Exploring Urban Agile at SXSW 2015

Thanks for checking out our panel at SXSW 2015 on How Agile Approaches Crack Urban Challenges!  Panelists Kaz Brecher of Curious Catalyst, Grace Kim of GOOD/Corps, and DeKoven Ashley of thrdPlace are delighted to share their experience and perspective and welcome you to get in touch with questions or ideas.

First, we know many of you are curious to know if what you're doing can even be considered "urban agile" so we've made a handy flowchart to clear that up and provide some guidance.  Please feel free to share the love or ask us if you have questions.

As we mentioned, we'll also be posting more of the output of the sprint during our session to address some of the challenges we all encounter during SXSW.  But in the meantime, here are the top three takeaways for the essentials in using agile approaches for urban challenges:

  1. Identify a real need - for citizens or users, this is the basis of any successful urban change and the heart of design thinking
  2. Define a hypothesis and map the opportunity - this is the best way to view the solution space by externalizing critical assumptions and prioritizing testing
  3. Develop and conduct some tests to learn and iterate - even if this means changing directions or scrapping the initial hunch, prototyping with partners helps keep costs and effort in check to do this well

Thank you so much to the fascinating cross-section of folks who attended our panel from as far away as Peru and London, gamely joining us in some exercises, and contributing our low-fi data viz and mapping the SXSW experience opportunity space.  

You can download the presentation here.

For easy reference, here's the panel description of what we covered:

It's almost impossible to escape the constant chatter around so-called Smart Cities, but why is it taking so long for us to experience the benefits?  Urban innovation is still bounded by the glacial pace of master planning, despite a world now shifting almost every 6 months.  So, how can civic centers keep up?  By bringing true agile and lean start-up methods from the emerging technology realm to our streets.  If we put human-centered design at the heart of rapid iteration, imagine how much more efficiently we could invest taxpayer dollars.  Testing assumptions we make about citizen needs allows us to flexibly adjust solutions before discovering costly errors years into an initiative.  We can no longer afford to ignore this bottleneck amid mass migrations and mega-cities.  In this panel, we will discuss why most civic pilots have nothing to do with true agile best practices; the big benefits that come from adopting a learning mindset; and what this might do for food deserts, for example.