Innovating the process determining future Asheville city council members

There are more than enough serious questions facing cities like Asheville to the point that I’d like to see what risks, opportunities, and strategy incumbent council members and candidates can come up with in collaboration with citizens in a new teamwork formula. I suggest testing the candidates in a CoLab (collaborative strategic innovation laboratory) environment.

The skills and tools the candidates bring in are their own and that’s the competitive element. There should be some principles the candidates agree on before hand and other preliminaries. I won’t be producing this event. The local news organizations will need to do that in conjunction with the League of Women Voters of Asheville-Buncombe County and local colleges. Otherwise I suggest the CoLab contributions made by candidates and citizens alike are personally identified and made public after the event. I suggest no anonymity. I will share an online solution for ongoing effort and for those who can’t attend the 2015 Asheville City Council Race CoLab.

Sustain Asheville (a TBD program of Sustain NC) includes CoLabs, collaborative laboratories on various topics, like these developed during the relatively successful but now terminated GroWNC imitative. GroWNC was our local Federal Partnership for Sustainable Communities project:

Yes, conversation is great and free social time is useful in collaboration. But a formula for success is really needed when it comes to harnessing modern civic engagement practices here in Asheville. I am interested in going well beyond conventions about empowerment and reviewing the results those on the wrong side of power are getting in this town.

Citizens and candidate picking topics and candidates sitting at tables with citizens dealing with those topics would be far more interesting and valuable than these ‘debate’ conventions and having news media and those already in power telling us what the agenda is. Each candidate later sits in a room with the other candidates (and other citizens). Each candidate presents findings from these CoLab tables and a synthesis process starts.

Voting in terms of issue priorities and solutions occurs throughout. But the point isn’t which candidate ‘wins’ in the CoLab process. It will become clear which candidates can really swing in this dynamic and help generated the largest set of solutions benefiting the most people. Participants and the media will see these dynamics and the endorsements and votes will follow.

Voters and media get to see the candidates do work similar to what council is like. All it takes is a venue and flip boards. I will of course introduce my management consulting tools before, during, and after these CoLabs. Citizen-Times and other news media like Mountain Xpress help shape election outcomes. This CoLab event will take coordinated effort to produce. The news organizations will be needed to get this off the ground. I am only willing to help shape the plan. I have suggested an independent task force to help set up future Asheville City Council Race CoLabs.

I am fine if there’s a classic debate (or ‘candidate forums’) managed before and/or after this CoLab event. But I think these times generally call for a bigger, deeper, demonstrably better approach to not just getting the best people into office, but doing genuine connecting work with the people served by politicians who are outside the activist category that form most of the turnout now.

Posted in Asheville, Innovation and Opportunity Ecosystem, Open Strategic Innovation for Communities.

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