Ahmed Abukhater, Global Industry Manager for Community Development at Esri explains in Next American City magazine how to shift from “planning for people’ to “planning with people’ using new technologies and platforms.
According to Abukhater today’ s changing communications landscape’”especially the pervasive use of mobile devices and social media’”has created new realities and challenges and offered new opportunities to engage citizens in the planning process. Effectively engaging citizens requires the use of collaborative decision-making platforms for actionable intelligence. Planners must effectively exchange information with their entire communities outside traditional in-person community meetings and planning forums. This does not mean replacing the traditional civic engagement processes but rather complementing and reinforcing them with more sophisticated ones that offer resilience and ongoing involvement.
This emerging trend is referred to as Planning 2.0, which incorporates online geographic information system (GIS) mapping and web technologies to support collaborative planning and ongoing public participation. This enhances government transparency and accountability by creating a societal infrastructure for human interaction. Planning 2.0 helps us cast our net as far as possible to capture as much public feedback as needed and foster public involvement. This entails retooling our communities with effective means of communication that go way beyond the traditional civic engagement venues to a more open and capable dialog and transparent participation.
Planning 2.0 has three components, or levels, of implementation:
- Informing impacted and interested stakeholders, including the public, by disseminating information and maps using the GeoWeb as a common platform. Providing meaningful and relevant content about the planning problems and issues impacting the community is crucial not only in informing citizens and community groups but also in getting them interested and involved in the process. The GeoWeb efficiently exchanges community information, provides real-time insight, and reaches more of the public than could possibly attend a town hall meeting.
- Involving members of the public by getting their feedback and quickly registering their preferences regarding planning initiatives, from broad issues such as community visioning to specific project-based proposals and land-use changes. This is enabled by crowdsourcing, through which citizens act as sensors and a source of geographic information and intelligence.
- Empowering the public to make informed decisions about new and existing developments. By using the web, cloud computing, and open data-sharing policies as a platform to deliver geoservices, people are able to make decisions regarding what should and should not happen in their communities. This provides a collaborative platform that empowers both decision makers and everyday citizens.
Abukhater says that many communities today have realized the importance of integrating Web 2.0 technologies into planning processes. He provides two examples:
- Informing and involving the public: Montgomery County, Maryland, created an online Planning 2.0 tool to help track and enforce easements for forest conservation on private land.
- Empowering the public: An online application, Priority Places supports interactive planning in a way that both leverages the investment in GIS technology by the City of Asheville, North Carolina, and empowers citizens and entrepreneurs to make better decisions about where they live, work, and invest.