community innovation

Rochester Residents Given Chance to Change Urban Environment with Call for Proposala

You could play a role in the future of Rochester and have a physical structure of your own creation on display in the city. 

PlaceMakers Prototyping Idea Jam held last Wednesday night wants to make this possible.  The event brought together Rochester residents to collaborate, integrate, and create prototypes- or models testing a concept- to form a healthier, more connected, urban environment.

The event, co-hosted by Destination Medical Center, Rochester Art Center, and Rochester Downtown Alliance, put public design right into the hands of the Rochester community, giving anyone a chance to walk in the door with an idea and turn it into an actual physical structure on the streets of Rochester in only three months.

The Prototyping Idea Jam was facilitated by Ray Boyle and Jake Levitas, co-founders of Our City, a non-profit run out of Oakland, California that works with communities to utilize public design to improve cities. 

But what exactly is public design?  Public design is something that’s created by the public, with the public, for public good, in public space, as explained by Our City.  Public design uses public infrastructure and the built environment in an outdoor space to change some aspect of that environment, in this case, to create a healthier city. 

This Prototyping Idea Jam is part of the PlaceMakers Open Call for Proposals, where Rochester residents- or really anybody- can submit public design concepts that utilize Rochester’s built environment to create a vision of a healthier city.

A previous prototyping workshop held in April identified seven core values that Rochesterites think are vital to a healthy city: nature, connection, accessibility, inclusivity, art, and food.  Applicants are encouraged to create a prototype that encompasses one, or more, of these focal areas. 

The Open Call for Proposals ends June 17th, so get your applications in soon!  Ten selected projects will receive a stipend of $2,000 and have the option to fundraise more capital if needed.  Three projects will also be selected for storm water management on the 3rd Street Ramp.  Two additional projects will focus on the 3rd Street Parking ramp concrete underside. 

Teams have until September to build a 12’x12’x12’ prototype of their idea.  The prototypes will be showcased in the public PlaceMakers Prototyping Festival September 15th-17th along 3rd Street between Broadway to 3rd Avenue SW.

At least fifty people walked in the door for the Prototyping Idea Jam last week.  And not many left until well after the three-hour session was over. 

For the average person, it’s pretty hard to conceptualize transforming some structure you see on your daily walk into something new.  Something that people would actually want to interact with that reflected one of these seven core values.  I was a skeptic going in, thinking I would just sit by passively and listen to what ideas other people developed. Our City walked everyone through an open exercise to get the creative juices flowing, and pretty soon everyone was scribbling away, drawing out their ideas.  Some were insightful and beautiful.  Some were ugly.  Some were just weird.  Some looked like a drunk kindergartener drew them.  Wait…that was mine. 

But the point is, everybody in that room came up with some idea, whether they chose to share it or not.  Everybody developed a concept that had the potential to change Rochester’s urban environment.

What public design ideas did Rochester citizens envision to change their urban environment to support a healthier, more connected, inclusive city?  One person came up with an idea for art filled bike lanes.  There was a concept for portable gardens.  A live social media and event feed that could contain giant emojis.  A stationary bike that played music when pedaled.  Painted artwork and poetry that would appear under certain weather and environmental conditions.

At the end of the night, nine teams formed to support some of these ideas and hopefully submit an application in the upcoming weeks.

The Open Call for Applications is not limited to the people who were in that room last Wednesday night.  It’s open to all of us.  Do you have a great prototype idea that could benefit the city’s health?  Do you want to see some change?  This is our opportunity to take- or leave- to see some change and help to mold an evolving urban environment. 

For more information and details about the prototype application, click here.  Teams will also be looking for help and experts as these projects move forward.  Keep checking social media to see how you can help.

Lessons in Community Collaboration- What can Biotech Centers Learn from the Cooperative Efforts of Ceva, Grafton Scientific Staffing, and Johnson Country Community College?

In Kansas City, Kansas, the cooperative efforts of large vaccine producer Ceva,  Grafton Scientific Staffing, and Johnson County Community College led to significant benefits for all three parties. 

Ceva has better-trained employees and less employee turnover.  Grafton Scientific Staffing has an expanded market niche.  And Johnson County Community College is able to train new biotech employees and help them maintain employment, which is in line with their mission.

Depending on how far back you want to go, you can say that “the story began” when Johnson County Community College (JCCC) was first established in 1967.  Or you can say the story really began when a prominent research facility, Stower’s Institute for Medical Research, was established in Kansas City in 2000 and a strong biotech training program at JCCC was required with various levels of certifications and degrees to provide the institute with skilled workers.

This particular story began, however, when French company Ceva bought a local Kansas City vaccine company in 2005 and began to build on its vaccine expertise.  Ceva absorbed many biotech graduates from JCCC but consistently needed more trained workers than were available.  The need for skilled workers was acute and projected to continue into the future.

Ceva needed trained workers but didn’t have time for them to complete one of the usual biotech training programs at JCCC, which were two to four semesters in length.  [B1]  

Ceva spoke to scientific staffing agencies in the area and asked, “What can you do to help us?”  Grafton Scientific Staffing actually took the lead in solving the problem; they spoke with Ceva and Ceva spoke with JCCC. 

JCCC determined Ceva’s needs and developed a curriculum that fit the vaccine developer’s time constraints.  Grafton assumed actual responsibility for the students, providing them as contract employees to Ceva until their training was completed[B2] .  Ceva cooperated with JCCC and made arrangements for the contract employees to complete thirty-five hours of training over two weeks, being absent from the plant during those training hours.

To date, ten[B3]  training sessions have been completed.  New employee retention at Ceva is much improved. Grafton has defined itself in a new way in the KC scientific staffing market.  And JCCC is able to fulfill its mission to a greater degree.

This is a happy story, but what were the tough points along the road?  What were the places at which people needed to demonstrate creativity and flexibility, so that these relationships could develop? 

First, it should be mentioned that before the new training and employment structures were developed, Ceva, Grafton, and JCCC already had long-standing relationships.  The different parties felt that they could rely on each other.  Dr. Luanne Wolfgram, a microbiology professor at JCCC, was particularly known to provide excellent training for people entering biotech fields. 

Still, even given this history and level of trust, all parties were called upon to be creative and flexible during the process.  First, Ceva needed to articulate its needs and repeat those needs until someone, in this case Grafton, heard and responded.  Grafton actually took a leadership role in suggesting a new type of training process and persuaded Ceva and JCCC to try it.  Dr. Luanne Wolfgram at JCCC needed to demonstrate extreme flexibility, as the training of Grafton-based potential hires occurred on a “pop-up” basis, whenever a critical number of new students accumulated.  Dr. Wolfgram has a full time job even without squeezing in this on-the-spot training, so her flexibility was key.  Ceva needed to be flexible in finding a way for the Grafton-based new hires to be absent from the plant as much as needed to accomplish their training.

In short, these creative responses, which resulted in well-trained and more stable new biotech employees, first required that all parties had a history with each other and trusted each other.  A further critical requirement was that all parties were willing to take some risk, venture into unknown territory, and yield when necessary.