Challenge:LA — The Shared Situations Submission to the Los Angeles Civic Technology Challenge

The Civic Innovation Lab of the City of Los Angeles recently held an open challenge, and I applied. Here’s how the lab described the challenge:

Challenge:LA is Los Angeles’ first civic technology challenge to leverage the collective ingenuity of its citizens to solve some of our most pressing problems.

In partnership with the Office of Mayor Eric Garcetti, we encourage designers, developers, artists, activists, students, data scientists, policy makers, academics, entrepreneurs, and citizens at large to submit a solution to one or more of the following challenge areas: transportation, community, water conservation.

Challenge winners will have the opportunity to present at the #techLA Conference on October 10, 2015 and participate in Accelerate:LA, a four-month city accelerator program in Los Angeles designed to encourage the sustainability of each solution and create real impact.

If you’re interested, here’s the official introduction to the three challenges (Transportation, Community, Water Conservation):

I applied to the Community challenge. Here’s how they framed it:


Possible areas of focus:
• Support the integration of new Angelenos into the community;
• Facilitate citizen engagement via local civic participation;
• Drive economic activity by helping entrepreneurs launch local small businesses.

Applying was an interesting and productive experience. Even if I don’t win, I developed some useful new ideas and approaches. And, it forced me to develop the new Shared Situations website sooner!

I thought you might find my application interesting. Below are some key parts.



Growing Community-Oriented Skills, Capabilities and Outcomes Through the Collaborative Mobile Shared Situation Guide, and the Shared Situations Website, Starter Sets, Workshops and Public Collaborations

Enter up to 15 words. One-sentence “elevator pitch.”

Groups come alive and thrive when people relate to the proximity of their shared situation.

Enter up to 100 words.

People are more likely to be active and effective in their communities when they can see and use the same processes that work with friends, associates and neighbors. The collaborative mobile Shared Situation Guide uses the scalable four processes of the ProxThink growth model. A group can improve a smaller-scale situation by relating more directly to the proximity of their shared situation, which the guide teaches and enables. The guide is extended and enhanced by the Shared Situations website, providing in-person and online workshops, as well as searchable and shareable guide starter sets and larger-scale public collaborations.

• Transportation
• Community (X)
• Water Conservation

• Idea
• Early prototype
• Full prototype
• Beta (X)
• Publicly available product or service

Enter up to 250 words.
Describe the target audience or community your project aims to serve. How does your solution impact their role or participation in the community?

The collaborative mobile Shared Situation Guide is for a group of people with a shared situation. It can scale from small groups to large. At larger scales, human limits are more likely to be reached than technological limits. At that point a “team of teams” approach might become appropriate, and the ProxThink growth model processes used in the guide scale for this as well.

Through the networked mobile collaboration taught and enabled by the Shared Situation Guide, the proximity becomes more of living thing that people who share a situation relate to and help keep alive. Through that, groups come alive and thrive.

When people see the same processes being effective at different scales, they become more likely and more able to become active in public collaborations. These public collaborations can be for situations shared by larger groups, such as neighborhoods, communities, cities and regions. The larger proximities of such shared situations are then more likely to become living things that people help keep alive.

People can learn to use the Shared Situation Guide on their own or through in-person and online workshops provided through the Shared Situations website. There they can also find, share and comment on guide starter sets for common situations, leveraging what others have learned and created for similar situations. More intimate experiences with the Shared Situation Guide can lead to larger community experiences and outcomes enabled by public collaborations people find and join via the Shared Situations website. The reverse may happen as well.

Enter up to 250 words.
Describe how your project either utilizes publicly available data or creates new open data to enable better decision-making or an improved process [creating more equitable mobility / incentivizing disengaged populations / facilitating water conservation] in Los Angeles.

There are several nice things related to data about the Shared Situation Guide. First, within the guide, it is easy to link to web pages that provide needed data. Second, since the option of spreadsheets is literally built into any guide text document, it is also easy to include data in a group’s customized guide documents. Third, the ProxMonitor process and section of the guide lends itself to data and reminds people of the important role data plays in relating to proximities and keeping proximities alive.

Depending on their shared situations, groups using the Shared Situation Guide for smaller scale collaboration or larger scale public collaboration may utilize publicly available data, create new open data, or both.

New open data may get created as part of the ProxMonitor process, when groups choose to share ProxMonitors with other people and groups. This might occur simply as information sharing. It also might occur when ProxMonitors relate to multiple proximities and people see that the ProxMonitors can benefit multiple proximities and situations simultaneously.

Enter up to 100 words.
Are there any datasets to which you would like access to aid in the development of your solution that are not currently publicly available?

This would depend on the specific public collaborations that people start and join on the Shared Situations website.

Enter up to 250 words.
How will your project improve the outcomes and/or experience of people living in Los Angeles as it pertains to [transportation / community / water conservation] in an evidence-based way? What types of decisions or processes does your project inform?

The Shared Situation Guide and the Shared Situations website can improve the outcomes and/or experiences of people living in Los Angeles in both general and specific ways. The general ways have been covered fairly well in previous sections. Specifically, the guide and website can have evidence-based impacts and inform specific decisions and processes. To better understand, I’d suggest that anyone evaluating this application spend some time with the guide and website. The website is at Although the guide is linked to from the website, the guide is also at

A visual asset I’m including is the Flow Graphic shown on the guide document called Using the Guide and Linked Documents. The Flow Graphic shows a looping sequence for using the growth model processes that are part of the Shared Situation Guide. By using these processes, people naturally create ongoing evidence-based monitoring and make decisions based on information related to their shared situation. It should be noted that ProxMonitors can be any combination of technological monitors and/or human monitors. Smaller scale examples of such evidence-based monitoring and relevant decision-making can be seen in two ProxThink guide starter sets found on the Shared Situations website, one for organizing a picnic and one for a shared kitchen. A larger scale example would be using the ProxThink growth model for the California drought, which could become a collaboration joined via the Shared Situations site (see this link:

Enter up to 250 words.
Describe how your solution creates value for its end-users and could scale in a sustainable fashion?

