Pittsburgh Civic Visions

Silvia Mata-Marin, Theora Kvitka, Ashlesha Dhotey, Nehal Vora, and Dan Lockton

Pittsburgh Civic VisionsHow do you imagine local government? What does “The City” or “The Council” look like, in your mind’s eye? Where would you start if you wanted to change something in your neighborhood, to suggest ideas, or to understand how decisions are made?

Local government affects all of us, but it is complex and often fragmented, and different parts and layers are often understood differently by different people and communities, with effects on how much we feel we have the ability to participate. The world we experience, both physical and political, is the result of compounded layers of decisions taken at different times by real people. If we all had a better way into the system, would we be more engaged with it?

“People have no mental model of government”
Leisa Reichelt, Australian Government Digital Transformation Agency

Starting with Pittsburgh, PA, the Civic Visions project aims to:

  • use creative research methods (from service design and user experience design practice) to enable a diverse range of people to articulate:
    • their imaginaries and understandings of local government, how it works, what it does, and how to interact with it
    • their ideas and visions for how engaging with and participating in local government could be different in the future
  • explore, characterize, and analyze the diversity of mental models and relationships that people articulate, and the effects that these have on people’s engagement with local government, and present these findings to relevant stakeholders
  • using insights from this process, design and recommend new forms of information on, and new methods of engagement with local government, to enhance democratic participation, and present these to relevant stakeholders

Beginning in February 2017, designers and researchers from Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Design will be running a series of participatory events with different communities in Pittsburgh. At the invitation of the City of Pittsburgh’s Department of Innovation and Performance, our first session was at a Love Your [Resilient] Block event on February 21st (part of Pittsburgh’s role in the 100 Resilient Cities and Cities of Service coalition initiatives). Keep an eye on our blog for upcoming events.

We’re inspired by the work of groups such as the Center for Urban Pedagogy (US), Lab for the City (Mexico), Policy Lab (UK), Public Policy Lab (US), Futuregov (UK), Public (US), MindLab (Denmark), the Parsons DESIS Lab (US), Participle (UK), and Helsinki Design Lab (Finland).

The Pittsburgh Civic Visions team are:

Please email danlockton@cmu.edu for more information, or if you’d like to be involved.

The Pittsburgh Civic Visions project is funded internally by Carnegie Mellon School of Design, and is independent from any government or local authority funding.