[Version 4.0 – Update 21/03/14]

What is Dublin City Council Beta Projects?

Dublin City Council Beta Projects is a better way for trialling new ideas in Dublin.

It aims to encourage, support, and facilitate City Council staff to be able to experiment and innovate. It’s aiming to try to establish a single, standard system for staff to use whether trialling things as diverse as a new website, or a new type of street light, or a new policy around street art – a standard set of tools and approaches for staff to use. It might be summarised as something like the following…

“When a trial is done as a ‘Beta Project’, the Council knows that it will be done in a certain, pre-agreed way, and so can feel confident when new ideas are being trialled, and will be better able to assess whether it seems to be a good idea for citizens and the city.”

For that reason we also often say that “Beta Projects are a systematic approach for a city to discuss issues and opportunities, co-create solutions, and prototype them ‘on the street’ for measurement and debate”. 

If you’re wondering what “beta” means – we’re adopting the mainly-computer language of “beta testing”, or “in beta”, which simply means that something’s not perfect and is being released into the world early to receive feedback to allow it to develop further.

The “Beta Projects” is a new approach by Dublin City Council and is learning and changing as it goes – and so we say that it’s “in beta” itself.

How did it start?

Dublin City Council Beta Projects began, and was run, as a for two years as a ‘City Architects 10% Innovation Time Project’ (10% of office hours can be used for non-core work) before being adopted as a formal project of the City Architects Division of Dublin City Council.

What is a ‘Beta Project’?

Dublin City Council Beta Projects have the following 5 characteristics:

  1. They are ‘time bound’
      • ie run for a period with a clear start and finish date.
  2. They are ‘location bound’
      • ie only impact a limited area.
  3. They aim to be ‘flexible platforms’
      • ie flexible (ideally fully reversible), and (ideally) platforms for further ideas.
  4. They prioritise projects which will have a large impact relative to the amount of effort involved.
  5. They aim for very early discussion and actively look for feedback and suggestions.

What could be a Dublin City Council Beta Project?

Considering the below venn diagram, a Dublin City Council Beta Project would only apply within the blue circle – ie whenever Dublin City Council is, or needs to be, involved.

Venn - DCC overlap with DC - DCC dominant

  1. Dublin City Council internal policies and projects.
      • Examples:
          1. Using LED office lighting to save money
          2. Staff health and safety
          3. Staff ideas, staff innovation time, etc
  2. Dublin City Council policies and projects which overlap with ‘Dublin City’ (people and place).
      • Examples:
          1. Direct interactions with the public such as forms, websites, reception desks, opening hours, etc.
          2. The public realm – such as streets, parks, and so on.
  3. ‘Dublin City’ activities which only interact with Dublin City, and don’t have or need any Dublin City Council involvement.
      • Examples:
          1. Civic Impact Entrepreneurs – Sitric garden, Street Feast, etc.
          2. Rabble. City Intersections.

Dublin City Council Beta Projects are about the first two (ie once there’s a need for a DCC involvement…which often arises out of the requirement for a ‘neutral independent’ overview between citizens…for eg think of planning policy which exists to think of the public good rather than simply the individual good.)

We’ll aim to support and make all tools as publicly available as possible though – in case they’re useful to anyone for the third instance. For example, a project such as Granby Park might decide to use some or all of these metrics when trying to communicate the impact of the project – including to Dublin City Council.

Who leads the innovation?

It’s worth noting that the above shows the Dublin City Council ‘viewpoint’ – ie the Dublin City Council circle sits ‘on top’ of the Dublin City circle.

That’s as the focus at the moment is for Dublin City Council staff to lead on the innovation.

At a later stage we can look at the below scenario – the people of Dublin City also leading on the innovation.Venn - DCC overlap with DC - DC dominant

There are three reasons why we’re not looking at that for now…

    1. We looked at that for a while (the past year or so) and it was proving too complex for the amount of resources that the Beta Projects currently has available to it. (For example it requires much more time devoted to discussing email and social media suggestions,  it requires transparency over why certain projects are prioritised, it involves some extra complexity with information such as personal email addresses, it involves matching ideas with individual staff or teams of staff…and so on.)
    2. For Dublin citizens suggesting ideas for which they need Dublin City Council’s help and involvement, it makes sense that City Council staff themselves have established means of trialling ideas – and so it makes sense to start with that focus.
    3. There are plenty of innovative staff in the City Council that are aware of the ‘needs’ of the city from both a personal (may live in the city) or professional (it’s our work, after all) point of view. Let’s start with that (but with really early discussion and feedback from everyone in the city) and work forwards from there.



17 Responses to What

  1. Ddools says:

    This sounds like a great idea!.

  2. Ronan says:

    good stuff! will be interesting to see how this develops.

  3. Sounds great, well done folks!

  4. I think this sounds great – really looking forward to seeing how it progresses.

  5. dubcitybeta says:

    Thanks Ciarán, thanks Nuala, thanks Ronan!

  6. Will Burke says:

    Mmmm sounds very interesting. I look forward in seeing the results around this great city of our.

  7. Excellent idea. PutsThinkingHatOn!

  8. Eamonn Clarke says:

    Good initiative. It would useful if you get the public’s ideas on potential problem areas that would benefit from the trial approach? The piece above is not clear if it is DCC’s ideas being trialled or if DCC wants ideas for trials. The more ideas the better do would be useful to have a site for submitting ideas. You should link in with the Dublin Cycling Campaign for ideas and there is certainly scope to have trials on dealing with litter blackspots outside the main city centre.

  9. sarah newell says:

    We need more of these evidence based initiatives in this country to inform policy…more councils should follow dcc’s vision

  10. Interesting concepts, I will be watching to see how this develops to see if it is workable down this way.

    • DCCbeta says:

      We’re hoping to bit-by-bit create a mechanism that’s exportable to anywhere. In theory. 🙂

    • DCCbeta says:

      Worth pointing out two things…
      1. Beta looks at citywide concepts.
      2. We’re constantly looking to see what other local authorities / public governance / groups are doing. For eg, we recently spoke to Limerick CC recently regarding a project.
      …so in theory, even if you’re based outside Dublin, a Dublin City Beta Project will be likely useful as a starting point in lots of Ireland’s cities (and perhaps Ireland’s towns, and perhaps also outside of Ireland).

      So if you spot a ‘Limerick’ issue/opportunity, and it equally applies in Dublin, we could trial it here for Dublin…but it might also be useful for Limerick.

  11. mashmatix says:

    I’m loving the work you folks are doing, which I have been dabbling in over here in New Zealand. I would be interested in trading some insights if possible, to help embed the Beta/wikipolicy making practice here in NZ. Here is a prezi Lean Canvas that I prepared for the event, that was updated with some learnings following our project retro:


    I’d really appreciate it if one of the project leads on the Dublin Beta Projects initiative could hook up with me to share some experiences. You can find me via my website http://www.mashmatix.com

    Look forward to hearing from you!

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