At our fourth workshop in the NYC BigApps Ideation & Prototyping workshop series, we explored different practices for rapid brainstorming and ideation. We also celebrated an important milestone for New York City Open Data as part of the City’s inaugural Open Data Week.

Five years to the day after New York City’s Open Data Law was signed into law, we had the opportunity to partner with Mayor’s Office of Tech + Innovation, Mayor’s Office of Data Analytics, the NYC Department of Information Technology + Telecommunications, and the NYC Department of City Planning to announce the launch of and demo the new, user-friendly home page for the NYC Open Data portal. Open Data is an important milestone not only for New York City, but also for all of us as designers, developers, and entrepreneurs working on this year’s BigApps challenges. It is a tool that many of our teams will be able to use to discover neighborhood data and uncover insights through this Ideation & Prototyping process.

Moving to Ideation


During this workshop, we also began to refine our challenge questions to set ourselves up for ideation – or the process of brainstorming wild ideas. Allie Mahler and Scott Weiss, of Community x Design, led us through a series of activities that started with narrowing our research questions into “How Might We” statements. We learned how to generate “How Might We” statements out of all the research we’ve done to date, and once we’ve started to identify opportunity areas. “How Might We” statements, which can also be written as “How Can We” or “What If We”, should be generative enough that they allow us to immediately think of two to three ideas from the question. An example of a good question is: “How might we better connect and educate immigrant families in NYC with up-to-date information and advice?”


From there, Allie and Scott led us through a rapid ideation and brainstorming process, based on our big questions. First, we practiced sketching by rapidly drawing our neighbor’s face (without looking at them!) and then continuing with drawing app ideas in under 30 seconds.

Then we moved into brainstorming on our “How Might We” questions by coming up with five to six concepts in a short amount of time. The Tips for Brainstorming listed below helped us focus during that time. We heard some incredible concepts and ideas around everything from education tools for NYC youth to apps for making immigrants feel more welcome in NYC. Following the workshop, participants and their teams had the opportunity to continue brainstorming and receive feedback from our esteemed mentors from Big Brothers Big Sisters, Brooklyn Public Library, Bureau Blank, Intersection, Purpose, and other civic-minded organizations in NYC.

Tips for Brainstorming


We will continue to open source all of the materials from our workshops on this blog, so make sure to check back for new materials and tools.

Join us at the next workshop on Wednesday, March 22! Register here.