What US city has a Department of Innovation and Technology? Chicago. And none other, as far as I know (maybe Portland, OR?) I met Hardik Bhatt, Chief Information Officer of Chicago’s Department of Innovation and Technology at the recent IIT Institute of Design Strategy Conference and was blown away by the work being done by the city. Mayor Daley “gets” design and there are several projects under way using design methodology to solve serious problems.
There is even a Chicago Innovation Awards program that makes the city stand out from others.
One is vacant, abandoned houses and their impact on crime in neighborhoods. By shifting efforts to how people living in those neighborhoods experience these houses instead of focussing on the administraton of structures, the city is better able to meet their needs. I was struck by the video presented by David Sonders, a recent graduate of the Institute of Design, who worked on a Troubled Buildings project with the city. The video showed people living near vacant houses talking about their lives. It was all about the danger surrounding these building—gangs moving in, being people hurt, fear of reporting. Safety was the immediate concern, not lost housing per se.
London, Stockholm, Singapore and other cities are far ahead of US cities in using design methods to improve the deliver of services. Chicago is leading the way. The immediate solution was more police protection, followed by the entrance of artists and others looking for low rent housing. Then came gentrification.