It happens here: Consumer-centric Innovation in Charlotte and beyond

Charlotte’s Mission Possible uses crowdsourcing to solve a local problem by Nheeda Enriquez
logo via missionpossible

logo via missionpossible

If you haven’t caught it already, a local media coalition under the umbrella name Mission Possible is collecting public ideas to answer the growing need of charitable groups feeling the pressure of a challenged economy.  Soliciting ideas from a local constituency is not necessarily a new concept, and it definitely falls in the category of crowdsourcing.  Even the Obama administration has been putting structures in place to ensure the transparency of their multiple agendas.  Leveraging the collective wisdom and expertise certainly can’t hurt, especially in a time when more radical thinking is required.  From the website, some of the areas they’re exploring are:

  • New ways to conduct fundraising
  • New ways to administer programs
  • New ways to let individual citizens make a difference through volunteering
  • New ways that an individual personally could make a difference
  • New ways to use technology to help meet charitable needs
  • New ways for potential donors to learn of charitable needs and what assistance is needed
  • Wholesale changes in how charitable needs are met

Start by submitting your thoughts and ideas here. (Via Charlotte’s own innovation connector, Edison Nation)

Solving the right problems: CPCC’s Center for Applied Research by Nheeda Enriquez
June 30, 2009, 10:55 am
Filed under: Charlotte, community services | Tags: , , ,

Terri Manning wears many hats, but when I met her, she wore the one that reads ‘Director of the Center for Applied Research’ at CPCC.  Her team is the only one like it at a community college level, and they respond locally, researching the effectiveness of a city’s health, education, housing, or labor and workforce programs.  And in an era of scrambling accountability, communities struggle to figure out which projects are successful and which require re-evaluation.

Dr. Manning told me about a recent commission to bring a Massachusetts state college’s math faculty together to do just that: assess its effectiveness.  But in digging deeper, she realized that this was a tall order, since each teacher had a completely different syllabus and style.  So she worked with the instructors to establish a common curriculum based on common learning outcomes.  But in the process of doing that, the group recognized that the most important outcome their students needed to develop was critical reasoning skills, and outdated methods of teaching mathematics do not contribute to this goal.  So the Center is now working with educators to create a more robust model of teaching math that can be replicated across other colleges and universities.

This lesson in root cause analysis demonstrates how true innovation begins with spending the time to make sure we’re solving the right problem, and not just solving to fix the symptoms of the problem.  And clearly defining the problem makes it a whole lot easier to arrive at solutions.  Because we as humans have a tendency to want to get to answers right away, it’s a simple detail that is often overlooked.

Charlotte’s Bravest break down virtual doors, too. by Nheeda Enriquez
June 19, 2009, 4:50 pm
Filed under: branding, community services, social media | Tags: , , ,

I recently realized that I live around the corner from a little-known incubator of social media innovation in town: Charlotte’s own Fire Station 8.  Two firefighters from its C-shift, Leo Wurschmidt and Jason Almond, have been experimenting with twitter and a station blog, primarily to show the day-to-day, inner workings of the station.  It reaches beyond a traditional website-as-PR-placeholder, inviting visitors to read about the actual calls they go on or the personalities of its staff.

firehouse1The significance of the experiment is that the authors see potential value in regularly sharing this kind of information (in their down time, of course) with the community to demonstrate transparency and, to some degree, local accountability.  They hope to also create a place to share best firefighting practices within their department and with firefighters at large.  (Jason and Leo are studying their Google Analytics to better understand their reading audience.)

My favorite part of the site is the neighbor interviews, which were borne out of their QAP (Quick Access Plan) evaluations.  Part of the job requires visits to area businesses to learn the layout of these sites in case of an emergency.  But the blog also gave them the opportunity to showcase small businesses in the neighborhood and become a local resource of information.