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Keeping the public in public process
May 13, 2010 10:24 AM   Subscribe

Planners, Social Media Experts, and Community Activists: Have you encountered any really great uses of the internet for keeping a community informed and engaged in a public planning process?

I'm looking for innovative, interesting, and effective uses of technology to keep a public informed and engaged in a long-term public planning process. It could be a website, an online forum, Twitter, Facebook, whatever else it out there - anything to help keep a constituency informed and give them an opportunity to provide feedback and stay engaged. I'm specifically interested in Long Range Development Plans for universities but examples pertaining to any large, complex, multi-year urban planning process would be useful.
posted by otherwordlyglow to Computers & Internet (5 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
There's a Facebook page for the extension of the MBTA's green line in Boston to Medford with 1,000 local fans:

A slightly smaller (600 people) Facebook page (& twitter account: with much more interaction is - for the planning and development of an open-to-the-public startup networking & coworking space in Cambridge.
posted by ElfWord at 2:08 PM on May 13, 2010

Elfword: It looks like that MBTA page is run by local residents. I guess I'm specifically looking for sites developed by agencies, institutions, governments to conduct outreach to their public. The Venture Cafe stuff is closer, I think.

I'm also currently exploring a service offered by an urban design firm called Wikiplanning that seems to have been used in a way that fits my needs.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 2:20 PM on May 13, 2010

This is not an answer to your question, but there is a useful review of Planning Support Systems for Cities and Regions in a book by Richard Brail. Most of these tools are not web-based, but range from desktop style software that can be used in public meetings to black-box simulations. They include INDEX (by Criterion planners), WhatIf?, CommunityViz and others.

The intro is written by Michael Batty of CASA, and they have some very interesting maps of London illustrating planning related aspects. He refers to interactive environments in Second Life being used to display information.

Sort of related, there was a great post on grassroots mapping recently. You might find some interesting ideas in MIT's Center for Future Civic Media.

I'm not sure of your background, hence the brief summary
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 6:47 PM on May 13, 2010

I'm a practicing planner but not all that up on innovative participatory planning tools. Tools to be used in actual public meetings aren't what I"m after, I'm just looking for ways to keep our community involved and informed during a long-term planning process.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 9:29 PM on May 13, 2010

Hmm at a recent state APA conference I read about one city using adobe's online live meeting type software to garner feedback on a master plan...

more recent tools i've heard about: iphone apps!.

Tools that integrate with websites that people actually know how to use already area also helpful; google map mashups, using sketchup / google earth to show possible visions...
posted by stratastar at 10:59 PM on May 14, 2010

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