Everyday people with extraordinary ideas

    Last week, I told Philadelphians that the old-boys network can no longer hold back the rest of us, because in today’s environment of the internet, entrepreneurship, online commerce and international communication, ideas are the new currency. You can’t kill an idea or extinguish its fire.

    That’s why I asked Philadelphians of all stripes to submit ideas that could be accomplished online; ideas that could make our city better.

    Philadelphians responded both in the blog’s comment section and on a Facebook chat with a barrage of ideas that were ingenious in their simplicity. As I promised I would do, I’m sharing the best of those ideas now.

    It’s my hope that publishing these ideas will help these out-of-the-box thinkers to advance their brilliant strategies for improving the quality of life in our city. Here, for your consideration and feedback, are the problems that our fellow Philadelphians identified, and the solutions they put forth to solve them.

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    Problem 1

    Non-profits deal with many of the city’s toughest problems including homelessness, healthcare, crime and broken families. In some cases, non-profits help those that government does not. But many non-profits exist on shoestring budgets, and the cheap or free acquisition of office equipment can help them to better fulfill their missions.

    The Solution: Denise Trassati Sellers suggested a simple and workable solution.

    “I would like to see online sharing of resources between corporations/businesses planning to dispose of items, and non-profits/CBOs which could use them,” Sellers wrote.

    This solution would allow corporations to donate furniture, computer equipment and other items locally, while writing off the donations on their taxes.

    Implementing such a solution could also form the foundation for additional partnerships between local companies and non-profits, potentially bringing additional resources to bear in order to solve our city’s toughest problems.

    Problem 2

    Public schools are education centers for children, but they are also community centers that can potentially be used for a variety of purposes. From neighborhood meetings to adult education, community sports leagues to emergency shelters, schools have the space to accommodate many uses.

    The Solution: Katie Brinkley joined the discussion on Facebook. She shared a variety of ideas on a number of issues, but her ideas around community uses for schools were especially poignant.

    Brinkley wants community members to have the chance to be involved in their neighbourhood schools, both during the school day and during off-hours.

    “Streamline the volunteer costs and background check process to enable more community members to engage in their local school,” she wrote. “The federal and state background-check procedures currently cost over $50 and require three forms. State and federal officials should put their heads together to come up with a simple, free, online system to ensure that parents and community members are screened and can easily jump in and roll up their sleeves.”

    Brinkley also suggested that schools stay open on nights and weekends for use by the community. If such initiatives require extra funding, Brinkley has another suggestion.

    “Crowdsource funding for schools,” she wrote. “Apply for project-based funding through crowd-sourcing funds. There are a variety of online crowd-source sites for this purpose, including Donorschoose and Adoptaclassroom.”

    Problem 3

    There is a gap between the skills needed for today’s jobs and the skills of much of Philadelphia’s labor market. While every potential worker won’t attend college, learning trades can help young workers become qualified skilled laborers.

    With the decrease in free vocational education, intergenerational cooperation is key to training young people for job opportunities. The master-apprentice relationship has traditionally equipped young people to learn useful skills from older people. Rekindling that educational model is one way to train young people for employment.

    The Solution: Tariq Reddy posted his idea in the comment section of the blog. Here’s what he wrote:

    “The idea popped in my head several months ago. My dad who took a six-month training course in electronics before going to Vietnam turned it into a respectable living, while earning several patents. He’s made electronic objects both practical and beautiful.

    “He’s now entering retirement age and I think that there are probably many men out there with a similar story who would love to continue to practice their craft and SHARE the knowledge.

    “My idea is to gather retirees or near retirees pass on whatever valuable skills they may have acquired. Be it chess, rhetoric/language/storytelling, mathematics, electronics. Everyone wins in my view.”

    What’s your big idea?

    Next week, I’ll post more of the ideas I received from regular Philadelphians.

    If you’ve got a great idea to make Philadelphia better — an idea that can be implemented online — share it in the comments section below, and it could be featured on my blog next week.

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