Civic innovation IS verynice, and here's why: verynice has constantly been evolving its definition of "local" since its inception. Starting with our Los Angeles office, verynice is making it a priority to dedicate greater capacity to helping innovate and design for our local communities.
That's why we were thrilled to partner with the City of Los Angeles' Controllers Office to craft a brand new position that aims to blend design thinking and civic innovation to solve some of the city's greatest problems: The Civic Innovation Fellowship (Interested? Apply here!). The position is a natural evolution of our Entrepreneur In Residence program— and it essentially carves out an entirely new role for designers in government.
We believe our focus on civic innovation is crucial to our future as both a company that enacts change in the world and as individual citizens. To explain exactly what we mean, we sat down with our founder, Matt Manos, for a quick interview on verynice's approach to civic innovation. Check it out!
Why is it important for citizens to participate in civic innovation? (Phrased another way: why can't the government just do it?)
Innovation in the public sector has to be a collaborative effort, and the participation of local citizens is a crucial endeavor. Marshall McLuhan is famous for saying 'We don't know who discovered water, but we know it wasn't the fish.' I've always personally interpreted this to paint a picture of the idea that sometimes when we are too close to something, we can miss the most obvious solutions and ideas. The same goes for government— innovation cannot just come from within.
What do designers have to contribute to civic innovation?
Marketing and design is shifting significantly, and the role of designers, right now, is drastically different than it was during the days of Mad Men. We are entering a future in which everything around us, from the sidewalks we walk on, to the cities we live in, to the hats on our heads, can be mediums for communication and engagement. Because of this reality, designers have truly evolved beyond the role of the "facade maker" into the role of the facilitator. This makes them an ideal contributor to civic innovation.
Can you explain a bit more about "design thinking" and how that intersects with civic innovation?
In Design Thinking, empathy is at the core of the design process— it is the first step in understanding what the end user might need by being able to get hands-on experience understanding their problems and “pain points.” Empathy, as opposed to sympathy, is a way for us to develop our understanding by sharing an experience. This is a significant tool to leverage in the public sector as it doesn't assume what the public needs, but instead works with the community to create an innovative solution.
Why is civic innovation a priority for verynice?
As verynice has grown over the years, the concept of what is "local" has changed for us dramatically. At the beginning of this year, we made it a priority for the Los Angeles office to increase focus and bandwidth around local causes and innovation in the public sector. This is a crucial cause in defining the future of verynice as it relates to our immediate state(s), city(ies), and community(ies).