Monday, April 25, 2011

Monetizing Excess Capacity

I'm out in the Bay area this week for Jawaya meetings--it's nice to get a different view of the world. I love the plane ride out for productive brainstorming time, and once out here, well it's just great to see tons of great organic restaurants, community gardens, mass transit, and of course good friends.

The Bay offers a lot of potential for plaigerism. Steal what you can. Many of the ideas that seem so novel to us in Lancaster have been in practice for decades around here.

So steal them. These ideas are free, and just take a commitment from Lancaster to embrace them.

Fortunately our city of late has become relatively progressive, especially around green infrastructure, which said a different way, is cheaper, safer, cleaner, and better for us and our downstream neighbors. Danene & Fritz at Live Lancaster have really brought the city along through guidance and grants, and plain persistence.

The city administration has done more than go along for the ride; Gray, Hopkins and the team there have clearly embraced these positive long-term changes.

Hoepfully SDOL will embrace change as well--it's being forced to. We build LEEDs-certified building by requirement.

But with budget cuts, there's a new kind of solution available: Free. The power of We.

What can we do for Free? What's valuable that's not worth paying for? Well, money is in short supply, but capacity is not.

Here's an example. I booked my room using AirBnB.com. The site gives home-owners a way to monetize their excess housing capacity. In other words, you can turn your house into an informal Bed and Breakfast, get paid for it, and meet  new people in the process. People are given recommendations by their Facebook friends, so there's some security in doing so.

LooseCubes.com gives me my traveling office space--I'm headed to one of the spaces today. For businesses, Theaters, and nonprofits with core services (wifi, printers, HVAC) and empty desks, it gives a way to monetize excess office space.

We need a LooseCubes for School Districts--a simple but efficient way to book excess capacity. We have computers, classrooms, auditoriums with stages, lights, and sound. Gyms, libraries, desks. Tons of land, including farmland behind Wheatland.

We have fiber to the Internet. When it comes down to it, we have everything it takes to create a startup incubator right on the top floor of Carter McRae admin offices. Or at McCaskey. Or at the Scheffey building.

The hurdles? Bureaucracy. Embracing an idea and executing on it is harder in public education, and harder when it also involves a cultural shift. But I know the district is open to all things.

You identify the opportunity, list the obstacles, and go one by one and knock them down. That's the entrepreneurial process, and frankly, the district has been very entrepreneurial in recent years and does just that when there's a commitment to do it.

It's time for districts across the state to get creative around funding and revenue. The public has invested in what is now excess capacity.

We won't fund all of public education by monetizing excess capacity, but it will help the community get the most out of its investment, and help the district fund things that really matter, like Pre-k, Kindergarten, Libraries, and professional development for teachers.

No comments:

Post a Comment