I’ve covered how this project creates value and scales. Here I’ll look at sustainability and scaling, both in terms of technology and the concepts.

Technology: The Shared Situation Guide is a set of linked Quip documents with explanations for using them. Here’s how Quip is described: “Quip changes the way teams work together. Quip combines documents, spreadsheets, checklists, and chat in a simple interface that makes collaboration easy. With Quip, you work with people, not files. Thousands of companies from a wide range of industries have adopted Quip to make communication and collaboration more efficient.” The guide could be adapted to other major platforms. However, Quip is the most functional, elegant and multi-platform (iOS, Android, Windows, Mac). Since Quip is built for large corporations, and I’m not locked into Quip, the technology scales and is sustainable. A similar argument could be made for WordPress, where the Shared Situations website is hosted.

Concepts: With the ProxThink framework I created the sustainable proximities approach. From that evolved the idea of sustainable variety. I think variety in life is critical to health, happiness, and vibrant communities, and that variety and sustainability reinforce each other and enhance each other. The Shared Situation Guide and Shared Situations website are real-world implementations of the sustainable proximities approach, and I think have a solid chance of increasing sustainable variety. Also, a focus on keeping a proximity alive is inherently more oriented towards sustainability than focusing on single elements, such as individual people, businesses or organizations.

You may upload visual pitch materials (e.g., image, infographic, visualization) that helps illustrate your project. Please do not upload a copy of a Keynote or Powerpoint presentation or Word document that repeats your answers above. [Please note that we only accept the following file formats: JPEG, GIF, PNG, PDF, MOV; max 1 MB]

ProxThink Growth Model Flow Graphic



Proximity Thinking about the California Drought

How can proximity thinking be used to think about, and relate to, the current California drought?

The mind map below should be pretty self-explanatory. Click the image to open it full-size. Once open, you can zoom it even larger.

Since search engines can’t index the text in an image, I’m including the text from the graphic below. However, I’d recommend only looking at the graphic, as it will make a lot more sense. Also, WordPress is adding some blank lines in the outline below, and I can’t fix it. So please imagine there are no blank lines!

• A proximity thinking example, including a few basic definitions. To learn more, visit
• Situation – A “situation” is whatever you are dealing with or considering.
• Element – Loosely, an “element” can be anything. Any person, place, thing, idea, feeling, time, group, relationship, situation, proximity, etc.
• Proximity – The “proximity” consists of elements related or potentially related to a situation, in physical, mental and other ways.

    California Drought

    Elements in
    the proximity of this

    • Need for water
    • A challenge shared by
      everyone in the region.

      • Consequences of failing to
        reduce water use.
    • How much water are
      we saving?
    • Incentives to save water.
      • Save money.
      • Avoid penalties.
      • To help yourself as
        well as others.
      • What other kinds of
        rewards might there be?
    • What are ideas for saving water,
      and how do we share them?
    • Lack of enough rain
      for many years.
    • Water sources and
      related resources.
    • People, organizations, equipment
      and infrastructure in the region.
    • To what extent are our
      efforts coordinated?

      • How could this be improved?
    • Weather and forecasts.
    • Related technology,
      tools and processes.
    • How can proximity thinking be used for this situation?
      • The ProxThink Growth Model, for people who share a proximity, has four main parts:
        • Vadi Agreements
          • Vadi Agreements
            acknowledge valuable
            differences and provide
            ways to sustain them.
          • Enough water to meet
            or exceed needs is a
            valuable difference.
          • This water vadi helps
            support many things, like
            survival, sustainability,
            stability, health, happiness
            and vibrant communities.
          • Vadi Agreements can be
            explicit (legal, contractual),
            or informal, as well as the
            general agreement that
            we’re in this together.
          • Agreements can also include
            goals for water savings, which
            ProxMonitors can help track.
        • ProxMonitors
          • A way to monitor and track
            water savings and other
            related information at different
            levels (personal,
            organizational, local, regional).
          • Proximity monitors increase
            proximity awareness, which can
            help many kinds of relationships.
          • Can be both technological
            monitors and people
            reporting current conditions.
        • Proxri
          • Sharing an idea for saving
            water is also a proxri.
          • Proxri are rewards which relate elements
            in the proximity. So such rewards are
            often made with the proximity in mind.

            • Water you save is a proxri
              to yourself and others in
              the proximity.
          • Proxri can be money, or result in
            money, but the idea is much broader
            than money, and acknowledges the
            need for a wide variety of rewards.
          • Water savings may or may not
            result in money but these proxri can
            benefit multiple levels (personal,
            organizational, local, regional).
          • People may see proxri
            made by others, or needed
            proxri, at RelatePoints.
        • RelatePoints
          • Ideas for saving water can be
            shared via RelatePoints.
          • A primary place for coordinating
            relationships in this proximity.
          • A place to connect and access
            ProxMonitors, Vadi
            Agreements, Proxri (made and
            needed), and other related info.
          • Could be a website
            and/or a mobile app.
        • Are there other benefits to the ProxThink Growth Model approach?
          • We may develop new ways of
            managing shared challenges.
          • Since it enables people to see and relate to proximities in a wider
            variety of ways, it can lead to more variety in our lives, one of the
            keys to health, happiness, sustainability and vibrant communities.
          • It may help us realize how
            many proximties we share.

• Questions? Contact us via
• Created by David Loughry.
• As you find this rewarding, please proxri with the proximity in mind via