Evidence-Based Decision Making and the Rise of Civic Technology
As we mentioned previously, PlaceSpeak was 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 decision-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.