Award-winning project Idea City Website

Mashhad, Iran

The website fosters citizen participation in urban management to provide innovative solutions to urban issues

Considering the importance of public participation in urban management, the Idea City Website attempts to attract people's ideas, in order to increase social capital and to upgrade the level of public participation. In fact, Idea City uses the capacity of virtual platforms to activate citizens' participation (in particular of the youth) in order to provide solutions to urban issues. Through this platform, people can provide innovative ideas and also brainstorm on different urban issues.

Nowadays, the use of information and communication technologies is increasing at a rapid rate among cities and citizens.  Therefore, the Idea City Platform was established in order to facilitate ideation (the formation of ideas and concepts) through virtual communication; it is a user-friendly website designed for citizens to provide and share their creative ideas with people in charge of local urban management. Actually, the platform is also considered as a youth think-tank for urban management.

Fostering the ideation process participates to upgrade public services and implement new ideas in urban management.

However, there were various challenges that had to be overcome in the beginning, such as budget allocation issues. In addition, urban managers did not participate actively and citizens did not trust Idea City. In the end, the problems were overcome via risk-taking spirit of the youth and the stimulus to have a creative city, driven by the large proportion of youth in Mashhad population. Idea City is successful since it has attracted young citizens who participate upgrading their city and become city changers.

Award-winning project

This project was awarded the 'Tehran Golden Adobe Award for Urban Management' in 2015. Learn more about the award.


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City information
City
Mashhad

Size and population development
2011: 2,713,000; 1990: 1,680,000; 2025: 3,371,000; 2010-2015: +2.02%/year

Population composition
mostly Persians (95%), other ethnic groups include Kurdish and Turkish people or people from other neighbouring countries, over 20 mio. pilgrims each year; average age: 27.2 years

Main functions
Capital City of Razavi Khorasan Province, the city is exposed to a high risk of natural disasters e.g. earthquakes or flooding

Main industries / business
tourism, agriculture, light machinery industries, carpets, mining; large number of small businesses with less than 2 employees

Political structure
3-fold executive organisational structure: governor, city council and mayor. City council appoints mayor, 8 political/organisational departments (economy, urban planning, culture and social affairs etc)

Administrative structure
administrative centre of Mashhad County, 13 administrative units/districts

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Background and objectives

The Young Consultants Group of the Municipality of Mashhad (YCG) is a non-governmental and apolitical group of young people living in Mashhad. Mashhad is the second capital city located in the north east of Iran. The organisation attempts to empower the youth via designing and implementing different programs in urban management in order to increase the role of youth in decision-making. YCG's strategies have been developed according to the milestones of the Fifth Development Program of Iran:

  1. Providing effective communication between universities & research centers with industry and other parts of the society;
  2. Reaching economic advancement;
  3. Achieving required advanced technology;
  4. Supporting elites.

Accordingly, YCG commenced a new initiative and devised its strategies and policies that included the enhancement of knowledge and skills, upgrade of social status, economical support of researches, experiments and initiatives and improving commercialization in July 2012.

Moreover, the Twenty-year Vision of the Islamic Republic of Iran was considered in the strategies of the group. Being able to produce science and technology, relying on superior contribution of human resources, social capital and national production, strengthening the role of innovation, intellectual and social dynamics were the fundamental components of their activity.

Goals of the new Idea City Website:

1. Upgrading social capital

  • Increasing sense of belonging in cities
  • A way that citizens can submit their requests to the municipality
  • Enhancing collaboration and interactions between universities and urban management
  • Recognizing and developing talent

2. Enhancing productivity

  • Using the citizens' potential and putting into action their creative ideas
  • Upgrading the quality of public services
  • Interacting citizens' challenges and perspectives with urban managers

The Young Consultants Group of the Municipality of Mashhad launched the Idea City Website in order to attract and endorse public participation, especially from the youth. Consequently, the participation of the youth through this idea bank is considered as an important nonfinancial resource for the Municipality.

This initiative is innovative, since there was not such a network for citizens and urban managers' interaction and cooperation through a developing virtual platform before. Actually, Mashhad Municipality had a Suggestion System among employees to provide ideas. However, Idea City is different because all citizens can contribute their ideas. Therefore, different parts of the municipality and urban managers can achieve citizens' perspective and make use of them.

