Project Champions

A. (Awareness of the issue/opportunity for Dublin.)

We’d like to explore the idea of ‘Project Champions’ – certain people leading, administering, and facilitating others to carry out certain roles in their community.

Administrator Shane

B. (Background to the issue/opportunity within Dublin.)

We’ve been thinking about three items:

a)  How to scale from a Beta Project macro to citywide implementation.

    • For example, take the traffic light box artworks. The experiment was on 11 of those boxes. There are 800 traffic light boxes within Dublin City Council’s administrative area. If we were to decide to scale the idea to all 800, how would we manage that workload?

b)  If Beta Projects are expanded across the city, how to facilitate and encourage the self-expression of each of the neighbourhoods of Dublin?

    • For example what reflects the character of Stoneybatter may not be suited to best reflect the inherent character of Sandymount.

c)  How to facilitate and encourage the evolution of ideas in a ‘here’s how’ method, rather than ‘here’s a comment’ method. Ie – how to enable faster learning by encouraging diversity.

    • For example Beta itself says that the best way of demonstrating an idea is by showing, rather than by trying to explain. Could it extend that thinking to allow people in Dublin City to show, rather than merely being able to comment on this blog for example?

If you can think of more situations, please let us know in the comments section below!

C. (Compile and Create solutions for the above A+B issue/opportunity.)

We’ve been thinking about this, and combining the above three issues, we think that it would be worth exploring the idea of neighbourhood or project ‘champions’.

When might such a role be useful to Dublin? Some examples…

    • A person might organise for artworks on the traffic light boxes in their neighbourhood.
    • A person might organise the Adopting A Street on their street, or perhaps their neighbourhood.
    • Might people wish to curate a wall (or walls) in their neighbourhood to have street art?
    • Perhaps someone keeps an up-to-date map of vacant spaces in their neighbourhood so that (at some later stage) there’s a better chance of them becoming used in some way that improves your area.
    • Are there a whole series of wider roles around a specific theme? For example perhaps one person in a neighbourhood looks for tiny ways to improve specific items in their neighbourhood only – for example walking, or planting, or children playing.
    • Thinking bigger, is there a role for a Champion to manage all of the Champions within their neighbourhood?

The reason that we’re using the “champions” phrase instead of “administrator” or such, is that because we think (hope) that the role will be more than simply administering…that people will bring their passion and creativity also, and will champion their version. However, it’s just a working title…suggestions for a different name on a postcard please.

We’re suggesting (and we’ll have to see how it works out) that this Project Champion would manage / guide the project, but wouldn’t tend to be directly carrying out the project itself.

Example: Josephine Bloggs is the ‘Project Champion’ going to arrange artworks on the 14 traffic light boxes in the Rathmines neighbourhood for 2014. She has a ‘how to’ toolkit – which was thrashed out, and established by a Beta Project macro, so she only needs to focus on the actual doing aspect (not all the permissions, etc). She uses that ‘how to’ toolkit to work with others to put art onto the boxes in her neighbourhood.

Some questions…

  1. Do you think people would be interested, or would you personally be interested, in being a Project Champion in their neighbourhood? Why?
  2. Could/should anyone be a Project Champion? If not, how would you restrict it and why?
  3. We’re suggesting they should be ordinary citizens (ie shouldn’t be Dublin City Council staff acting in an official capacity). Would you agree? Why?
  4. Might these roles be carried out under 1% Difference Dublin (ie 10mins/day, 1hour/week, 2.5days/year)? Why, or why not?
  5. Should the person have some connection to the area? If so, what type of connection, and why?
      1. For example should it only be be a local resident?
      2. Could it also include those that work in the area?
      3. Could their connection perhaps be in some other way…such as perhaps they studied the area, or they used to sometimes spend weekends with their granny who lived in the area?
  6. Should there be an element which ensures it gets ‘mixed up’ a bit – for example change the gender every year, or pick by random selection, or such.
  7. How long do you think any one individual might be a Project Champion for? One year? Three years?

D. (Decide on the priorities of the solutions listed in step C above.)

For now, we’re just looking at this one possible solution.

If you can think of other ways to solve the three issues/opportunities listed near the top of this blog, please shout out in the comments below! 🙂

E. (Effect and Evolve a prototype of your solution, prioritised in step D above, ‘on the street’ in order to stress-test the below assumptions with ‘real world’ measurements and observations.)

