The End of the Beginning
Several months ago, before our research began, Nicole and I had very little understand of what civic engagement in Austin even meant. We knew the system wasn’t perfect, what government system is? But we didn’t realize how excluded and marginalized so many people felt every single day.
Our capstone project, The Pulse of Austin, was born out many, many conversations and iterations on a simple premise: Government should be collaborative.
Decisions and policies that govern a whole body of people, shouldn’t be made to benefit only those that speak the loudest and hold the most power.
Yet that’s often the way it works.
How can we expect the government to shape policy to meet the needs of its residents if it doesn’t hear from them? And how can we expect residents to chime in, if they never see the benefits of doing so?
We believe that cities can be shaped collaboratively. But it’s not easy. Collaboration requires both residents and stakeholders to come to the table and interact.
What we are pushing for is a cultural and behavioral shift. We must make working towards a shared vision of Austin a more common practice. And that means people must speak up regularly, and not just the same voices that have always existed in city hall. And we must make city council accustomed to hearing from its constituents.
There is a very little intimacy between the city and it’s people. The disconnect is startling. Yet we are all affected by policy every single day.
There is clearly a space for The Pulse of Austin to live and bridge this divide. I believe both the personalization and guidance the mobile app provides are significant differentiators that can push towards our vision of collaboration.
A system as large as civic engagement, was never going to be redesigned in the course of a school year. We have much more work to do.
Nicole and I are building partnerships with city stakeholders and learning from experts steeped in the field of civics, while keeping our feet on the side of the residents. It’s their voices we want to make clear, and this is the balancing game of a true human-centered designer.
Our time at AC4D is ending, but we aren’t done yet.
Our next move is to apply for a fellowship with Code for America with the hope to get funding so we can keep the lights on as we continue to build.