Crosscut’s Community Idea Lab

Collective Problem-Solving for Seattle

Posted: Jun 30, 2014

Pyramid was proud to sponsor local news organization Crosscut’s inaugural Community Idea Lab last month. The Community Idea Lab is a series of conversations designed to elevate Northwest ideas and motivate civic planning across government, business, and nonprofit sectors. As a firm deeply rooted in Seattle issues, this kind of community conversation aligned nicely with our commitment to giving voice to good causes.

The kick-off event focused on one question: How can we use our tech boom as an asset to improve inequality and engagement in the Seattle area?

After reporting on the issue for a number of weeks and crowdsourcing ideas from locals, Crosscut gathered the community together at Town Hall to hear pitches from five finalists chosen to present their ideas. Four judges, selected by Crosscut, provided feedback to the finalists, pointing out strengths and potential holes in their ideas, including: 

  • Maud Daudon | Seattle Metro Chamber president and CEO
  • Robert Feldstein | Director of Seattle's Office of Policy and Innovation
  • Michael Arrington | TechCrunch founder and CrunchFund general partner
  • John Cook | Geekwire founder

The five finalists each had just five minutes to pitch their ideas for ways the community could leverage Seattle’s tech boom as an asset to improve inequality. The judges gave their critiques, and then the audience voted on their favorite. 

The winning idea

David Harris, STEM integration program manager at Technology Access Foundation and Central District homeowner, presented the winning idea: a hackathon to teach tech and entrepreneurial skills to minority groups in the Central District (CD), in service of a longer-term plan to create an innovation district in the CD. 

Harris’s pitch was not only favored by the audience, but judge Michael Arlington offered to fund the idea right on the spot! People of color make up 33% of Seattle residents, Harris noted, but comprise only 18% of small business owners. His idea has the potential to provide access to technology and entrepreneurship to a wider swath of Seattle residents.

As a winner of the Community Idea Lab, Harris’s idea has been shared on Crosscut.com, he has been given the opportunity to meet with local elected officials and business leaders, and now has access to a part time membership at Impact Hub to use for planning and coordination of the event. To follow Harris’s progress and hear more about his future plans for creating an innovation district in the CD, visit Crosscut.com/community-idea-lab for updates.