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Collab is a digital tool that could support communities hoping to increase participation and make more inclusive, collaborative decisions. Try the prototype at https://collab.sidewalklabs.com/ (Image: Sidewalk Labs)

Sidewalk Labs and Digital Public Square teamed up on a new prototype to help people shape their communities.

2020 UPDATE: Please note that Collab’s prototyping period has ended and the site is no longer accessible. However, Sidewalk Labs collaborated with Civil Space to integrate the trade-offs framework, which garnered strong initial evidence of diverse participation and informed choices, into their platform for community engagement. We’re excited to see how Civil Space will build off of Collab’s initial success to foster meaningful and inclusive dialogue and understanding.

This article was written with Farhaan Ladhani and Sean Willett of Digital Public Square

The long-term success of a neighborhood is predicated on its community members feeling a sense of ownership and belonging — of believing that, together, they are the stewards of their community. But it’s increasingly rare for 21st century city residents to join in the shared project of shaping their neighborhoods. Stop to consider: when was the last time you attended a community meeting? Volunteered at a neighborhood charity? …

Reflections on hiring innovative teams, building capacity, and improving services

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NYC Opportunity Design and Product Team Members

As I look back on nearly four years serving in the New York City Mayor’s Office, I want to share some of the major accomplishments and my hopes for where my unit, the Mayor’s Office for Economic Opportunity (NYC Opportunity), is headed.

Through my fellowship year with Code for America, working alongside the Mayor’s Offices in Kansas City, Missouri and Kansas City, Kansas, I saw the potential for using design and digital best practices inside of government. The following year, I was lucky to get the opportunity to join the New York City Mayor’s Office to do just that.

Learning the Enterprise

Much of my first year was learning the “enterprise” of NYC government, including discovering the working norms, learning policies and procedures, and forming relationships with colleagues. At times it felt like I was doing a lot of talking about how things could change while providing some “quick wins” to prove the value of design. In due time, I was able to start laying out a deeper strategy and hiring additional people to join me. …

The Mayor’s Office for Economic Opportunity (NYC Opportunity) builds and manages an array of digital products that are used to improve the lives of low-income New Yorkers. The Product Team and Service Design Studio conduct user research, create user experiences, and work closely with internal and external technology teams to prototype, develop, and set ongoing strategy for these digital services.

We have been building our practice over the past couple of years to include ways of working that are newer to government. We are constantly learning and borrowing from colleagues in private and public sector practice, and iterating to meet new needs and challenges. We wrote this short primer on our process to share replicable strategies with other public sector design and development teams.

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Our public-facing product portfolio includes ACCESS NYC, Growing Up NYC, and Generation NYC, all of which are powered by the Benefits & Programs API. Together these products work to improve the lives of low-income New Yorkers and help connect residents to benefits, programs and resources.

Our Team

Nimble in-house team

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NYC Opportunity team members participating in a design pin-up to give collaborative feedback on a prototype.

We have built a nimble in-house team with core skill sets to build and support our product portfolio. Our Product Team currently includes two product managers, two front end developers, a business analyst, a content strategist, and a training and outreach specialist. We currently have a vacancy for a full stack developer. Our Service Design Studio team includes a deputy director, a studio manager, and two designers; these staff are supported by the Studio’s founding partner, Citi Community Development, which provided critical early-stage support and expertise for the creation and launch of the Studio, and continues to be a close collaborator as we work to further institutionalize service design within New York City government. …

The Mayor’s Office for Economic Opportunity (NYC Opportunity) builds and manages an array of digital products that are used to improve the lives of low-income New Yorkers. The Product Team and Service Design Studio conduct user research, create user experiences, and work closely with internal and external technology teams to prototype, develop, and set ongoing strategy for these digital services.

We have been building our practice over the past couple of years to include ways of working that are newer to government. We are constantly learning and borrowing from colleagues in private and public sector practice, and iterating to meet new needs and challenges. We wrote this short primer on our process to share replicable strategies with other public sector design and development teams.

Image for post
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Our public-facing product portfolio includes ACCESS NYC, Growing Up NYC, and Generation NYC, all of which are powered by the Benefits & Programs API. Together these products work to improve the lives of low-income New Yorkers and help connect residents to benefits, programs and resources.

Our Team

Nimble in-house team

Image for post
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NYC Opportunity team members participating in a design pin-up to give collaborative feedback on a prototype.

We have built a nimble in-house team with core skill sets to build and support our product portfolio. Our Product Team currently includes two product managers, two front end developers, a business analyst, a content strategist, and a training and outreach specialist. We currently have a vacancy for a full stack developer. Our Service Design Studio team includes a deputy director, a studio manager, and two designers; these staff are supported by the Studio’s founding partner, Citi Community Development, which provided critical early-stage support and expertise for the creation and launch of the Studio, and continues to be a close collaborator as we work to further institutionalize service design within New York City government. …

About

Ariel Kennan

Director of Civic Innovation @SidewalkLabs. Formerly @NYCMayorsOffice @NYCOpportunity @codeforamerica. Passionate about people-centered public services.

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