OurConvention 2015

HUBweek is an invitation. An invitation to wander. To ask why and why not. To be a part of something bigger. And to celebrate the world-changing work, art and thinking being imagined and built in Greater Boston… All change-makers, dreamers and curious minds are invited to HUBweek to develop meaningful connections, participate in cultural and creative dialogue to solve global issues, or simply come to discover, try and get inspired by something new.

–HUBweek

What is Our Convention?

This year marked the inaugural HUBweek. As a closing event, City Awake, in partnership with UMass Boston held Boston’s first annual Our Convention. During Our Convention, over 50 organizations of Boston (including AIGA Boston) convened 300 young adults at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate to collaborate and rapid prototype solutions focused on different local issues facing Greater Boston, including transportation improvements, housing affordability, etc. Each organization nominated up to 5 delegates.

The majority of the proceedings were held in the institute, with the convention opening in the Institute’s replica of the US Senate meeting room. After the welcome and hearing details about the current standings in the city, as related the recently published Boston Indicators Project, of which printed copies were given to attendees. Following the report overview, there was an explanation of the design thinking process and how it would be applied to the day’s event.

Attendees were split into their selected focus groups (for me arts and culture) and prepped for three hours of ideation and prototyping. Each group was led by a facilitator and started their sessions with a panel discussion led by people involved the related field. The arts and culture panel was moderated by Catherine Cloutier of the Boston Globe includes, and consisted of:

After discussing issues and problems relevant to our topic, we split into small groups to brainstorm and find specific aspects to tackle and create solutions for. Groups presented their findings during the process and finished with demonstrating prototypes. Following prototype presentations, everyone reconvened at the Institute for a reception.

The results from the prototyping sessions will be compiled into a briefing book and companion website which will be shared with elected officials, industry leaders, issue experts and the broader community.

Thoughts after attending

OurConvention itself was a bit of prototype. Though a little rough around the edges, it was an exciting addition to HUBweek and a promising event in its own right. Hopefully it will be refined and expanded on. I was hoping there would be more follow-up built into it to help ensure it acts as a more constructive force for change. It was a little depressing to see them take the route of just hoping change will just come through the initiative of attendees down the line following the event. A Facebook group for attendees has since been created. Not that it’s necessarily bad alone, but there are other gatherings that happen in the city and end with the same approach and not always have solid results following.

I was also hoping that panel members would have stayed after the initial discussion phase to aid and provide feedback to the prototyping groups, especially since the panelists are in a better position to help bring the ideas to fruition if possible. It would have also been good if the the different focus groups were able to reconvene and present their prototypes, or even just one from each, to the collected groups before the reception.

In the end, Our Convention was a great event and kudos to Justin of City Awake for launching it. As Boston continues to evolve and redefine itself, creating an outlet like this to allow younger residents to be more civic-minded, active, and reasonable is nothing but a good thing.

Also, as a townie, thank you for calling out the students present and telling them that even if they don’t plan to stay in Boston, they should help make it better by the time they leave.


Originally published at boston.aiga.org on April 2, 2016.

Nick Di Stefano