We’d love to hear your early feedback based on this blog post. Alongside that we’re going to look to test the Project Champion role ‘on the street’ (ie in the real world, with real people’s everyday experiences) around some specific projects…

  1. A Project Champion for the traffic light boxes within the Beta Area.
  2. A Project Champion for this curated wall.
  3. (We also hope to look at ones in the area of onstreet dumping, which we’ll update on at a later date.)

F. (Formalise)

Not applicable as yet.

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About Dublin City Council beta

Dublin City Council are trying a new method called DCC Beta Projects...your input, then quick trials 'on the street', then your feedback! We'd LOVE your help!
This entry was posted in 1. Identity, Communication & Ownership, Beta Projects, General Thoughts & Future Betas, Public Realm, Shane, Strategy, Street Art. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Project Champions

  1. I instinctively worry about relying on champions (based on experience in innovation programmes in business and intermediary organisations). The main reason being that if a champion leaves they take a lot of capacity/tacit knowledge with them.

    The practical likelihood is that there may only be a few people in each area willing to act as champions but there may need to be a focus on building a patchwork of champions that can make things happen. If there isn’t enough people some thought should be given to how to make the process/resources/actions/networks of the champion are more visible.

    Could there be scope of working with the various Community Regeneration Boards as a first step to see how they could act as champions? I imagine that some have an existing level of legitimacy/visibility in their respective areas.

    • Hi Simon, thanks for the comments and some replies/questions below.

      “if a champion leaves they take a lot of capacity/tacit knowledge with them.”
      …how would you create a system that was more resilent to prevent that?

      “there may only be a few people in each area willing to act as champions”
      …Very possibly. We’re hoping that the trials around ‘real’ projects will begin to thrash that out. It would make us ask though…why aren’t they willing, and what WOULD be required to make people willing?

  2. I think the idea to build a patchwork of champions is a good one and might help rally people who would like to give their time at a certain point around a specific idea. We were talking about doing trials in specific areas of the city, such as Ranelagh, Portobello, Smithfield, etc. Perhaps we could look at how people who work, live, or are somehow connected to these areas engage and communicate with and within the area. We might identify online & offline channels of engagement. And this could help build an audience and help build a group of people who might be able and would like to carry forward a particular project. As an example there might be facebook pages, twitter handles, hashtags, etc. where people engage with community they live in. We could use them as channels of engagement, platforms for relevant audiences, etc. I think its important that the patchwork of champions grows out of the community that the Beta is being run in.

  3. First, this is actually a really large and ambitious project as stated. In fact it isn’t really a project with a beginning and an end – it is then an ongoing effort and realistically it will require a financial commitment to keep it going -. Even with that, it is really hard to do something like this on a sustainable basis. The root cause for this is that it is trying to get ‘bottom up’ efforts (local community) to mesh with ‘top down’ efforts (DCC). This is just hard to achieve on a lasting basis.

    Is there a way to get existing structures to fulfil this role? For example, business and residents associations? Or somebody mentioned community regeneration groups? There is a pretty strong RA in parts of Rathmines (Belgrave) and I understand there is similar in Stoneybatter, though it’s not my neck of the woods at all. The RAs are all going to have some relationships with the local authority already through local area committees and local area managers.

    In the case of the traffic light cabinet artworks, is the conclusion to create a ‘pack’ explaining what to do if you want to change the appearance of a cabinet in your area, with an appendix containing case studies? Then it that will stand as a reference point for years, maybe decades. Communities themselves will decide if it is relevant to their area and the local school/adult education coordinator/FAS worker/artist collective/RA/whatever can use that information to get the permission they need any time in the future.

    • Hi Antoin, thanks (as always) for the great commentary. We’ve some answers and questions below.

      “this is that it is trying to get ‘bottom up’ efforts (local community) to mesh with ‘top down’ efforts (DCC). This is just hard to achieve on a lasting basis.”

      What aspects make it difficult to achieve and sustain?

