Water Cooler Wednesday: Think and Do Tanks

We'd add experiment and engage.

We’d add experiment and engage.

Hailing a taxi in Mexico City can be dangerous.
While there are more than 100,000 official cabs roaming the streets, many pirated cabs are painted in the same drab red and gold colors and blend right in. More than 400 taxi robberies were reported to police in 2013. Most taxi users with the means to pay have switched to more expensive but safer options such as “sitio” taxis, executive services or Uber, with rides that come when you call them.
But Mexico City isn’t giving up on traditional cabs. To make the experience of hailing one safer, the city recently launched Traxi, a free smartphone app. Once a cab pulls over, a user can enter the license number on the side of the cab or snap a photo of the cab’s license plate. That action brings up city data that can instantly say whether the cab is registered or not. If the rider chooses to ride and gets in trouble, the app includes a panic button that sends an alert to the police department.
Traxi is one of six citizen-focused apps produced by Mexico City’s Laboratorio para la Ciudad, or LabPLC, a new smart-city project begun by Mayor Miguel Ángel Mancera. Just as Traxi attempts to improve the chaotic experience of riding taxis in Mexico City, Laboratorio itself aims to help transform the city of 21 million into a well-connected digital metropolis.
LabPLC is one of the latest “innovation labs” to pop up in cities around the world. Launched in February of last year, it joined similar efforts in Boston, San Francisco, Singapore, the UK and other places to create a sort of urban skunkworks where creative people in and out of city government can invent and test new ideas and technologies. As Gabriela Gómez-Mont, the leader of the Mexico City lab, put it in a recent interview, “We see ourselves as the experimental think tank of Mexico City’s government.”
Urban “think and do tanks” are an intriguing idea.
First, it allows bright minds to “hack” government so to speak and we all know that government can use some innovation and new ideas.
Second it’s a great way to engage citizens and build community.
In Delray, there has been a long history of community involvement through the “charrette” process. A charrette is a  meeting in which all stakeholders in a project attempt to resolve conflicts and map solutions. The charrette can function as a pop-up think tank and has been wildly successful in Delray.
Other communities have used the process as well.
Local entrepreneur Irene Revelas has also been successful in hosting “hackathons” in which a group of bright minds get together to concentrate on solving a specific problem. Last year, she led a process at Delray Center for the Arts which yielded some interesting outside the box ideas. Delray Center also had success with a charrette a few years back which led to the creation of its popular Friday Night Music Series which has been a good fundraiser for the organization.
But perhaps, a more permanent think tank is in order, a place where you know you can plug in and meet with other interesting minds to discuss important issues and ideas.
Ideally, the place or space would be safe, where you can debate ideas without fear.
Too often, the public square can be nasty and rife with attacks.
I get it, if you can’t stand the heat stay out of the kitchen, but wouldn’t it be productive to have a lab where the discussion could be civil and intelligent.
There’s plenty of places to vent your spleen, but few where you can really dig in and problem solve.
Sounds like an opportunity. If you’re interested, let us know.

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.