As we mentioned previously, PlaceSpeak was recently featured in an article in Plan Canada, a quarterly magazine published by the Canadian Institute of Planners. The article was written by PlaceSpeak associate Maureen Mendoaza.
Here is a short excerpt from the article, focusing on the need for evidence-based decison making and the role of civic technology.
The Need for Evidence-Based Decision Making
Arguably, one of the biggest challenges facing planners carrying out public consultation is gathering representative qualitative and quantitative data in order to guide policy and development through evidence-based decision-making. However, current engagement strategies often discourage certain voices and privilege others, leaving citizens excluded and apathetic to the dialogue and choices that affect much of their everyday lives. Indeed, the crisis in current public consultation practices and participation can undermine democratic and civic engagement and its lack of accountability more generally (Coleman and Gøtz 2001 (pdf); Gurstein 2007).
As planners continuously search for tools to create a more inclusive community engagement process, turning to the Internet and social media in recent years has created hopeful opportunities. In a time where traditional forms of public consultation—mailers, telephone polling, open houses—are unsatisfactory for citizens, planners and governments alike, the Internet is a frontier where planners and municipalities have presence, but also unprecedented potential for connecting with residents.
The Rise of Civic Technology
In June 2012, The Atlantic published an article citing “Civic Technology” as the wave of the future, calling on cities to produce “permanent industries” to connect their residents to their governments and local decision-makers (Badger 2012). Cities have experimented with novel ways of collaborative democracy such as civic lotteries and participatory budgeting, recognizing that the Internet innovations has helped to renew democratic efforts offline. However, connecting to people online specifically based on where they live still remains a challenge, particularly as many online consultation efforts have allowed citizens to remain anonymous.
Enter Vancouver-grown PlaceSpeak, founded by Colleen Hardwick and supported by the National Research Council. PlaceSpeak is a place-based online public consultation platform that connects citizen participants with proponents on issues taking place in their own neighbourhoods. Hardwick has first-hand knowledge of the problems with public consultation having sat on the City of Vancouver’s Development Permit Board. She developed PlaceSpeak after being inspired by the issues around transit development in her neighbourhood.
You can read the entire article on Scribd.Tags: Canadian Institute of Planners, Civic engagement, civic technology, Colleen Hardwick, Maureen Mendoza, PlaceSpeak, Plan Canada, public participation, Scribd
Click on the media player ‘Play’ button (▶) below to listen to our segment. You can also download the interview.
Bill Good Show, Civic engagement, Colleen Hardwick, Justen Harcourt, PlaceSpeak, Surrey, Urban Futures Survey 2012, Yuri Artibise
Civic Engagement for a New Generation
Their fathers helped shape Metro Vancouver as we know it today and our next three guests will likely have a hand in influencing the region for the future. Colleen, Yuri and Justen are involved in PlaceSpeak, a new start-up that provides a virtual consultation forum with the goal of improving civic engagement and the democratic process.
Will this method of civic engagement appeal more to a generation that does everything online? What kind of Metro Vancouver do we want to see in the future?
Does this trio feel the need to carry on the civic torch because they have such famous names in the planning circles?
- Colleen Hardwick, Founder and CEO, PlaceSpeak
- Yuri Artibise, Director of Community Engagement, PlaceSpeak
- Justen Harcourt, Planing Consultant, Colliers International; Secretary to PlaceSpeak’s Board of Directors.
A reminder to Vancouver area readers that three of our team members will be on the Bill Good Show this morning (Friday, November 2, 2012) at 9:30 on CKNW AM 980. Colleen Hardwick, Justen Harcourt and Yuri Artibise will be talking with Bill about the creation of PlaceSpeak and the next generation of civic engagement.
This appearance arose—in part—out of last weekend’s profile in the Vancouver Sun that looked that the influence that Justen, Colleen and Yuri’s fathers had on the development of Vancouver and how it influenced their involvement with PlaceSpeak as well as the Urban Futures Survey 2012.
At the end of the interview, there will be an opportunity for listeners to call in and share your answers to the question: “What kind of Vancouver do you want?” We look forward to hearing from you.
Tags: Bill Good CKNW, Civic engagement, Colleen Hardwick, Justen Harcourt, PlaceSpeak, Urban Futures Survey 2012, Vancouver Sun, Yuri Artibise
The PlaceSpeak team has come across an interesting report on youth and civic engagement that we thought was worth sharing. One of are hopes with the PlaceSpeak platform is to increase overall rates of public participation—including youth—in consultations, through the use of technology.
The report , entitled simply “Youth Civic Engagement,” was written by Marion Menard at the Library of Canada. Here are some key passages:
What Is Civic Engagement?