      The aim of all Beta Projects macro (ie process, procedures and permission) is to result in a how-to toolkit like you mention. That then means (hopefully…has yet to be tested against reality) that the local trial – the Beta Project micro – only has to look at place, people and (local) politics. We mention some of that here https://dubcitybeta.wordpress.com/about/ It should be a living method, evolving as people use it, and add their personal tips and experience (and as required, jumping back to a Beta Project macro to explore any ‘big permissions/procedures/process stuff’ that arises).

      • Maybe the job is done with what you describe as the macro? If you want to engage at the micro level across the city, then you will need a lot more resources, simply because there are a lot of communities. Communities and their leaders are inherently difficult to engage with for you (unlike people like the boss of the traffic department, or the parks department or whomever). ‘Difficult’ essentially means that a lot of time is involved and that is really the same as money. The reason is that community members’ schedule doesn’t fit with yours (either the time they are available for a meeting on the one hand, or the way their time for projects works on the other) and their priorities are quite different too.

        That said, DCC has a lot on in this area. http://www.dublincity.ie/Community/CommunityandSocialDevelopmentService/pages/communityandsocialdevelopmentservice.aspx . Maybe they have the answer?

        I would be very careful about beta projects, micro, macro or otherwise that require a lot of community involvement. When you cost these, you have to take into account not only the cost of your own time, but the cost to the community. Time and effort spent on your project is time not available for babysitting, family, sports, etc. And you have the extra job of engaging and motivating.

  4. Taking Antoin’s, Flora’s and Simon’s comments, we’d like to point out one big question…

    Let’s reverse the process…let’s begin with an imperfect model and begin to evolve it until we find something that works. What will that mean? Why might roles fail? One answer could be insufficient Return on Investment for the person (for eg, a lot of time, in the rain, very little enjoyment, lots of hassle).

    If there isn’t sufficent ‘return on investment’ for the individual Champion, indeed it will fail. So how do we minimise hassles and maximise reward and enjoyment? For example, we’d suggest a ‘how-to’ toolkit might reduce much of the work, or perhaps there’s some way to increase the pleasure that someone experiences by carrying out such a role (for example a greater feeling of ownership, or perhaps pride, or perhaps something as simple as ‘fun’).

    Perhaps groups such as Code For Dublin http://www.meetup.com/Code-for-Dublin/ or Code for Ireland http://www.codeforall.ie/ could develop tools which make the job easier (and that Champions would actively work with them to help them know what to develop. Code For Ireland themselves say precisely that…
    “We want to have a reasonable number of ‘non-technical’ people attending – citizens, designers, etc. – who can work with developers to identify problems, that Code for Ireland can then develop solutions for.”)

    As always, we’d suggest that the best way to learn will be tiny, real-world trials, (done in such a way that they can easily change as we learn) but in the meantime, your ideas and suggestions will be vastly useful.

  5. p. cadell says:

    Let’s get on with the real projects. Identifying ‘champions’ is a time consuming, self congratulatory operation which does nothing to contribute to the urgent tasks in hand. Nor is it appropriate to select particular people for awards or public accolades when the job cannot be done without the involvement of the majority of local people who are equally important.

    We hardly need this waste of scarce resources on giving honours to ‘champions’. Start the jobs/projects we need to be engaged in to improve our quality of inner-city living.

    • Hi P, you may be misunderstanding the idea here. It’s not about awards or public accolades in any way.

      Let’s switch to use a different phrase – “administrators”. The discussion is around whether/how to involve those local people in ‘administering’ certain small roles in their area – specifically to help with “the jobs/projects we need to be engaged in to improve our quality of city living”.

      The reason (that we explain above) that we’re saying “champion” instead of “administrator” is that perhaps each person might do the role in a slightly different way, and whether as a city we could learn from such diversity. Do you think using “administrator” would be clearer? Can you think of another phrase that we could use?

      Does the above change the way you read it, and would you have any suggestions on the idea?

  6. P says:

    The fact that people have already engaged with/or contacted Beta Projects with proposals would seem to indicate that they are the movers and shakers in their area. So, there’s no need to go searching for them (‘champions’, ‘administrators’, whatever you want to call them). They have already made themselves known. It seems to me that the proposed work/project is the most important factor, and to divert attention towards trying to discover what is already there and known, is taking away from the energy of the projects themselves. We are desperately in need of some of the suggestions being taken up and acted upon by Beta Projects. No more discussion!

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