“We really need civic-minded individuals working to make the world better,” declared agencyEA’s Executive Creative Director Rick Cosgrove.

He stood on Savage Smyth’s stage and introduced Client: Citizen, an event where participants competed to create a way to inspire and empower people to be active citizens. Something we need now more than ever, considering our country’s current divisive climate. The event was a collaboration between agencyEA, Savage Smyth, the Obama Foundation, CreativeMornings Chicago and Shutterstock.

As Cosgrove spoke, the five teams were already hard at work. They had less than three hours to brainstorm a pitch. Participants sat at round tables with materials strewn across their surface — scissors, tape, poster board and anything they’d thought to bring themselves, namely laptops. Near the stage, a large countdown clock ticked away.

Event attendees could also have signed up as spectators, preferring to observe the creative process at work. There were many of them, mingling and chatting as they watched and waited for final presentations and the declaration of the winner. Participants, themselves, represented many professions and companies — artists, designers, teachers, marketers.

“It’s not often that designers get to cross-pollinate with other designers and thinkers,” Cosgrove noted.

Then he began going from table to table with a microphone, interviewing teams. When one participant seemingly played coy about his team’s idea, Cosgrove joked, “you aren’t willing to give away what you’re working on?”

“We haven’t figured it out,” the person replied with a laugh.

Another team of just two participants — their team name: Tiny But Mighty — explained why they’d wanted to take part in this creative challenge.

“It was the idea of having creative people and making the world a better place.”

Leaving the teams to continue their work, Cosgrove headed for the spectators. What did it mean to them to be an active citizen?

“It’s having an awareness of what’s happening in your community and figuring out what’s important to you and taking action,” said one woman.

“It does take action to turn this into something real,” Cosgrove agreed.

Before long, it was time for presentations. Each group took to the stage for a maximum of five minutes to pitch their idea and answer any questions from the judges, Gabrielle Martinez from agencyEA and Savage Smyth, Ryan Mullins from Shutterstock and Ade Hogue from CreativeMornings Chicago.

Ideas ranged from a Chicago-based mentorship program facilitated by an app to a program spotlighting citizens who are doing good.

The winning group named their idea Citizens IRL (in real life). It was a good deed competition between cities across the country. Citizens would use an app to track good deeds they’d done — cleaning up an abandoned lot, for example — and in this way, contribute to their city’s progress. The key to the whole idea? Social influence.

“This will inspire action because you’re seeing people around you doing these things,” one of the team members explained.

The group won a private reception at Savage Smyth and golden tickets to CreativeMornings 2018 events. As the groups packed up, the energy in the venue remained high with people inspired by the creativity and noble cause.

As one spectator put it, “as creatives, I think we have a responsibility to use our talents.”