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MindMixer provides online idea collaboration for offline communities

Nick Bowden, a partner of the Omaha-based planning and landscape architecture firm Community ReDesigned, is one of the brains behind MindMixer. Photo by Andrea Ciurej.

When launching community planning and city design projects, town hall meetings are vital to provoking idea collaboration between civic leaders and citizens in order to ensure projects are suitable for their community.

Nick Bowden and the Community ReDesigned team have attended town hall-style meetings for several years to retain ideas for their own community planning and design projects.

However, one problem comes to mind when taking part in community meetings.

“Nobody shows up to those,” said Bowden, a partner for the Omaha-based planning and landscape architecture firm. “You may get 80 to 100 people at a public meeting.”

With the Omaha metro being home to more than 800,000 people, Bowden and his team grew frustrated with the minimal attendance at these meetings and decided to take matters into their own hands. They created MindMixer, a website aiming to provoke idea collaboration for better communities.

This “late-night creation” – launched today – serves as a virtual town-hall meeting for civic leaders to gather ideas and citizens to insert ideas into the community planning process.

All ideas are acceptable when using this platform.

“The submission of an idea from a user can be anything from something that relates to housing to something that relates to sustainability,” Bowden said. “It’s really project-related.”

Community ReDesigned and Environment Omaha are currently hosting their own town-hall event called Pass the Potatoes, an online collaboration of ideas central to the natural environment, urban form and transportation, building construction, resource conservation and community health.

Lincoln is also utilizing the site to host LPLAN 2040, an online town-hall provoking “bright ideas” to build a better community.

With a project lined-up in Indiana and some interest sparking in Oregon and elsewhere, Bowden hopes that the MindMixer platform will become a central component of online engagement in Nebraska and beyond.

“We’d love it to be the default for public involvement,” he said. “We hope the community embraces it and sees it as something that allows them to submit ideas where they may not participate otherwise.”

Last week, I sat down with Nick at the Community ReDesigned office to learn about the different functionalities of MindMixer, the idea behind its creation, the effectiveness of online town-hall meetings versus public interaction and his goal of integrating the site as a main service for idea collaboration in the Omaha community.

Bowden also touches on the strategy behind sending sacks of Idaho potatoes to the front doors of local businesses and individuals (tune in at 3:20).

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