Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

5 new forms: is that all you got?

(From the Department of OMG, LOL division)

In June I wrote a piece "For a lot of "urban problems" the issue isn't knowledge about what to do, but willingness to engage that knowledge" somewhat skeptical about DC Government's innovation initiative called "The Lab," funded in part by a large grant from the Arnold Foundation.

The point I made is that there is plenty of opportunity in the design method, process innovation, etc. without having to do "big data."  That plenty of opportunity in dealing with "little data" is missed, and that local government tends to not be very interested in hiring and keeping around people who have an inclination toward innovation.

Today, DC Government heralded one of the big innovations of The Lab innovation initiative is the redesign of five forms.

While I think that design-led innovation, of forms, information products, and other elements is extremely important, the press release ("Mayor Bowser and The Lab @ DC Release Updated DC Government Forms: Five High-Profile Forms Updated Based on Input from Form-a-Palooza") proves my point. From the press release:
“At Form-a-Palooza, we took government forms that were notoriously and unnecessarily difficult to use and worked with residents and experts to make them more accessible. Today, we are proud to reveal the results of such a tremendous community effort,” said Mayor Bowser. “We want residents to use the programs and services available to them and we will continue using The Lab to find innovative ways to make DC Government work better for District residents.” ...

The forms included:

· Department of Motor Vehicles’ Driver License and Identification Card Application, used to obtain or renew a driver’s license or identification;
· Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs’ Basic Business License, used to certify a business as authorized to operate legally in the District;
· Department of Human Services’ TANF Job Search Log, used to allow Temporary Assistance for Needy Families customers to document their job searching activities;
· Department of Disability Services’ Service Request Form, used to access intellectual disability support services; and
· Department of Energy and Environment’s Lead Disclosure Form, used by landlords to acknowledge potential presence of lead-based paint to their tenants.

-- before and after of the changed forms

-- "Guns, Butter and Ballots," a column in Communications Arts which references the proposal by graphic designer Greg Storey to redesign the President's Daily Intelligence Brief in the face of the realization it inadequately called attention to threats posed by Al Qaeda, and a general discussion about the importance of information design in government
-- Information Design Wikipedia page
-- and the work of Richard Saul Wurman and Edward Tufte among others
One of my lines about DC is that it like the point Daniel Patrick Moynihan made in his argument about "defining deviance down," DC defines mediocrity up, as excellence, that by definition because DC is the national capital anything it does must be "world class."

Um, it isn't.

Yes, I am sure there are some sour grapes because a city agency offered me a job and then reneged.  But still.

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