We recently welcomed South Bend, the 4th largest city in Indiana, as a US Ignite Community. We have worked with them to identify ways to accelerate the adoption of innovative solutions that improve the lives of South Bend residents. The first outcome was SolveSB, the first ever South Bend-focused Ideathon! The Technology Resource Center (TRC) in South Bend’s Ignition Park planned and hosted the event over the weekend of July 16-17, 2022.
SolveSB called on individuals from across the city to dedicate a weekend to collaborating and competing with fellow South Benders on brainstorming on the challenge statement:
How might we increase the number of residents who move about the city on bikes, by walking, or by rolling?
The event called for participants from “all disciplines and areas of expertise, from creatives to coders and everything in between.” The only other requirement…participants had to be at least 16 years old.
The SolveSB Structure
Any pre-formed group of South Benders could sign up as a team. The event organizers assigned those that signed up as individuals to a team that needed their area of expertise or additional members.
Each team consisted of 3-5 members and used two work sessions during the weekend to ideate and propose a solution that addressed the problem statement.
The TRC used a mix of city employees and community experts to bring this ideathon to life. The City staff ran the event’s marketing and logistics with fidelity, building up trust from the constituents. Community leaders and experts brought passion to the issues, ideas, and challenges in the discussion, thereby emphasizing the importance of the need for innovative solutions.
The participants’ diversity created a prime opportunity for creativity and innovation. Not only did the participant pool include age variety, but also different professions and areas of expertise. Throughout the event, genuine connections emerged as they worked together to devise a solution.
Competition Means Prizes
After an energizing weekend of collaboration and healthy competition, the Solve SB teams gathered to learn who had won!
All the teams worked very hard and delivered genuinely innovative solutions to make the city more bike-friendly. The judges’ panel, made up of representatives from Sustain South Bend, Code for America, and the South Bend Bike Garage, ultimately decided to award a 3rd, 2nd, and 1st place. The solutions pitched demonstrate the power of brainstorming among a collaborative and diverse group.
3rd place: Team Bendix
Bendix proposed a web application or mobile app to help South Benders find biking routes more efficiently. The app would allow users to report street hazards and set up preferences for their trips, such as protected lanes, max speed limits, and road grades. And to motivate the use of the app, users could earn rewards for using the app.
2nd place: Team Lasalle
Prize: $50 Visa gift card per team member
Team Lasalle focused on the humans riding the bikes and structured their solution around a plan to make existing community events bike friendly. The team proposed that the city of South Bend strategically reach out to local organizations hosting events and partner with them to add features such as a bike valet, loaner locks, bike accessories raffles, and bike racks. These would incentivize people to ride their bikes to fun events.
1st place: Team Coveleski
Prize: $100 Visa Gift Card per team member
This team recommended South Bend focus on improving the conditions for people who already use bikes as a form of transportation and on converting people who consider biking only as a type of exercise. They proposed a collaboration with the South Bend Bike Garage to offer bikers points for riding, which would translate to discounts and credits at local small businesses. Also, the team suggested expanding bike-sharing networks to the traditionally less affluent areas in the south and west neighborhoods.
These innovative ideas won’t just be filed away in a cabinet. The City’s Office of Sustainability plans to follow up with the winners to consult with them on the mobility and transportation issues they explored during the SolveSB weekend. Moreover, TRC hopes to host more SolveSB events to spark innovation and conversation among caring and dedicated South Bend residents.
Stay tuned for more!
We plan to spotlight other competitions and innovation-stimulating programs and events in South Bend and the other US Ignite communities. Sign up for our newsletter to obtain similar examples of community creativity and thought leadership.