Implementation

The process of Idea City is as follow:

  1. Sensitization of citizens, the youth and urban managers
  2. Attracting, submitting and organizing ideas
  3. Assessing ideas
  4. Approving ideas
  5. Allocating budget for implementation
  6. Implementing ideas
  7. With regard to IP (Intellectual Property), appreciating owners of the ideas and assessors.

Easy access to virtual space for sharing ideas has made the initiative become successful in different parts of the city. Other innovative tools make the difference, such as Urban Managers Panel, Urban Managers Issues, Public messages, etc.

Urban managers' issues:

Raising issues in Idea City is one of the best tools for employees and urban managers. Local authorities can ask for citizens' ideas about their problems and issues. This will provide bilateral interaction between citizens and urban managers and improves public collaboration.

The Initiators Club:

Initiators, according to their scores, can become a member of this club after a while. Young Consultants Group of the Municipality of Mashhad provides generous benefits for the members that will enhance satisfaction and sense of belonging among citizens. When the citizens are satisfied, they will cooperate in the city programs. So far, Idea City is a successful initiative in Mashhad and could be used in other cities as a stimulator to increase citizen's collaboration.

Work Groups

There are special work groups that concentrate on making ideas feasible, the process is as follow:

  • Selecting the best ideas: if feasible it continues, otherwise the idea is hold in archive
  • Analyzing the feasibility of ideas in cooperation with the young consultants
  • Holding brainstorming sessions to make ideas into proposals
  • Assessing proposals in professional committees
  • Presenting proposals in Javaneh seminars (seminars in which youth proposals are presented to local authorities)
Financing and resources

As mentioned before, Mashhad municipality allocates budget to youth projects. Since Idea City was established by the Young Consultants Group, the municipality has provided financial support.

Moreover, Idea City has a Secretariat in which four official staffs are working. The main tasks of the staffs are as follow:

  • Interact with Special Ideation NGOs in order to support the Ideas Commercialization Program
  • Holding thematic meetings among initiators, youth institutes and urban managers
  • Broadcasting in order to encourage all citizens' participation in changing their city
  • Considering Intellectual Property for ideas
  • Holding Ideation training courses
  • Facilitating and accelerating the implementation process of ideas
  • Providing technical support
Results and impacts

The Idea City of Young Consultants Group of the Municipality of Mashhad has been the first and the most successful experience at regional and national level. It has improved accountability and sense of belonging among citizens.

Achievements:

  1. Youth cooperation to provide solutions for urban issues: 22909 ideas
  2. Number of participants in the website: 4123 members
  3. Impacting public services by implementing: 83 ideas
  4. Set as the first item in Google Searching Engine by clicking “idea”
  5. Organizing 5 work groups in urban management to implement ideas
  6. Increasing the proportion of the youth in urban management
Barriers and challenges

Some problems occurred, including budget allocation. Moreover, urban managers did not participate actively and citizens did not trust at first the new platform.

The problems were overcome via risk-taking sprit of the youth and the stimulus to have a creative city. A number of challenges and barriers are listed below:

  • Intellectual property: implementation of ideas without the permission of their innovators
  • Different viewpoint of innovators and urban managers toward the website
  • Weak incentive system due to financial constraints  
  • Attracting citizens' participation 
  • Localizing the process of assessment 
Lessons learned and transferability

As the first process of ideation in urban management conducted in Mashhad, the cooperation with the youth was an influential factor to gain reputation. Furthermore, urban managers now have a tool to better explain about their problems and issues and to make use of the youth ideas. In addition, interaction and collaboration between today and future leaders leads to youth empowerment in urban issues and contribute achieving sustainable development.

Submitted ideas had to be assessed to select the best ones. The assessments were done through professional committees, meetings, assessors and young consultants. However, to facilitate assessment, assessors can also do their job online.

Idea city was introduced in international events and was warmly welcomed due to its great success in activating citizens' participation. Since Mashhad is the Secretariat of Metropolis Youth, another initiative was introduced by Mashhad Municipality to the World Association of Major Metropolises: the Young Consultant Group has decided to develop a similar global platform, in order to foster ideation at a more global scale. Therefore, the new website "Global Idea City" is designed and will be launched in near future in cooperation with Metropolis.  

References

External links / documents