As we focus on Civic Innovation this month, it seemed obvious to learn more about the work Norman Gilmore is doing in a professional capacity as well as in his civic engagement in his neighborhood council. I asked Norman about the relationship between statistical modeling and civic engagement – how can we best use statistics and forecasting to affect policy and the decisions that our institutions make? Don’t let that intense question scare you away from reading this post, though. Norman managed to explain the extremely complex systems he’s working with in a palatable and surprisingly understandable way. If you’re interested in the relationship of data and policy, Norman recommends watching this talk from an LA Times Data Desk meetup (pt 2 and pt 3).
Could you describe what’s involved in making statistical forecasting accessible and understandable to stakeholders, companies, and foundations?
Although my company is TeamForecast, I actually define my research as “collaborative futures modeling”. I thought if I named my company “TeamModeling”, people might get the wrong idea, like maybe I’m developing Tyra Banks’ next reality show.
Also, predicting even narrow aspects of the future accurately is mostly the domain of physicists, astronomers, and Nate Silver.
So allow me to reframe your question as a broader one about effective use of statistics in general. To that I would offer the work of Doug Smith and Ben Welsh at the Los Angeles Times Data Desk. They have done major stories on value added teaching scores, doctors who over-prescribe to addicts, and Los Angeles Fire Department response times, to name only three.
What distinguishes a Data Desk story from other stories is of course the collection and analysis of a data set, the discovery of patterns, and the generation of hypotheses of what narratives might explain those patterns. Importantly, the data is explained not only using statistical charts and possibly infographics, but also with anecdotes that provide context and the potential for empathy with people who have participated in the system analyzed, as decision makers, beneficiaries, or victims. When you imagine a heart attack victim waiting 15 minutes for emergency response, you are able to viscerally identify with the risks and outcomes implied by the system.
All of these stories caused a legislative or executive response at the city or state level so I think the Data Desk does a great job of using statistics to effect policy change.
Let me suggest that if you stripped the statistical data out of those stories, the visceral impact of the selected anecdotes might be as strong, but the policy impact would not be. Ultimately policy makers are allocating finite budget resources, and they know that in general it is unwise to base decisions on a few outliers or anecdotes that were chosen explicitly for their drama. When a budget change can plausibly be associated with improved outcomes justifying the investment, then I think policy makers are more willing to act.
I also believe that these stories would generally have not have been commissioned by the subject of the story! Most people don’t like the use of statistics to measure and assess their performance. People do seem to like statistics to measure, assess, and control other people’s performance though.
So if someone said to me that they wanted to use statistics to measure performance within their organization, that is a political problem first, and a math problem second. Organizations that are analyzing their customers have a lot of frameworks, tools, and MBAs to work with. Policy and advocacy organizations that are analyzing outcomes outside their span-of-control have much more freedom to follow the data, because a negative interpretation does not lead back to the decisions of their leaders. Of course, data is harder to come by when the organization is attempting to analyze data outside its span-of-control. So these are just examples of organizational contexts that influence receptivity to statistical decision making.
Hub LA member Mike Tringe is the founder of CreatorUp, an online film school. This blog post is a version of a talk he gave at Innovate Pasadena.
How long does it take to take your awesome new startup idea from the donut shop conversation phase to the real customer and company phase? Here is a snapshot of our journey, where CreatorUp went from an idea written on a giant sheet of paper with a marker to a global e-learning platform.
Advances in technology and open source tools have empowered the first time entrepreneur to build any business they can think of. And the explosion of ideas for new businesses and apps, accelerator programs, and startup weekends have facilitated the jumpstart.
But with this startup jumpstart comes a challenge: there is a lack of support, planning, and experience over the amount of time actually necessary to bring an idea to market effectively. And without sustainable revenues, that becomes a big problem sending a lot of great ideas from the entrepreneurs behind them to the graveyard prematurely.
The burden lies on the entrepreneur to move as quickly as possible. I wanted to share my experience to provide a realistic timeframe for entrepreneurs to gain insight into our journey. There is no right formula or simple calendar, but there is a time-based template that provides a framework for action. Think of it like a game.
How long will it take? From household startup names like Shazam (founded in 1999) to consumer facing business movements like CrossFit (founded in 1996), you might be blown away by how long they’ve been around – or how long it took them to get to your doorstep or become a part of your life.
This is our generalized timeline with all the dates taken out and starting from our earliest month, and putting you and your potential company in the driver’s seat of the phase that I experienced. You might be surprised by the order of events.
