Co-creation day

3 months ago
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March 21, 2018

Our work on the Smart Cities Challenge is coming along nicely! Last Thursday, we held a co-creation day, an important step that paves the way for the final phase of the process: writing up what we’ve done in order to submit our application for the Challenge.

To refresh your memory: In February, we launched a survey and call for projects. Those two actions combined helped us to collect a great deal of useful information (see our blog post, “Consultation Results”) that we used to develop a preliminary statement: “How can we improve Montréal’s vitality by increasing the accessibility of neighbourhood services in a fair, sustainable and inclusive way?” This statement is one of the pivot points of our submission and summarizes the intentions of our application.

Considering Montréal’s dynamic ecosystem, we decided to build Montréal’s applications on the proposals and projects that this ecosystem is able to hold. So, out of more than 230 projects that were submitted, we invited 161 project leaders to participate in co-creation. We decided to exclude service proposals to the city, as the Challenge does not justify overriding the city’s contract regulations. Some 137 projects were presented at the co-creation day. This figure is a success in and of itself.

We worked for several weeks to prepare this event. We had several objectives, but the main intention was to find links between projects that could mutually reinforce each other. Each project, whether or not it was selected for the Challenge, would have to show the value of its participation. We wanted to use this day to refine our application’s statement and bring more meaning out of the proposals that were submitted during the call for projects.

Without going into the details of the day’s events, we feel it is useful to explain the process we used. First, we started the day with a “speed dating” approach to break the ice and give participants an idea of the type of projects and people who were present. We had themed round tables (transportation, food, etc.) in which participants shared their projects and answered each other’s questions to clarify the impact of their project with respect to our application. These activities, which took the whole morning, helped create ties between participants and present opportunities for collaboration.

After lunch and a visit from Mayor Valérie Plante, we began the stage of consolidating and refining these links. This time, we asked participants to team up according to impact strategies (Common, Governance, etc.) to brainstorm transversally while drawing on the ties created during the morning activities. Participants were asked to describe how these strategies helped to implement our statement and how projects could synergize to produce a greater impact. After their first brainstorming session, participants were asked to explore the work of the other groups or join another table to refine their strategies and proposals for synergies between projects. This was the objective and takeaway for the day: to reformulate projects according to the links between them, what participants learned during the day and the projects’ relationship with our statement.

We are still re-transcribing the valuable results of the day. However, we can already say that it was a success in many respects. First of all, many participants told us that the event was significant in helping them connect with others, especially people with established networks and influence. The afternoon work session clearly brought out some very relevant ideas for the Challenge and collaborative opportunities to move projects forward. Throughout the process, all participants showed tremendous generosity, an ingredient that is essential to this type of process.

It’s not time to celebrate just yet – we have to match the high quality of work from our participants. Five weeks before the deadline, we will have to transform these projects and propositions, combined and together, promising but also still unformed, into an application. We will have to define a final statement that clearly expresses our objectives while illustrating the dynamics of the participating ecosystem, and match projects to give them common meaning around this statement.

At the same time, there are two major tasks to carry out:

1) If necessary, we will follow up with project leaders to fine-tune what the project should be and be sure that we understand proposals.

2) A jury composed of representatives from the city and the ecosystem will meet soon. Its role will be to evaluate projects on the basis of criteria primarily from the federal government’s guide but also from the city to select meaningful projects that fit with the statement.

All of this is sure to keep us busy in the weeks to come, but we are more than satisfied to have chosen, and taken the time to invite the community to build, Montréal’s application for the Smart Cities Challenge. Our choice to create this application with co-creative and emerging dynamics is certainly a challenge, but at this stage, the results are impressive, and as is often the case, the journey is as important as the destination.

We would like to thank Percolab who guided us in developing and facilitating the day; La Dispensa for providing us with the calories to get through the day and UQÀM, especially the sound technician in the hall, who said he too appreciated the day!

Stéphane Guidoin
Acting Director
Smart and Digital City Office