processes. Our proposal is to open a space in which Transition Design can evolve in a similar way and connect to other global transition initiatives.”

For SUPATX, we can lead a conversation and be an open source concept and an invitation for engagement and co-design with artists, community organizers, and municipal employees for the development of innovative civic engagement platforms. SUPATX endeavors to develop recognized approaches to evolve the context and experience of civic life and reshapes the culture of civic engagement.

Atlanta Community Engagement Playbook 

The Atlanta Community Engagement Playbook is designed for those with a shared interest in building successful engagement processes and reaching higher levels of community engagement. Higher levels of engagement mean that residents own and take leadership over civic change, rather than just observing or even providing feedback. Strong engagement is built on dialogue with a natural push and pull. This playbook has been designed to mirror that constructive process. It is meant to help service providers and community associations lead successful and collaborative engagements.”

For SUPATX, the playbook is an obvious analog for how we might share our experience, methodology, best practices, learnings, etc. It’s a step by step guide for how to work with artists and develop new contexts and experiences for civic life.

“You never change things by changing the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”  – Buckminster Fuller

We are Stand Up, Austin! And we exist to bring artists and civic organizations together to engineer new contexts & experiences of civic life.

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