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Future Melbourne
Alex Steffen, 21 Jul 09

We're big fans of open government efforts.

Future Melbourne is a pretty amazing project, an attempt to harness the power of open government and collaboration to tackle the kinds of foresight and planning efforts even most big cities find themselves unable to take on. Their agenda is pretty ambitious:

Future Melbourne has a vision for the municipality to be a bold, inspirational and sustainable city in 2020. To realise this vision, six high level goals have been set: to build a city for people, a creative city, a prosperous city, a knowledge city, an eco-city and a connected city. The achievement of each of these high level goals is built on attaining thirty three secondary goals and these in turn are built on one hundred and fifty two underpinning goals.

While I haven't had time to go through the whole thing in detail, I can say it's of mixed quality. Still, that said, much of it is excellent, and all of it seems to at least be aimed at the right sort of targets. Take their ecological goals as an example:

Goals to be an eco-city:

1. Zero net emissions city
2. The city as a catchment
3. Resource efficient
4. Adapted for climate change
5. Living and working in a dense urban centre

Similar efforts are springing up elsewhere, like the NY future initiative, which is very cool, because while ideas matter, especially local ideas. Often part of the inertial power of the status quo is simply the high cost of finding, developing and explaining better solutions. Another part is the ability of bureaucracies to control the debate around plans and policies, draining the passion and life out of them, and (as Richard White said) using boredom the way a skunk uses smell.

These kind of open planning efforts have the potential to both drop the cost of compiling, sharing and explaining good ideas, and to keep the debate about those ideas more lively. We're still in the infancy of these sorts of efforts, but they're really worth keeping an eye on.

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