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Melbourne: The Platform

George Evans Commercial Director (AsiaPac)

Cities such as New York and Palo Alto have begun to strategise their development by considering the merging of the physical and the digital, also called ‘phygital’ if you like a trendy portmanteau.

The City of Melbourne has also taken on this approach. The City seeks to explore how digital technology can help keep Melbourne one of the greatest places to be today — at work, at play and at home. Have a look yourself!

Some of the Precedent team including myself were invited to kick this off with an event last month: CoMConnect. We quickly realised this event developed into a collaborative forum. All partaking groups united to help figure out ways digital technology can improve Melbourne at work, play and home.

In other words, CoMConnect was an open discussion between the City and certain key audiences: community leaders, thinkers, designers, technologists, researchers, urbanists and makers. This format is known as ‘unconference’, meaning a loosely structured conference emphasising the informal exchange of information and ideas between participants. It was great fun and I highly recommend the format for anyone interested in trying out variations on the ‘open space’ method.

I facilitated a discussion on the topic “UX, Community engagement, and experience mapping”. The discussion suggested methods the city could use to engage with their audiences, both digitally and in analogue forms, as ways of understanding the publics’ needs. I put forward recommendations such as more unconference style events, whiteboards in city squares, using existing communication channels. Another key for a better understanding of who the cities audiences are is to create personas. Like every story, you need characters; and characters, or personas, allow personalisation and prioritisation of short and long term actions.

Participants’ ideas were shared, recorded and developed over the event, and eventually made out for three separate themes:

  • Theme 1 — Long-term projects: changing policy & infrastructure to be able to respond better to technological advancements, such as opening up the huge amounts of data sets a city possesses
  • Theme 2 — Short-term projects: quick win projects and conversations which the council can pick up and move forward with
  • Theme 3 — Tools: localised search, leveraging NBN, ethnography, gamification and crowd sourcing

Crucial to the success of this great venture is to combine the three themes. This will make open data and progressive policy allowing groups to collaborate and use tools to improve the lifestyle of Melbournians. Over the last few weeks I’m keen to see how the city is moving forward, tackling the following goals:

  • Identify and prioritise the long and short term themes
  • Support short-term projects
  • Work towards long-term goals
  • Continue to engage, and with a wider audience

In short, I think the answer is to think big, start small and act quick.