Each month, we bring you a Q&A with one of today’s most innovative leaders in urbanism, public engagement, and civic technology.
We’re kick-starting this series with Patrick Condon, Chair of the Urban Design program at the University of British Columbia (UBC). In his work, he has focused attention on how to make systemic change in the way cities are built and operated. He and his research partners have collaborated with the City of North Vancouver to produce the “100 Year Sustainability Vision,” a plan to make North Vancouver a zero carbon community.
Q: At CityLab 2015 in London, mayors and leaders were asked: What is the one big thing that cities need to focus on or change in the next five years? What would your response be?
A: In the next five years, I think we have to institute a reasonable plan for what our infrastructure is going to look like in 2050. It takes a long time to build that infrastructure and get the land-uses to conform to the new infrastructure, and I’m specifically thinking of transit.
Q: What are some of the lessons you learned while engaging the public?
A: If you give the proper setting to stakeholders and let them operate with some degree of authority, they’ll be quite intelligent and fair. Their desire to leave the world a better place is as strong as anyone else’s if you give them half a chance. What happens in most public processes is that decisions have largely been made by the time they have the public hearing, and therefore all that citizens can do is object.
We are all familiar with the many benefits of online public engagement over offline engagement, such as broader reach, significant cost savings, and environmental advantages (see our Digital Geosocial Carbon Free Citizen Engagement webinar). However, its potential for tackling language barriers is less frequently discussed.
Provide support for multiple languages
Online engagement makes it easier and more cost-effective to communicate with people who speak another primary language. Low levels of literacy or language ability can be a key factor that hinders civic participation. People who are not fluent may be hesitant to participate or speak in public during traditional consultations such as town hall meetings. This is especially salient in communities with significant immigrant populations whose perspectives may end up not being represented.
French Translation of PlaceSpeak’s Website
PlaceSpeak recently created the ability to translate the platform into multiple languages (starting with French
) meaning that you can engage with a larger number of people. This was a translation done by a native speaker to ensure maximum accuracy and not through Google Translate, which doesn’t always get it right. We now also have the ability to translate the platform into a number of different languages, depending on the type of consultation and target audience demographics.
However, language barriers are not only limited to people who speak a different language. Many industries have their own set of technical terms and jargon which can pose a challenge even to native speakers.
On November 4, we presented the results of our real-time Vancouver/Lower Mainland federal election poll at Open Data BC‘s #elxn42 roundup event. Over the course of two months, over 570 people participated in the poll, and left over 260 comments on hot-button issues such as the economy, the environment, housing, public safety, and more.
Here are some of the highlights:
In total, we polled 26 ridings across Vancouver and the Lower Mainland. Amongst the 12 ridings with the greatest number of poll respondents, we correctly predicted the outcome of 11 ridings. PlaceSpeak’s ability to collect verifiable information regarding voter intention across ridings proved to be an effective method for gauging public opinion at a hyper-local level.
The most amazing part? It cost us absolutely nothing, compared to traditional polling which can cost up to thousands of dollars.
The Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s global Disruptive Innovation Festival is a three-week online event that brings together entrepreneurs, designers, industry, makers, learners and doers to explore and respond to the changing economy.
As PlaceSpeak continues to revolutionize the way cities, governments and organisations engage and consult online our CEO, Colleen Hardwick has been invited to join a panel discussion entitled ‘Social Innovation in City Building’. Colleen will be joined by Andrew Petter, President of Simon Fraser University and Darryl Condon, a Partner at HCMA Architecture + Design.
From Greenpeace to the 100-mile diet, Vancouver has long been a source for disruptive social innovation. This is particularly true in the realm of city-building, where the city’s most enviable and enduring innovations are recognized, globally, as “Vancouverisms.”