The excitement continues to build in the Phoenix community over a new mobile and web platform that will help people sow positive change in the community. Since the June Knight News Challenge funding announcement, my development partner Cody Shotwell and I have fielded dozens of calls and emails from local people. They can’t wait to help us put together the project that will allow users to plant the seed of an idea for a community improvement project, allow others to add on or grow that idea toward maturity and, finally, join neighbors and local officials together to harvest the idea into a reality. Phoenix, our test city, desperately needs this.

But first we needed a name.

The project was originally called CitySeed. However, as has happened to many an entrepreneur before us, the domain was not ours to have.

So SeedSpeak was born. You can watch this video from the Knight Foundation to learn more about the project:

Knight News Challenge: CitySeed from Knight Foundation on Vimeo.

Here’s a concise explanation on our website:

SeedSpeak is an application with mobile, web and widget components that allows users to plant suggestions, ideas and thoughts (seeds) in Phoenix communities at the exact location where you get an idea or see an unmet need. SeedSpeak then empowers other community members to discover those seeds, add to them, and help execute those ideas.

User Feedback

Now that we had a name, and buoyed by that excitement, we spent most of the summer getting development bids, talking to lawyers and business types, and getting ready to move into full-scale ideation and development.

We selected the Phoenix-based interactive agency Gate6 to design, develop and build SeedSpeak. Gate6 has been named the best development company in Phoenix by the Phoenix Business Journal a number of times. In addition to working within our budget, the company has been a wonderful partner by getting started on the work even as we hammer out a contract.

In addition to making that critical choice, Cody and I kept busy with research. As huge believers in user-centered design, we spent a portion of the summer on that. Our design began with the simple question: What does our community want in a mobile, idea-sharing social network? In order to answer that question so we can push pixels and code with confidence, we conducted in-depth user interviews to understand the needs and goals of likely users, potential users, and any other stakeholders.

We interviewed avid social networkers, mobile mavens, city officials, leaders of community organizations, and news-gatherers. As new kinds of users emerge, we’ll talk to them, too. This research has already helped us make choices about SeedSpeak’s feature set, layout, and other crucial aspects of the project.

From that research, we were able to hammer out a prototype website design. We will continue to reach out to the community again and again until we’ve created an application that Phoenix can truly use.

In addition to our future Phoenix users, we’d love to get your feedback. Please share your thoughts with us as we share the development of SeedSpeak with you.