Planning Innovations in the Virtual Community

What will our City look like in 10 years?

Urban Planning influences the design of places and related policies of local governments. It is inherently a community-driven process.

Community planners understand that the best plan for a community is not one written solely by the professional, but a plan crafted over time by the community itself. To do so, planners must provide as many opportunities and methods for public input as possible, so that each individual in a local area can contribute and feel invested in the plan that will help guide the future of their community. One of the greatest challenges of this public health crisis is finding alternative means to adhere to physical distancing while remaining socially connected and continuing to solicit community feedback for projects. Did you know S&ME has already utilized some innovative digital efforts to engage communities throughout our Planning + Design projects? By embracing recent innovations in digital technologies, we can continue to foster communication initiatives through remote engagement methods (REMs) now and into the future. S&ME employee-owner, Nick Hill, discusses examples of REMs applicable to the Planning + Design community during this time in a white paper published by American Planning Association, Florida Chapter (APA FL).

Five sample Remote Engagement Methods from the white paper include:

planning virtual community
  • Start a branded #hashtag campaign to hear your community’s perspective on local issues, generate community pride, and provide important project information.
  • Make the noon lunch hour a regularly-designated time for staff to answer questions, discuss issues, and develop a rapport with the community.
  • Encourage the sharing of the social media posts to spread community awareness about local projects.
planning virtual community
  • Let the community design their ideal streets in StreetMix.
  • Test your citizen’s knowledge on local services, events, and processes with an online quiz. Hosting an online, interactive quiz can be excellent tool for governments seeking to communicate important information with constituents.
  • Challenge your citizens to identify community values, select potential policies that will advance those values, and establish an implementation budget with MetroQuest.
planning virtual community
  • Develop targeted online surveys to hear community perspectives on specific subjects and projects. Ex: Using the online survey platform Feedier.
  • Allow your constituency to crowdsource and support their own responses to survey questions with All Our Ideas. In contrast to traditional online surveys that force respondents to select from a list of predetermined responses,
  • Empower citizens to provide local perspectives without the use of the internet with Interactive Text.
planning virtual community
  • Reach those uncomfortable with modern technology by hosting a Telephone Town Hall (TTH).
  • Host interactive public meetings using Google Hangouts Meet, WebinarJam, or Zoom.
  • Create an accessible, yet visually-striking project website with pre-designed templates using Weebly.
  • Allow the public to collaborate and exchange ideas using the conversation sparking
  • Target input and feedback on geographically-specific areas of your community with CoUrbanize.