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Brickstarter is about 21st century social services. We are sketching a system that would enable everyday people, using everyday technology and culture, to articulate and progress sustainable ideas about their community. The Brickstarter project explores the ideas behind these systems, and will provide the blueprints for a platform that can turn possibilities into proposals into projects. By creating its prototype, we aim to stimulate more productive debates about 21st century governance and local decision-making.
This blog captures our evolving knowledge of 21st century decision making as we develop the Brickstarter concept.
The interface between citizens and institutions can be slow, awkward and cumbersome. For years, this was just the way things were. Yet the tools and media that people now use to orchestrate their everyday lives rapidly outstrip those used by most municipalities, ministries, and other institutions.
Brickstarter takes advantage of social media and mobile apps in order to address this disconnect, by describing a more articulate, more responsive, and more representative platform for citizens and institutions to work together.
Mere ‘consultation’ leads to largely negative engagements, and in the worst cases, active distrust and NIMBYism (“Not In My Back Yard). Sometimes such frustrations can result in grass roots activism, which attempt to side-step or halt institutional developments.
Brickstarter reverses the polarity from NIMBY to YIMBY (“Yes In My Backyard”), from complain to create, outlining a platform for suggestions, developed and driven by participation of citizens, local business, and government. Brickstarter explores how to make it easier for communities to voice a productive and collective “yes” to their best ideas.
Citizens are now more eager than ever to play a part in local decision making. Promising initiatives are popping up around the world, each exploring the potential of crowd-sourced or crowd-funded approaches to shared spaces, services and public infrastructure. Yet bottom-up is only half the story.
Brickstarter sits between bottom-up and top-down, connecting the needs and desires of the community with the resources and representation of institutions. Brickstarter has a user-centred perspective, working with communities and government to help smooth institutional processes and permits, and prototype participative governance.
The core of Brickstarter is a prototype for a web service that provides a shared platform for citizens to suggest and build possibilities into proposals into projects. Brickstarter is a:
- Forum for citizens to articulate possibilities, and start aggregating attention
- Public story-telling platform, capturing the ebb and flow of debate around proposals
- Community fundraising tool for shared initiatives
- ‘Real-time dashboard‘ displaying the collective desires of a community that can be mapped against institutional strategies and legislative frameworks, enabling bureaucracy to work more effectively
It uses the community-building tactics of social media, orientating them towards increased citizen engagement in sustainable developments within their community. It reinforces physical interaction and documents the story of proposals. Through crowd-funding approaches adapted from services like Kickstarter.com, it unlocks new sources of capital for projects, based around new kinds of representation and participation.
Brickstarter spells out how proposals touch municipal strategies, legislative frameworks, and political structures in order to pragmatically shape proposals. Funding generated through Brickstarter is intended to primarily enable detailed proposals, as the evolution from vague possibility to realistic proposal is a key hurdle.
It describes a participative engagement model for institutions and fosters a more responsive social contract.
We are working with various partners, including municipalities, in order to find a productive terrain to host and develop these ideas. Our intention, as Sitra (the Finnish Innovation Fund), is not to run such a live service, but to develop and produce the blueprints and practices such that others might adopt and adapt them. We are making the prototype as a way of flushing out the right questions, to find out what needs to be done.