Ten years after devastation, ‘Flood of Ideas’ to mark Cedar Rapids recovery

In 2008, David Tominsky was working in downtown Cedar Rapids, just blocks away from the Cedar River. That June, monumental river levels stopped everyone in their tracks.

“The building that I worked out of – the basement was completely filled, and the water came up ten or eleven feet onto that first floor,” Tominsky, now the accelerator managing director at NewBoCo, said.

The Cedar River crested 31.12 feet and displaced about 10,000 residents in Cedar Rapids alone.

Ten years later, residents and businesses are asking what can be done differently.

“There was genuine interest in doing something around the 10 year anniversary of the flood,” Tominsky said.

Enter the New Bohemian Innovation Collaborative – NewBoCo, as it’s known, a nonprofit formed  in the aftermath of community tragedy. This year NewBoCo is taking registrations for the first Flood of Ideas weekend from June 8-10: an event using the model of business incubators to brainstorm, test and expand on ideas inspired by disaster prevention and recovery.

Registration is open to anyone who is interested, and participants don’t need to bring a team or an idea to the table on day one, Tominsky said.

For participants who do pitch ideas, the wider group will hear each pitch and vote on up to 20 ideas to work on. Teams will then form around ideas that individuals are interested in, he said.

“People will show up on the first day of the event, and we’ll build community around it,” Tominsky said. “You can show up even if you don’t have an idea to pitch … If you just came to participate and to listen, you could then determine what team and what idea you want to work on for the next few days with the new group of people.”

The idea, he said, is to encourage a lot of ideas to come out, and refine the ideas that could lead to strategy or solutions in an incubator or accelerator style.

“Everybody has an active role in being part of the solution,” Tominsky said. “This is what your skill set is and what your interest is in, and this is how you can help be an active participant in solving some of the problems that we have.”

Local emergency response organizations have shown interest in partnering with NewBoCo for Flood of Ideas, and Tominsky encouraged other businesses or organizations interested to email him at david@newbo.co.

Tominsky himself is particularly interested in flood prevention measures that may come out of the weekend, but said the discussion is not limited flood recovery, Cedar Rapids residents, or even Iowa.

“I would love nothing more if the participation comes from very diverse backgrounds, regardless of skill set or geography. The more diverse the better,” Tominsky said. “I think if somebody shows up from an area that may be impacted by hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, flooding or even beyond natural disasters – just looking at different problems that need to be solved, and evaluating some of the similarities … some of those things definitely have a crossover.”

“Regardless of what people do, their genuine interest in finding a role – there’s an opportunity for literally anybody that wants to be engaged,” he added.

Participants can register for the Flood of Ideas online.