GOOD Ideas for Cities: Developing Local Support for Portland's Public Schools

85% of people in central Portland have no children of school age. A hackathon uncovered ways to help connect those residents to their local school.

When a team from Wieden + Kennedy confronted its challenge to engage the community in public schools for GOOD Ideas for Cities Portland, a surprising statistic came to the forefront: 85% of people in central Portland have no children of school age. With so few residents with a natural link to education, Portland’s public schools are struggling to develop community support.

"Our research with schools and supporting organizations showed that a few simple things—books, food, clothing and people's time—could make a big difference to students," says Nick Barham, global director of Wieden + Kennedy Tomorrow. While some programs are in place to support Portland's schools, Barham recognized that developing tools to support these programs as well as others was essential to engendering growth in the education community.

The original solution presented by Wieden + Kennedy at GOOD Ideas for Cities Portland

In conjunction with GOOD, Barham set up a hackathon, inviting programmers and developers to brainstorm creative solutions for Portland's schools. Eight teams were given ten hours to create a prototype that met the goal of improving community involvement with local schools. "Mayor Sam Adams kicked off the day at 10:00 a.m.," reports Barham. "We had a great turnout—a good mix of representatives from the city and the school system, people from some of the key organizations supporting schools, and a healthy dose of developers." The hackathon also saw a boost in support from local tech companies; participants included Mozilla, The Brigade, and the Software Association of Oregon.

A concept for My Portland Schools, a Facebook app to connect Portland residents to their neighborhood schools

Steven Skoczen, also of Wieden + Kennedy, led one team that presented My Portland Schools, a Facebook app that encourages involvement through online publication. Once logged in, users identify themselves with a local elementary, middle and high school. Schools would be encouraged to become social, creating Facebook book events that would populate users’ newsfeeds, notifying them of an upcoming football game or book drive. The app encourages a dynamic conversation between the schools and residents, keeping local education relevant, even to those without school-aged children. Yet Skoczen realizes there are still a few hurdles, despite having the concept and code already formulated. "I think the biggest next step is hearing from Portland Public Schools that they're onboard with the idea, and figuring out a roadmap to actually make it happen," says Skoczen, "and figuring out who will keep the events list updated."

A concept for a Kickstarter-like portal called Give Get Go that would residents support field trips or other projects happening in schools

Another group, headed by Ezekiel Howard of The Brigade, developed a Kickstarter-like scholastic portal. Within the site, individual teachers and their schools can post projects that need funding; a field trip to see livestock at a nearby farm or a new swing set for the playground could be acquired through the donations of local residents. Such a crowdfunding tool could become indispensable for schools that have been hit hard by statewide budgetary cuts. But it's also about the storytelling factor, says Howard—it's a way of sharing what's happening inside school walls in a way that will inspire citizens to go to a school play or volunteer to paint a building. "It's like paying taxes," says Chris Jones, another member of the team. "If people would see what's happening in schools much more directly, they'd be more likely to support them."

Portland Mayor Sam Adams (right) participated in the hackathon

By the end of the day, the hackathon got at the heart of that issue: public educational systems are suffering from a major online identity crisis. School websites are often difficult to navigate and updated irregularly, while teachers shy away from overseeing blogs or other online outlets. Sam Leach, a Portland teacher who manages his own classroom blog, observes that it's pivotal that teachers maintain a professional online presence. "Engaging families means going where the conversations are already happening. Right now it's social media: Facebook, Twitter, and blogs," says Leach. "That's where families are checking in. They may not be checking into the classroom to see how their kids are doing every week, but they check their Facebook page several times a day."

"I was completely blown away by the hackathon," says Leach. "As teachers, we work in the silo of schools which is mainly made up of school faculty and parents. What was so exciting about the hackathon was here was the Portland community showing up saying we want to help."

Want to help with this idea? Contact Nick Barham at nick.barham[at]wk[dot]com

GOOD Ideas for Cities pairs creative problem-solvers with real urban challenges proposed by civic leaders. Check out the videos from our other events and stay tuned for details about future GOOD Ideas for Cities announcements. If you'd like to talk about bringing the program to your city or school, email alissa[at]goodinc[dot]com or follow us at @IdeasforCities

via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

On April 20, 1889 at the Braunau am Inn, in Upper Austria Salzburger located at Vorstadt 15, Alois and Klara Hitler brought a son into the world. They named him Adolph.

Little did they know he would grow up to be one of the greatest forces of evil the world has ever known.

The Hitlers moved out of the Braunau am Inn when Adolph was three, but the three-story butter-colored building still stands. It has been the subject of controversy for seven decades.

via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

The building was a meeting place for Nazi loyalists in the 1930s and '40s. After World War II, the building has become an informal pilgrimage site for neo-Nazis and veterans to glorify the murderous dictator.

The building was a thorn in the side to local government and residents to say the least.

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For years it was owned by Gerlinde Pommer, a descendant of the original owners. The Austrian government made numerous attempts to purchase it from her, but to no avail. The building has served many purposes, a school, a library, and a makeshift museum.

