GovJams Apply Design Thinking to Local Issues

Uptown Charlotte, North Carolina

Uptown Charlotte, North Carolina Fotoluminate LLC /


Connecting state and local government leaders

Two U.S. cities—Charlotte and Miami—hosted events engaging citizens to creatively prototype solutions to self-identified local government problems over the weekend.

Some cities are turning to “design thinking” to solve local government problems.

The method, used at tech giants Google and Apple, calls for observational understanding of what people need and want—in this case from their municipalities—and tailor innovative solutions according to their preferences.

Charlotte, North Carolina, and Miami, Florida, are the first U.S. cities to try design thinking as part of the Australia-based Global GovJam movement.

GovJam, which has helped host 34 jams in 27 countries, encourages citizens to creatively model solutions to urban challenges within an allotted 48-hour time window.

“There are no experts. It kind of levels the playing field,” Kendra Shillington, #GovJamCLT organizer, told The Charlotte Observer. “Bottom-up interactions can make a big difference in shifting Charlotte.”

Using everything from cardboard to Legos, Charlotteans addressed the intentionally broad issue of “access” by prototyping solutions to self-identified bike safety, communing and nutritional problems.

Residents proposed making bike lanes a different color so drivers clearly know they’re for cyclists, as well as creating cheap, fresh produce hubs in low-income neighborhoods.

Intended to escape business-as-usual decisionmaking by a handful of government and community officials, organizers aimed to attract a cross-section of the community.

“We are specifically looking for a diverse set of people to join,” Meghann Gunderman, #GovJamCLT lead coordinator, told the Charlotte Agenda prior to this weekend’s event.

At the jam, held at the Charlotte Shapers Hub, selected team representatives discussed the six best ideas with officials and other community stakeholders who have the ability to help implement them.

Dave Nyczepir is News Editor for Government Executive’s Route Fifty.

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