Crowding the City’s Identity

From Citizen Connect to FixMyStreet, crowd-sourcing local knowledge and empowering action through digital platforms is a hot topic for Governments and Local Authorities. Clearly hugely valuable – they provide the opportunity for people to make positive change happen and offer more efficient services. 

I was interested in how a crowd-powered platform could be used to connect people and stimulate good vibes throughout the city, rather than to fix pot-holes. The opportunity to do this came from being part of Dundee’s UK City of Culture Bid group and We Dundee was born.

The aim of We Dundee was to empower citizens to be actively involved in shaping Dundee’s cultural bid. We invited everyone – people who live in the city, those who have left it, and visitors who love it – to share their city insights and ideas for the future. This enabled our ‘extended’ 3,500+ person bid team from all over the world to co-curate ideas which directly shaped the bid and also created a great sense of pride in the city.

It really has been the community who have driven the site’s success; with content, connection and collaboration all playing their roles:

Content

We made sure that we were as transparent as we could be about the competition. Content was shared publicly on the site and on social media, regular ‘backer emails’ updates were sent, and the story of Dundee’s bid journey was shared.

We recognised that people’s views on culture are very different, so we didn’t try to dictate what culture is and simply created a blank canvas for people to tell us about their city and their culture.

The thoughtful, passionate, entertaining and moving contributions were instrumental in engaging people to return to the site again and again – it became a new channel for many to tune into.

Hidden data was made accessible, by sharing analytical data in interesting visual ways, on things like: top visiting cities and most popular contributed submissions – this encouraged discussion and the community to grow.

Connection

It genuinely was a team effort – from public likes, to businesses who raised awareness with their communities, to highly creative creatives and the hugely supportive local media, everyone got behind it.

It wasn’t just for digital natives. Masters of Design Graduate, Karen Lyttle took her We Dundee Connect pop-up consultation stand to communities across the city to ensure their voices were heard. People also handed in 100s of hand-written ideas to their local libraries across the city.

Thirteen year old Andrew Batchelor set up an inspiring Facebook page which could have been created by a leading digital agency. We made sure he was part of the team.

Collaboration

Trust, a shared vision and strong partnerships were key to developing this project. It relied on the strengths of each partner who brought diverse skillsets to the mix. Each partner absolutely trusted the judgement of the others – it was a refreshing project to work on.

The We Dundee data took on a life of its own. Dundee’s new Makar created a poem from the We Dundee submissions, ‘Dundee Dreaming‘ which he read at the bid send off, which 100s of our extended bid team attended.

What we could never have expected was that people really, really liked the We Dundee brand. So we quickly created a downloadable flag template for people to print out and then take photos of them to share online – the response to this call was completely overwhelming indeed and in the few weeks, we received hundreds of photos from around the world.

Then we didn’t win the title. Yes it was gutting at the time, but I firmly believe that simply Hull needed it more. You will of course draw your own conclusions.

And We Dundee? Well there’s a real commitment and willingness to see We Dundee continue to grow and develop as a tool which empowers citizens to make decisions and take action for social local good.

Something which harnesses Dundee’s strengths in digital and creativity in this way, with people centrally at the heart of its development, continues to be a very exciting prospect indeed.

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