Curious Catalyst is a new consultancy that employs agile and lean methodologies typically associated with disruption in ICT to drive transformation and innovation in urban planning. Composed of a senior corps of emerging platform strategists, Curious Catalyst engages subject matter expertise as well as citizen stakeholders to develop breakthrough MVPs. We use a license model to incentivize project pioneers to open the core of the solutions we develop to other mega-cities. For example, when we design a business model for addressing food deserts in Los Angeles, the plug-and-play core “Experience Blueprint” will be released to other cities for a nominal license fee; this positions the pioneers as leaders in a given area of urban challenge but benefits the broader global community while providing upside to the initial stakeholder. And we provide consulting services for localization and contextual adjustment.
This disruptive business model was developed by founder, Kaz Brecher, as part of an accelerator project at THNK, the new Amsterdam School for Creative Leadership. The members of the Curious Catalyst team have collectively worked on strategy and implementation of solutions for everyone from the Library of Congress to Microsoft, and Disney to Oprah. We’ve done hundreds of agile sprints in emerging platforms, and our expertise is easily applied to the complexities of urban challenges facing Los Angeles.
The company has garnered support from some of the top architects and urban developers in the world, as we’re building our Advisory Board. And as passionate believers in user-centered design, we are committed to genuine collaboration with all constituencies when developing approaches to these solutions.
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1 Submitted Idea
- 2013 Grants Challenge
Imagine what would happen if a large supermarket chain deployed a small fleet of re-imagined food trucks into the neighborhoods lacking access to fresh, healthy meals - neighborhoods where dialysis centers are popping up faster than the fast food joints that surround them...
Food deserts are the perfect storm of many social, political, and economic factors, not just access. Many families simply can’t afford more nutritious foods, whether from traditional supermarkets or farmers markets, which have become more upscale than democratizing; single-parent or so-called latch-key homes often lack time to prepare truly healthy meals; and years of compounded challenges have meant that many residents of food deserts no longer know how to cook fresh, tasty meals from scratch.
Food trucks in Los Angeles have been the province of the upper-middle classes – serving up specialty foods to those who can track their locations on Twitter via smartphones and word-of-mouth. But if we reframe the basic notion of food trucks, we have the potential to reach populations in need and can deliver much more than just mobile grocers, which are cropping up in places like Boston, Chicago, and Seattle. The massive scale of Los Angeles, prototypical of a mega-city defined by its sprawl, calls for a more versatile solution to address the complex dynamics underlying the health crisis spreading in food deserts.
Enter Curious Catalyst. We’re a unique consultancy – more Swiss Army knife than agency - using agile and lean methodologies, credited for revolutionizing change in technology, to explore and rapidly iterate within urban solution spaces. We believe that the old methods of top-down urban planning are worse than outdated – they’re irresponsible. Our cities are changing so fast that we must use new approaches to experiment, refine, and address real-time, relevant solutions for our communities.
Picture an established supermarket chain, in need of new revenue streams but unwilling to take a chance in less economically-developed neighborhoods. Now, consider the movers and shakers in that community who dream of opening restaurants, sharing recipes, and feeding their families back to top health. Finally, how might we work with the existing Mom and Pop corner stores, who can’t afford to lose business to new markets, even ones that offer healthy alternatives. Until now, no one has considered how to come up with a win-win-win situation. But Curious Catalyst specializes in finding new middle ground, which benefits all stakeholders.
The CC Food Desert Food Truck pilot will explore how to leverage the distribution chain of an established supermarket brand, to offer prices that truly compete with fast food meals for the first time. In addition to fresh fruits and vegetables, the CC Food Desert Food Trucks will provide a selection of prepared foods to help introduce new flavors and recipes, for families who may not have time to cook. We’ll explore highlighting local LA chefs from different communities who promote simple, delicious, straightforward healthy eating. And, in order not to drive out neighborhood businesses, we will test partnering with existing bodegas and corner stores to set up regular schedules in an effort to drive more business. In the long run, we can even imagine using the trucks to truly catalyze change, letting the supermarket use the existing bodegas as mini-marts while the trucks move on to a new section of the neighborhood!
Given that lack of access to basic nutrition impacts the ability to maintain engagement in education, long-term health forecasts, and stable employment potential, enabling regular access to fresh foods and education around eating habits can rebuild a foundation of wellness in food deserts. A modest investment in offering true food security has major impact later on the cost of medical services provided by the city, as well as the opportunities then available to the residents of lower income neighborhoods. And this kind of health intervention is not only good for us but also a way to fuel social connectedness – food trucks are fun!