Ideation Nation is intended to not only generate fresh ideas, but also help citizens and governments work together, according to Abhi Nemani, Code for America's chief of staff. The idea, he explained, is to change the conversation from one of frustration or apathy to one of collaboration and action. In an email, Nemani said that he hopes that Ideation Nation will galvanize a national network of passionate citizens ready to help their cities work better with ideas and tools that can benefit governments of all levels.
Ideation Nation also aims to give government leaders insight they wouldn't get elsewhere. "It's the first national conversation of its kind, helping citizens become empowered and helping governments hear those ideas," MindMixer CEO Nick Bowden said in an e-mail. In a time of budget cuts and growing demands, it's an opportunity for local governments to involve citizens and support innovation.
[ Looks like more belt-tightening is on the way. Read Sequestration II: Expect Budget Rollercoaster In 2014. ]
Americans are encouraged to join the Ideation Nation online by submitting their concepts. Out of 25 finalists chosen at the end of October, one will win a free MindMixer site -- to virtually engage communities -- and $5,000 to develop and implement his or her idea in 2014. Additionally, the winner will receive guidance from experts at MindMixer and Code for America. The other 24 concepts will remain public for anyone interested in turning them into action.
Some early ideas posted on Ideationnation.mindmixer.com include an app to help people find parking in busy cities, an app that alerts commuters when their bus or train is running late, and cell-phone charging stations embedded in benches and street lamps to encourage people to spend more time outdoors.
Participants as young as 14 years old can create an account to share their ideas. MindMixer and Code for America are also taking the effort to social media, asking participants to generate support on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #IdeationNation.
Code for America has a history of helping the U.S. government put technology to use. The idea behind the nonprofit -- backed by high-profile tech companies -- is to bring together top talent to enable city governments to modernize their services through IT.
Code for America has worked with dozens of citizens and thousands of technologists over the past few years, building tools like OpenCounter, which makes it easy for entrepreneurs to register their new businesses online; DiscoverBPS, which lets parents choose schools for their kids; textizen, a simple SMS-based feedback platform; and Honolulu Answers, a fresh take on city websites that allows citizens to write plain-language content.