FailFaire CNY

I think Central New York needs one of these maybe more than it needs Forty Below, Biz Buzz or other such gatherings!


FAILFaire features projects using mobiles and ICTs in international development that have, to put it simply, been a #FAIL. Busted, kaputt. Tongue firmly in cheek, we take a close look at what didn’t work and why the projects failed amidst the ICT4D hype we all are subjected to (and sometimes contributors to). We believe that only if we understand what DOESN’T WORK in this field and stop pushing our failures under the rug, can we collectively learn and get better, more effective, and have greater impact as we go forward.

See more at this NYT article about the most recent FailFest.

Instead of technology failures, FailFaire CNY could be an honest, open hashing-out of failed local initiatives and redevelopment schemes. (I suppose in order to avoid hurt feelings, there would have to be a moratorium on discussing any projects that failed less than ten years ago.) Syracuse B4 could be our keynote speaker!

Seriously, I’m not just trying to be snarky. Why should these discussions just be kept on the blogs?

7 thoughts on “FailFaire CNY

  1. Jim Russell

    Any and every brain drain plug initiative trotted out over the last decade would qualify. Yet, I see a new one every year for CNY (as well as other parts of the country).

  2. syracuse b-4

    Sure! But the question is: when is an initiative or redevelopment plan officially declared a failure? It seems many of these plans just exist in limbo for years, so when any slight progress is made, success is declared! For example, an early ’70s proposal for an Onondaga Creekwalk was declared a “famous failure” in 1987 (see article here:, but here we are in 2010 celebrating its “near” completion. Congratulations for the work done, but is 40 years worth of planning and construction for a 2.2-mile pedestrian and bike path success or failure?

    And, of course, the idea that apparently will never fail: skybridges.

  3. Robinia

    As ever, I am interested in the economic development part of this. I think you can easily judge success or failure of economic development schemes by counting jobs. Of course, economic developers do their level best to avoid doing that in any consistent, accountable way. But, we have finally managed to get some good details on the Empire Zone programs– now officially declared a FAIL by the legislature.

    Was just this morning working with somebody here in Ithaca, saying that they can’t just keep referencing “high tech jobs” without pointing to something local by way of example. The person drew a bit of a blank….

  4. Ellen

    “is 40 years worth of planning and construction for a 2.2-mile pedestrian and bike path success or failure?”

    That’s nine and a half inches a day. Can you imagine what it would have been if we hadn’t TRIED??

  5. Josh S

    I think a quote I found at SyracuseThenAndNow summed it up best…

    Basically that past generations (and now this reconstituted version) of City of Syracuse decisionmakers have been phenomenally successful at successfully executing absolutely terrible decisions.

    I mean, the history feels like one less of failure, than one of immense success at doing some really dumb and myopic things.

  6. Ellen

    I think point 2 in that list of To-Do’s is important. No snark by people who never actually attempted anything major in CNY (so obviously, I wouldn’t be presenting!) – excepting the keynote perhaps, which will be informatively delivered by Syracuse B4. But yeah, if you can find a handful of people who tried hard at something and failed, and if they have had enough time to analyze it and want to share their insights, I think it could work around here. (Although actually, I’m sure if we all thought hard enough, we could come up with our own individual little civic-minded failures to discuss.)

    I wonder if there is a resistance to something like this in most communities, because people might be afraid that by honestly discussing failures, it would be painful and also a little terrifying because you’d have to try something really new next time. Or even scarier… maybe to admit that your stated goal is not really in line any more with your current values.

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