Coventry City Council and IBM successfully demonstrate new approach to public engagement

Coventry organises world's first city-wide Jam as hundreds join its journey towards becoming a Smarter City

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LONDON, UK - 27 Jul 2010:

Coventry City Council in collaboration with IBM (IBM:NYSE) took the plunge for a world first, through a city-wide jam and it will be using this success to think through the early stages of a comprehensive strategy review. This aims to transform Coventry over the next 20 years, making essential services more efficient and maximising the benefit to residents, businesses and visitors.

In what has the potential to become a blueprint for cities around the world, Coventry City Council started strategy planning by holding the world's first city-wide online conversation with nearly 900 local residents, businesses and public bodies. The three day 24 hour interactive forum was named CovJam and generated over 2,000 posts from participants contributing their ideas and opinions. Participants debated ways Coventry could attract inward investment, sustain employment in the local area, personal security and how quality of life could be improved for all the city’s inhabitants.

 Martin Reeves, Chief Executive of Coventry City Council said, "The IBM Jam brought out practical ideas. People know that we can't change overnight, that we need to take practical steps to being a smarter city with low-cost projects. I was really impressed with some straightforward ideas that people would like us to implement over the next few years."

 Cities around the world now face unprecedented growth and challenges to their economic and social development, especially in the UK where 80% of the population live in urban areas. Coventry has always been a pioneering city of aspiration and with a population of just over 300,000 people is the ninth largest city in England. The long term strategy aims to cement Coventry's place as one of the UK's smartest cities and directly impact the quality of life for people living and working in Coventry for future generations.

 The CovJam

 An online Jam is an alternative method for citizen engagement which compliments the 24-hour nature and varied lifestyles of a City's increasingly tech-savvy residents. IBM’s online collaborative Jam technology enabled the conversation which was facilitated by staff from the council, local community groups and IBM subject-matter experts, who monitored and encouraged the discussions.

Participants (or ‘Jammers’) talked passionately about ways to improve Coventry, emphasising a real desire for change. Debate was particularly polarised around Coventry’s ring road, the variety of shops and the need for green spaces for leisure and entertainment. Jammers had the opportunity to discuss what is needed to overcome challenges and how to realise their ideas.

 Their enthusiasm and the quality and depth of the discussions are demonstrated by some of the key statistics from the event:

 "Jam technology is a proven technique for drawing on the wisdom of crowds, and capturing their enthusiasm and ideas in a way that wouldn’t be possible through traditional forms of consultation,” said Fraser Davidson, IBM UK Vice President for Local Government.  “We’re working to help cities not only realise their sustainability ambitions but also to enable them to improve the lives of people in UK cities.”

 To attract imaginative, simple, low-cost ideas to improve life in the City, Coventry Council held a competition so participants could contribute ideas that would directly impact local development. As a result, a selection of the best ideas will be fed into future planning initiatives, while the winning idea– to guide tourists from the railway station to the city centre – is already being put into action.

 Realising the vision

 IBM's sophisticated analytical tools will continue to dive into the resulting data and unearth valuable insight and intelligence that will inform the next stage of Coventry’s Sustainable Community Strategy. This will also help to further understanding of what's really important to the people of Coventry and inspire the journey to becoming a Smarter City. A steering group will be established in order to drive through some of the "quick wins" that can be achieved from ideas discussed within CovJam and groups of people who took part in the Jam will be asked if they want to continue being involved in future consultations.

 “The CovJam represents the start of a new open and honest dialogue between the City Council and its residents,” commented Martin Reeves. “We’re willing to take risks and be innovative in order to build closer, more dynamic relationships with all our stakeholders. The Jam technology’s inclusive nature has really impressed us. It has empowered residents to become active citizens by giving them a means to voice their opinion, and has enabled the Council to be more active listeners. Ultimately we can work together to find the best solutions to Coventry’s challenges”.

Notes to Editors

Additional information:


To watch a short one minute video on CovJam, click here:

To watch the four minute video on CovJam, click here:

To see photos of CovJam, click here:


For more information on Coventry City Council:

For more information on IBM's Smarter Cities initiative:

For more information about IBM:

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