5 Tips for Making Your College Project Real
Guest Column by Hub LA Member Scott Fairbanks
Whether in art, business, engineering, or another major many students worked on a project at some point in college that seemed worth pursuing. Maybe you developed a particularly compelling product concept, or maybe it’s a large-scale art project, or even a new restaurant idea. But how do you go from “that’s an interesting idea” to actually making it happen? I’m not an expert, but it’s what my team and I are in the process of doing right now by launching a life-size board game called Doozy. Here is what we’ve learned:
Talk About It
A lot of people are afraid that someone will steal their idea or (worse) laugh at it. They might do one or both, but no matter what, you already have X semesters of a head start and hopefully some assurance of the concept’s potential. The more that I’ve talked about Doozy, the more positive connections I’ve made for everything from simply supporters to professional advisors. And as I have spent more time perfecting my story, I’ve seen greater results. Be honest about the stage your company is in, remember to keep people updated, and welcome feedback. Don’t shove your idea down every person’s throat that you meet, but be confident it’s worth sharing.
Create an Asset Map
What kinds of services does your university share with their alumni? Who do your parents know? Where did the person you met at that one conference work again? It’s helpful to sit down and create an asset map for yourself and your team. Think about all of the people and resources you have access to and it will help inform your strategy for next steps. As we’ve prepared to crowdfund we’ve had to be intentional about knowing where our networks overlap, what sectors we’re missing, and which relationships are strongest. If you are consistent with #1 this pool of human capital will continue to grow, and the map can also help with #3. Read more on “Guest Post: 5 Tips for Taking Your College Project to Real Life” »
On the same day last year, a group of children made shadow puppets in Capetown, South Africa while a group of students in London built a House of Fairy Tales. On the side of the globe, a group of tweens built an obstacle in their New Jersey front yard while families at a community center in Seattle built a pirate ship. On any other day, we’d brush off this coincidence as after school play, but on this day last year, these kids were among the 90,000 around the world who participated in the Global Cardboard Challenge organized by Hub LA member organization the Imagination Foundation.
The Imagination Foundation has been at Hub LA since the early days, and the scope of their work embodies so much of what we’re trying to foster within our community locally and globally. The nonprofit was inspired by the massive global response to Caine’s Arcade, a viral video that featured a young boy, Caine, who built an entire arcade using only cardboard and his imagination. Today, Imagination Foundation is committed to fostering creativity and entrepreneurship in kids all over the world.
If you didn’t catch the TED Radio Hour last weekend on NPR, it’s definitely worth a listen. The episode – “The Hackers” – shares the stories of TED speakers who are using science and technology to “hack” some of the world’s biggest problems (or as we call it, social innovation). Covering everything from “deextinction” and climate change to computer viruses, these stories of empowered individuals and teams who are using modern tools to improve the world.
Head over to NPR to listen to these fascinating stories of social innovation.
Since April, Hub LA has been partnering with Whole Foods Market. The partnership has developed out of a mutual appreciation for the role that food plays in building community. And when Whole Foods began bringing delicious meals to our weekly community lunches and monthly wine downs, we saw the effects immediately: more people showing up, livelier conversations, and a tighter community.
Last week, Whole Foods, Hub LA, and Team Friday used food to bring together another community: the diverse players in the Los Angeles food scene. We hosted a 40-person dinner, Fare Conversations for policy makers, activists, entrepreneurs, chefs, and other innovators working in the food sector. In between courses, presenters shared their unique perspectives on specific issues in the Los Angeles food landscape.
Hub LA was founded upon the theory that individual relationships are the catalyst of meaningful impact and real social change. Fare Conversations provided a microcosm of this practice. It’s our vision for this dinner to be the beginning of a conversation that pivots the food sector in Los Angeles, making space for a more equitable, local, and sustainable ecosystem.
From the formal presentations and the casual dinner conversations, it became clear that Fare Conversations is part of a larger groundswell of innovation in this sector in Los Angeles. This city is ripe with creative thinking on food-related issues, and Fare Conversations is just the beginning of a much larger dialogue. As Alexis Delwiche of the Los Angeles Food Policy Council wisely noted, food is really a vehicle through which we can discuss so many other pressing social and economic issues such as labor rights, race, class, and antitrust policies.
Hub LA Friday Food trucks have been a smashing success – we’ve had everything from waffle fries, hamburgers, reubens, and mac-n-cheese to Cuban sandwiches. Every Friday, from 12:30-2:30pm, we’re hosting food trucks in our lot off Traction Ave. in the Arts District. We know there are plenty of good food options around, but pencil these trucks in so you can plan your visit to Hub LA ahead!
July 11: Wafl Truck
Wafl Truck returns with sweet and savory waffles. Get one for lunch, another one for second lunch, and a third for dessert.
July 18: Green Truck
Recover from the Wafl Truck with the sustainable, local fare of the Green Truck.