In 1989, a stone from the building was inscribed with:

"For Peace, Freedom

and Democracy.

Never Again Fascism.

Millions of Dead Remind [us]."

via Jo Oh / Wikimedia Commons

For three decades it was home to an organization that offered support and integration assistance for disabled people. But in 2011, the organization vacated the property because Pommer refused to bring it up to code.

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In 2017, the fight between the government and Pommer ended with it seizing the property. Authorities said it would get a "thorough architectural remodeling is necessary to permanently prevent the recognition and the symbolism of the building."

Now, the government intends to turn it into a police station which will surely deter any neo-Nazis from hanging around the building.

Austria has strict anti-Nazi laws that aim to prohibit any potential Nazi revival. The laws state that anyone who denies, belittles, condones or tries to justify the Nazi genocide or other Nazi crimes against humanity shall be punished with imprisonment for one year up to ten years.

In Austria the anti-Nazi laws are so strict one can go to prison for making the Nazi hand salute or saying "Heil Hitler."

"The future use of the house by the police should send an unmistakable signal that the role of this building as a memorial to the Nazis has been permanently revoked," Austria's IInterior Minister, Wolfgang Peschorn said in a statement.

The house is set to be redesigned following an international architectural competition.

Center for American Progress Action Fund

Tonight's Democratic debate is a must-watch for followers of the 2020 election. And it's a nice distraction from the impeachment inquiry currently enveloping all of the political oxygen in America right now.

For most people, the main draw will be newly anointed frontrunner Pete Buttigieg, who has surprisingly surged to first place in Iowa and suddenly competing in New Hampshire. Will the other Democrats attack him? How will Elizabeth Warren react now that she's no longer sitting alone atop the primary field? After all, part of Buttigieg's rise has been his criticisms of Warren and her refusal to get into budgetary specifics over how she'd pay for her healthcare plan.

The good news is that Joe Biden apparently counts time travel amongst his other resume-building experience.

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via Mike Mozart / Flickr

Chick-fil-A is the third-largest fast food chain in America, behind McDonald's and Starbucks, raking in over $10 billion a year.

But for years, the company has faced boycotts for supporting anti-LGBT charities, including the Salvation Army, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and the Paul Anderson Youth Home.

The Salvation Army faced criticism after a leader in the organization implied that gay people "deserve to die" and the company also came under fire after refusing to offer same-sex couples health insurance. But the organization swears it's evolving on such issues.

via Thomas Hawk / Flickr

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes explicitly announced it was anti gay marriage in a recent "Statement of Faith."

God instituted marriage between one man and one woman as the foundation of the family and the basic structure of human society. For this reason, we believe that marriage is exclusively the union of one man and one woman.

The Paul Anderson Youth Home teaches boys that homosexuality is wrong and that same-sex marriage is "rage against Jesus Christ and His values."

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In 2012, Chick-fil-A's CEO, Dan Cathy, made anti same-sex marriage comments on a radio broadcast:

I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, "We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage". I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.

But the chicken giant has now decided to change it's says its charitable donation strategy because it's bad for business...Not because being homophobic is wrong.

The company recently lost several bids to provide concessions in U.S. airports. A pop-up shop in England was told it would not be renewed after eight days following LGBTQ protests.

Chick-fil-A also has plans to expand to Boston, Massachusetts where its mayor, Thomas Menino, pledged to ban the restaurant from the city.

via Wikimedia Commons

"There's no question we know that, as we go into new markets, we need to be clear about who we are," Chick-fil-A President and Chief Operating Officer Tim Tassopoulos told Bisnow. "There are lots of articles and newscasts about Chick-fil-A, and we thought we needed to be clear about our message."

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Instead, the Chick-fil-A Foundation plans to give $9 million to organizations that support education and fight homelessness. Which is commendable regardless of the company's troubled past.

"If Chick-Fil-A is serious about their pledge to stop holding hands with divisive anti-LGBTQ activists, then further transparency is needed regarding their deep ties to organizations like Focus on the Family, which exist purely to harm LGBTQ people and families," Drew Anderson, GLAAD's director of campaigns and rapid response, said in a statement.

Chick-fil-A's decision to back down from contributing to anti-LGBT charities shows the power that people have to fight back against companies by hitting them where it really hurts — the pocket book.

The question remains: If you previously avoided Chick-fil-A because it supported anti-LGBT organizations, is it now OK to eat there? Especially when Popeye's chicken sandwich is so good people will kill for it?

via Gage Skidmore / Flickr and nrkbeta / flickr

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) dropped a bombshell on Tuesday, announcing it had over 900 emails that White House aide Stephen Miller sent to former Breitbart writer and editor Katie McHugh.

According to the SPLC, in the emails, Miller aggressively "promoted white nationalist literature, pushed racist immigration stories and obsessed over the loss of Confederate symbols after Dylann Roof's murderous rampage."

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