Can we turn news articles into action? proposal for civic-ideas markets/accelerators

20051009-XPrizeSpaceRace1-CanadianV2-dsc06956this is an idea I’ve been mulling and discussing with people for a while. A recent editorial by Greg Bauman, editor of Silicon Valley Business Journal, “Leaders need to step in on housing crisis,” prompted me to write the below comment describing the civic-ideas market/accelerator concept. Reposting here to add links and share.


> Policymakers should convene immediately to coordinate
> an emergency regional response

Dense new market-rate development near transit is an excellent idea. Instead of an emergency convening of all officials around just one idea, though, how about a convening and open/ongoing forum to propose, evaluate, and refine/develop a range of solutions?

A newspaper is in a good position to convene and develop broad solution ideas, as has been demonstrated beautifully by San Francisco Public Press’ “Housing Solutions” initiative and conference recently. This showcases a wide array of immediate, medium- and long-term proposals (including, full disclosure, my project for modular redeployable housing, Houslets). Some of these have the potential for impact much faster than new dense development would: for example, temporary rezoning of vacant land, or facilitation of accessory dwelling units and backyard cottages.

In the spirit of being business- and solution- and Silicon Valley-like — when in Rome!.. — how might we build an ideas/proposals market and accelerator, like a civic AngelList, to discover and build initiatives from idea to proposal to enactment? The project might be to develop an existing or new idea, and the product a professional-grade policy brief, a legislative bill or campaign, startup, social enterprise, city/county government initiative, grant application, funding drive, etc. Call it IdeaList, or CivicList, perhaps.

I imagine a platform which, like AngelList does for tech startups, allows founders/proposers and project ideas to be registered, linked, and combined; and perhaps good proposals incented by voting, micro-seed funding, ownership stakes, etc. You could think of it as bridging the gap between older media, still focused on one-off “articles” and exposition separated from action, vs the accelerator/venture-capital system which turns those ideas into real projects and makes the money. (also, hires some of the best / most innovative ideas people away from journalism, as at Sequoia and Andreessen Horowitz lately).

There are many prior/existing deliberation and idea-market models/platforms to base on or learn from, such as UC Berkeley’s Opinion Space, California Report Card, Civinomics, Tumml, X-Prize-type bounty models, or ReframeIt (which just launched a deliberative policy project with Knight Foundation, TechCrunch and Silicon Valley Community Foundation). Perhaps SVBJ parent company American City Business Journals might consider prototyping such an idea market here, in view of potentially scaling/sharing it with its other 40 properties.

Reframe it. Scale it. CivicList? Hey, you never know, it worked for CraigsList.

Tim McCormick
Palo Alto
@tmccormick / @houslets