July 25: Louk’s Greek Food
Opa! The July line-up finishes strong with classic Mediterranean food from Louk’s Greek Food Truck.
Meet Hub LA member Kristopher Fortin! He’s a journalist formerly at the Orange County Register, and he is a leader in the LA chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. Kris’s work epitomizes the Hub LA ethos: he is expanding access through technology and storytelling. I sent him some questions about why he does the work that he does, not only for NAHJ-LA but also as a storyteller dedicated to representing the Latino story, and he shared these (beautiful) responses.
Tell me about your organization and the work that you do for it?
The National Association of Hispanic Journalists, Los Angeles is dedicated to the professional development of Hispanics in the news media. As NAHJ’s Los Angeles chapter, we serve our local members by hosting mixers, connecting them to job opportunities and hosting workshops and events that help build their skills. We also work with student members by connecting them to internship opportunities and giving them access to our professional members to help them in ways that include mentorship or career advice.
I am the Vice President of Online media for the Los Angeles chapter. I have organized panels on transmedia photojournalism, and I have organized a conference on journalism focused on technology’s use in storytelling and connecting with Latino audiences.
What impact are you hoping to make?
As an organization, we want to see newsrooms diversify, and specifically with more Latinos at various positions in media. We want to foster our members growth as journalists and be a resource for professional development so they can become leaders in the quickly changing media landscape. We also want to prepare our student members for the job market before they leave their university and give them training and advice on how to succeed in the news industry.
My main goal with NAHJ-LA is to make the local chapter sustainable and provide valuable programming to our members. This is our second year performing as a chapter and we have held multiple mixers and hosted a daylong conference called #LATINcon for roughly 50 people at the YouTube Creative Space in Los Angeles. I hope as an organization we continue to have consistent mixers, workshops and events.
Also, the NAHJ network is like a family. I have known NAHJ members from across the country for years and they continue to be some of my closest friends. This bond between NAHJ members is what I hope our organization can continue to replicate in Los Angeles.
Chris Mendez is a Hub LA host on Tuesdays and Thursday evenings and hosts office hours every Saturday for Tech Startups. When he’s not at Hub LA, Chris works at KUSC, a classical radio station. He’s been instrumental in developing the app Geotunes, which allows users to listen to songs based on a city, landmark, or event as they explore an interactive map that places the songs in context. Geotunes was a finalist at for the 2014 SXSW Interactive Award. Chris just launched his new site, GuitarPick, which is another music platform for people to learn about the guitars used in their favorite songs and the artists who swore by them. I asked Chris about his new site and where his inspiration came from.
What is GuitarPick and how did you get the idea for it?
GuitarPick is the premier interactive guide for the online guitar community. The website tells the story of the world’s coolest guitars –and the musicians who made them legendary– through short stories, rich media, and a community-driven forum.
The GuitarPick team is made up of 3 music fans dedicated to creating a new kind of music experience we call “story-driven listening”. We believe that music education can really be enhanced through new media storytelling.
How has your time as an office hour host / Hub LA member informed your project?
This project took a year to research, build and launch and it would have never gone live had it not been for the support of certain Hub LA musician/members such as Matt [Stokke] (@mattstokke), Derek [Davis] (@derdav86), Charles [Zivko], Alice [Lin] (@meatspirit), Tim [Yang] (@TIMPOSSIBLE_) as well as the guidance and advisement of my tech office hour colleagues Paul [Olund] (@olundp) and Diego [Prats] (@mexitlan).
The hardest part of GuitarPick was finding the perfect writer, Tim Herscovitch (@TimHMusic), who could craft interesting, byte-sized stories for audiences online and a top-notch illustrator, Gustavo Perez Rangel (@dysrupter). It took months to find them both but it was worth the work. To top it all, the team has never met in person!
This is really a “Chris Mendez in a nutshell” project – tell me about how it merges all of your worlds.
GuitarPick allows me to combine a few of my favorite things. I love music, I respect good storytelling and I enjoy presenting those stories through new media. Best of all, I get to engage with the online guitar community whom I admire greatly. Talk about early adopters, the guitar community has not only been around since the early days of list-serves but in the 90′s, they invented a new system for sharing sheet music online called tablature.
What’s next for GuitarPick?
I’m currently brainstorming a new kind of interactive experience. It’s sort of like an IMDB for instruments found in songs. For example, every time I hear Dick Dale’s “Misirlou”, the opening track to Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, I’m reminded of the power of a tremolo picked Fender Stratocaster. You don’t need a music degree to hear that sound and say, “surf-rock”! As a precursor, I’m collecting data through a feature on GuitarPick.fm called “What’s that Sound?” All users need to do is pick a song and ask, “What’s that sound in this song?” From there, I’ll get started on rest.