So far 40 organizations have signed up to have booths at Politifest 2011 and the preparations are being set for the mayoral debate, beer garden, kids activities and more. If you’d like to sign up for a booth, hurry as the spaces are almost gone.

But it’s no secret I’m most excited about the Idea Tournament. So far 25 people have signed up and I’m getting a ton of questions, so here are the rules.

  • The Basics
    If you are a resident of the San Diego region, and you have an idea that could help make this a better place to live, work or play, sign up. You’ll present your idea to a table of judges. If you move on to Round 2, you’ll get to elaborate on the idea.Then, if you move on to the final round, you’ll get to present your idea on stage in front of the entire crowd and they will vote on a winner. I’ll publish a column about the winner’s idea and we can work on an edition of San Diego Explained with NBC 7 San Diego explaining the problem you’re solving and your idea.
  • The Criteria
    • Potential Impact: Does the idea impact the region positively. How far and wide would that impact be felt?
    • Brazenness and Innovativeness: How creative is the idea? How uniquely and beneficially disruptive is it to the status quo?
    • Feasibility: Can it be done? How much would it take and is it realistic?
  • How It’ll Go
    This is the first time we’ve done anything like this so it might not be without hiccups. But here’s the plan:We’re expecting many contestants so they will each have 90 seconds to describe the problem and their proposed solution. The goal should be to entice the judges to hear more. If by chance we get too many participants, we reserve the right to run an elimination round online the week before.

    Based on the ratings of the judges in the first round, eight contestants will move on the second round where they get three minutes to elaborate on why their idea is feasible and uniquely impactful. And judges can ask questions.

    Out of that round, four finalists will be named. They will go to the main stage, site of the mayoral debate and music, and they’ll present their ideas to the entire crowd. The crowd will have a way to vote on the winner.

  • ExampleMarco Li Mandri, the head of the Little Italy Association and pioneer in the concept of local business associations, offered me an idea recently that I’ll use here to illustrate how it might work.

    The problem he described was access to the beach. It’s going to be very hard in coming decades for low-income kids to make it to the beach from neighborhoods far away. Traffic will be worse and at this rate, public transit will be have deteriorated even more.

    He suggested we put up parking meters in beach communities and use the revenue to fund construction of a rail system to them. This would make it easier for both tourists and young people from all over San Diego to access the areas we’re so proud of.

    It’s a simple statement of the problem and outline of the solution and it shouldn’t take much more than a minute to introduce the idea to the judges. The next round, if it were to advance, would be to discuss its feasibility.

    (To be sure, this specific idea is now reserved for Li Mandri if he enters the tournament. Though you can go ahead and tweak it or something, I guess.)

  • The Judges:Michael Robertson is the founder/CEO of several San Diego technology companies including, Linspire, MP3tunes, Gizmo5 and most recently — the Tivo for radio service. He has raised tens of millions of dollars for his ventures and sold them for nearly half a billion dollars combined to companies such as Universal Music and Google.

    Cheryl Alethia Phelps is a native San Diegan with more than 20 years experience in nonprofit, legislative and philanthropic environments. She is the principal of CAP LLC, a consulting practice that specializes in achieving social change through strategic insight, project design and development, community building, advocacy and events. Among her favorite quotations is this by Shirley Chisholm: “You don’t make progress by standing on the sidelines, whimpering and complaining. You make progress by implementing ideas.”

    Geoff Patnoe is the director of strategy and intergovernmental affairs at the County of San Diego. He’s worked for politicians at the local, state and federal levels of government, run the San Diego County Taxpayers Association and worked in the private sector advising businesses and non-profits on government and community relations.

That’s the story for now. Sign up and prepare your ideas.

You can contact me directly at or 619.325.0527 and follow me on Twitter (it’s a blast!):

Scott Lewis oversees Voice of San Diego’s operations, website and daily functions as Editor in Chief. He also writes about local politics, where he frequently...

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