White House grant expands Citizen Interaction Design (CID) partnership

Photo (left to right): William Deary, Owner of Great Lakes Caring; Derek Dobies, Vice Mayor of Jackson; Catherine Gase, Lead Economic Development Specialist of US Small Business Administration; Scott TenBrink, Program Manager, U-M Citizen Interaction Design; Griffin Working, Field Representative for Senator Gary Peters.

This fall, the City of Jackson will look to UMSI students to develop solutions for bolstering the growth of small businesses.

The Citizen Interaction Design (CID) project, which partners UMSI and the City of Jackson to develop new information tools for fostering citizen engagement, will be expanding the scope of its partnership this week as a result of new funding.

The $50,000 grant, awarded by the White House and the U.S. Small Business Administration to the City of Jackson, will fund the creation of a centralized, online platform to streamline local business startups. The program, called Business Connect, will accelerate entrepreneurs’ access to and understanding of fees, permits and licenses related to starting a business in Jackson.

Reserved for those enrolled in SI538, the project will connect students with the City of Jackson, the Jackson Area Chamber of Commerce and local businesses to research, design and develop information tools and services for the Business Connect platform.

“This is a great example of the real-world aspect of Citizen Interaction Design,” said CID Project Manager Scott TenBrink. “The award is a great resource for participating students because these funds can be used to follow through and implement student design recommendations.”

The program will commence at the start of fall semester, with the final implementation expected to be completed within 12 months.

“This is another instance of the benefits that have come from the CID partnership between the School of Information and the City of Jackson,” TenBrink said. “It builds on previous successes such as establishing the first Open Data ordinance in Michigan and being selected as a finalist for the Michigan Municipal League's Community Excellence Award.”

The grant was one of 25 awarded to cities nationwide through the Startup In A Day Competition, an initiative to develop solutions that allow entrepreneurs to discover and apply – in less than a day – for local, state and federal requirements needed to start a business.

"Cutting red tape and undue obstacles to small business creation can encourage entrepreneurs to consider Jackson as a place to do business," said Vice Mayor Derek Dobies, who spearheaded the project for the city, in a recent press conference. "We need small business owners to grow our economy and increase our competitiveness, and we hope that our Business Connect platform will help get entrepreneurs up and running."

Posted August 12, 2015