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Last week we had the privilege of seeing our partners over at the People’s Collaborative Governance Network (PCGN,) present a year of research into reimagining how local government can partner with communities to transform policy and services in Boston.
The hour and a half showcase highlighted three exemplars of the codesign process helmed by PCGN Summer Fellows here in Boston. Each project resulted in a prototype around which attendants were encouraged to critique and ideate implementation.
The question of documentation and impact looms large over everything we do here at the Engagement Lab. The PCGN showcase was a model, not only for codesign and reimagining governance in Boston, but for how we in academia can share that process in ways that are themselves collaborative and generative.
Kicked of in November of 2020 by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation the projects presented at the showcase were designed to cultivate lasting networks of residents, community organizers, academics, and government officials that solve problems collaboratively in ways that center the experiences and voices of Boston’s most marginalized.
PCGN Project Manager Rachele Gardner hosted the showcase, introducing PCGN’s process and values before handing it off to Summer Fellow Mikaela Joyce and Boston Civic Connections.
Boston Civic Connections is a prototype for a web based platform aimed at sharing knowledge stories and connected learning for neighborhood civic groups around Boston. It was born out of the Intersections Project, managed by Mikaela in collaboration with the Intersections Team and broader Boston civic community. Throughout the research, design, and prototyping phases, Mikaela and the Intersections Team used interviews, workshops, user personas, rapid design, and divergent thinking exercises to understand how civic leaders can better communicate and draw in people looking to get involved.
Next, Eric Gordon presented the Codesign Institute, a two-week curriculum in codesign designed by Melisa Santizo to better prepare university students at Emerson College, and hopefully across Boston, for real engagement with the communities in which they live. The course is designed to run in Winter and Summer semesters so that students taking classes built around codesigning with communities, are prepared for the ethical and logistical challenges that often arise in that work. This is an important step in using the resources of higher education for local equity and impact.
Lastly, Leo Olsen and Meg Malkemes presented Just Engagement, a prototype from their work in the PCGN Development Project. Created to “meaningfully involve residents in decisions about development in their communities,” Just Engagement offers a road map for the Boston Planning and Development Agency towards better community engagement strategies and impact measurements. The prototype website also houses community testimony, and a guide to help community members navigate the development process as it exists, imperfectly, today.
In the breakout rooms that followed this presentation, the audience grappled with how to implement these prototypes and where they may be useful beyond their indented design. One of the main takeaways from this discussion was the cyclical relationship between tools and legislation for more government transparency and engagement. In our role as designers, we can push for design that supports good legislation and legislation that supports good design.
Finally, the showcase ended by highlighting the work of Maridena Rojas on the Getting Connected Guide, a PCGN project highlighted last spring. The guide, designed to help older Boston residents get on Zoom and connect to civic events during the pandemic, is being distributed nationally! Congratulations to Maridena and everyone on the Getting Connected Team!
We are so excited to see what’s next for these projects and the People’s Collaborative Governance Network! If you have any questions or ideas please get in touch!
To view the 2021 PCGN Project Showcase in its entirety click here.