Generally speaking, civic engagement results when citizens acquire behaviours and attitudes that express their will to get involved in their society or community in a manner consistent with democratic principles. This can include involvement in community and volunteer organizations.
Civic engagement is broader than political engagement in that it can include service to the community through involvement in health, in education and in charitable organizations. Political engagement is a more targeted aspect of civic engagement and is expressed through voting, demonstrations, signing petitions and work with political organizations.
Child development researcher Aida Balsano defines youth civic engagement as “the set of youth behaviours and activities that benefit both youth and community organizations and institutions that serve civil society.” This definition is noteworthy for its emphasis on the benefits of civic engagement for both the individual and the community.
How Does Civic Engagement Develop?
The habit of community engagement generally forms between the ages of 15 and 20. It is the result of socialization, the process whereby individuals, throughout their lives, internalize the socio-cultural elements of their environment and in so doing adapt to the political and social context in which they live. Family and school have always been two of the most important socialization factors, but the significant role played by the media in today’s world must not be overlooked.
In a democracy, the presence of citizens who care about their society’s affairs–political, social, charitable, and so on–is a positive social factor. Civic engagement is in a sense the very expression of a society’s stability and of its looking to the future, that is to say its survival.
This is why it is important for a society’s younger citizens to develop a sense of civic engagement, which is not innate, but rather acquired. It is also why it is important to give young people the reasons and means to acquire the basic civic skills that will prepare them to become engaged citizens.
You can download a pdf of the entire report HERE
At PlaceSpeak, we are concerned about the disconnect between existing youth and the civic engagement infrastructure, whether it be voting, community meetings, public hearings, or any other traditional form of consultation. To engage young people, the consultation process needs to do a better job in seeking out the opinions of the future generation on areas of value and interest to them.
At the local government level, we especially believe that future planning efforts and the development of policies like Official Community Plans (OCPs) are a wonderful opportunity to invite youth to engage, but that to do so, we need to find new tools and techniques to effectively connect with them, including our own platform.
Tags: Civic engagement, Democracy, local government, PlaceSpeak, public participation, youth
Justen Harcourt, Yuri Artibise and Colleen Hardwick have famous names in urban planning circles.
Photograph by Ward Perrin , Vancouver Sun
METRO VANCOUVER — Their fathers helped shape Metro Vancouver as it is today, but Justen Harcourt, Yuri Artibise and Colleen Hardwick hope to have a hand in influencing the region of the future.
The trio are involved in PlaceSpeak, a new start-up that provides a virtual consultation forum — or, as Harcourt suggests, “civic engagement for the new generation.”
Through the click of a mouse, citizens can be connected online with local issues in their specific neighbourhoods.
“The bar is sitting pretty high to engage the public in planning,” Artibise said. “[With PlaceSpeak] you can learn a bit more in the privacy of your own home and voice your opinions without feeling intimidated.”
None of the three knew each other before the birth of PlaceSpeak, which arose out of a plan by Hardwick to replicate two regional surveys from 1973 and 1990 with an Urban Futures Opinion Survey 2012.
Hardwick maintains she was “indoctrinated at a young age” by her late father Walter, who had a hand in shaping the region and such iconic areas as False Creek, through his dinner table conversations and his work in civic and provincial politics.
As a youngster, she even helped him collate the results of that first survey in 1973. As a young adult, she studied urban planning.
She concedes she got sidetracked into a career in the film industry, but her passion for planning has since be reignited; her latest venture inspired as a “personal homage” to her father who died in 2005.
Harcourt, who shares his father’s passion for urban planning but not for politics, met Hardwick for coffee. “We became the first two investors,” he said. Hardwick is the CEO of the start-up, while Mike Harcourt is chairman.
“This is a real game changer,” said Harcourt, who prefers to take a entrepreneurial, private sector approach. “You just have to look at how far the idea has come in the past year and a half.
“We’re getting a lot of traction on this. People immediately understand when we say we’re trying to improve civic engagement and the democratic process.”
Artibise, director of community engagement for PlaceSpeak, argues it’s a much-needed platform for the new generation and also allows renters — and not just homeowners — a chance to have their say. It is appealing to residents aged 35 to 45, he said, when it’s hard to get people to public meetings or involved in consultation because they are busy with jobs and families. Plus, he said, three minutes behind a microphone at a public hearing isn’t really consultation.
“For me what was interesting was blending social media with urban planning.”
Unlike Harcourt and Hardwick, Artibise, didn’t have a lifelong interest in urban planning despite the fact his father Alan wielded considerable influence in the city’s planning circles as a former professor and director of University of B.C.’s school of planning.
Read the entire article HERETags: Civic engagement, Colleen Hardwick, community engagement, Justen Harcourt, PlaceSpeak, Urban and Regional Planning, Vancouver Sun, Yuri Artibise
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