Millenials are interested in experiences, not material things. That's what consumer data tells us and so companies go to great lengths to advertise based on those values.
The same is true for people who live in cities. People want great amenities, they want transportation, they want great childcare and pre-K education all because it provides an experience.
However, when we think about how to accomplish this, and what sets of amenities are going to get us there, we need to use not just quantitative data but qualitative data as well. What are the stories, the experiences, the challenges and the victories of city life? What do people celebrate and what do they value?
To find the answers to these and other questions we need to explore alternative methods of soliciting information. For example, here are 5 ways to get unconventional data about city life:
1) Give kids a disposable camera for the day so they can take pictures of life from their point of view
2) Use a hashtag and let people record a 1 minute fb live describing what their city means to them, or what they do in the morning, what they do at night, etc. It helps to know how people are experiencing city life at all points in the day.
3) Hold a workshop where you provide pictures of amenities, of facial expressions, of different situations, and let participants craft what their city looks like now and what they want it to look like in the future.
4) Interrogate the good as much as the bad. Find out why things are working as much as why they aren't working. If there's a program that's great, start a discussion board about it and ask why.
5) Ask for documentation. Whether it's a city hall meeting, a neighborhood civic association or another type of meeting. What are people saying? In order to craft a better story you have to have a baseline. You can't draw a baseline if you don't know that the current narrative is, not just overall but within each aspect of city life that you want to explore (i.e. housing, criminal justice, education, environment, transportation, etc).
Be creative. The future of your city will depend on it.