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A lot is happening at GOOD Ideas for Cities.  The GOOD team is producing five events in mid-sized cities across the country, pairing creative problem solvers with real urban challenges proposed by local civic leaders. ArtPlace is helping produce these events as well as funding the expansion of a new website that catalogues three years of ideas from previous events. You can get a sneak peek of the new website at good.is/ideasforcities (still in progress!) and see a new video promoting the initiative.

In February, GOOD Ideas for Cities hosted their first event in Portland, Oregon, which was an incredible success. Over 200 people came to the auditorium of Ziba, an industrial design firm in the Pearl District, drank beer donated by Widmer Brothers Brewing and Ninkasi, and marveled over custom sketchbooks designed by Scout Books. Six creative teams—ADX, Original Mfg. Co., Sincerely Interested, THINK.urban, Wieden + Kennedy and Ziba—presented solutions for challenges sponsored by Bike Portland, the Department of Planning, the city’s Sustainable Food Policy and Programs, the Portland Development Commission, Portland Farmers Market, and the Office of Mayor Sam Adams (and yes, the mayor himself was in attendance). It was a high-energy evening that concluded with animated conversations as presenters and attendees eagerly discussed how to take the proposed ideas and bring them to life. GOOD heard back from several teams that they’re already arranging meetings with their leaders to work towards implementation. You can read a review of the night at the Portland Mercury. In addition, GOOD launched a student program with Portland State University’s Graphic Design Department, and will be hosting an event on March 14 to hear the students’ solutions to Portland problems.

Next up: GOOD heads to St. Louis on March 8. The next two cities, Richmond, Virginia, and Cincinnati, Ohio, have just been announced and will happen sometime in the upcoming months.

Alissa Walker, editor of GOOD Ideas for Cities, talked to ArtPlace about what’s next for the program.

ARTPLACE: As you reflect on your work to date, what unexpected challenges have you encountered?

ALISSA WALKER: It’s a good challenge: We’ve been flooded with requests from cities! It’s an awesome validation for what we’re doing, but it’s been much more difficult than we expected to choose the cities where we bring the program. We’ve tried very hard to go to cities that not only demonstrate a need for new ideas, but also places where we can work with strong organizations that are already uniting diverse groups of local stakeholders in unique ways. But it hasn’t been easy to choose, and we’re looking at ways to expand the program to get to every single city that has approached us.

ARTPLACE: Have you had any happy surprises in your work to date?

ALISSA WALKER: It’s been amazing to see how different each city has been—it really shows the personality of the local community. In Portland, there was a definite DIY energy, from the custom sketchbooks by Scout Books, to the maker spirit that wove through the presentations, to a really enthusiastic group of local students, called the Friends of Graphic Design, who took ownership of the event as our volunteers. And in the ideas themselves was a sense of accountability, like calling out local corporations as part of the presentations. In St. Louis we had such an incredible response from urban leaders that we actually grouped multiple urban leaders behind the same challenge, so now we have these incredible multi-agency, multi-organization collaborations. Also in St. Louis we have a group that’s already working on a follow-up event six months later, and will be coaching the teams on how to implement their ideas.

ARTPLACE: Are there things you’ve learned in your work that others in the creative placemaking field can learn from?

ALISSA WALKER: There’s a real frustration out there about the fact that so many “ideas for cities” are just that—ideas. People have seen plenty of flashy renderings and slick concepts for their neighborhoods. Don’t get me wrong: Those things are definitely important to push the conversation forward about what’s possible. But in many of these cities, citizens are much more interested in ideas that can be realized. We’re hoping that we can be a positive force in figuring out how to make that happen, faster. Maybe we should change our name to GOOD Realities for Cities!

To learn more about how to bring GOOD Ideas for Cities to your city, you can email Alissa at alissa[at]goodinc[dot]com. And follow us at @IdeasforCities for more updates.

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