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Engagement Best Practices

Why Location-Based Engagement is Crucial For All Sectors


In most consultations, decision-makers need to hear from real, relevant people who will actually be impacted by the outcomes of the project. Traditional online surveys, polls, or social media simply cannot provide that level of assurance. There is no way to tell whether consultation participants are people in the affected area. IP address are only accurate to a very general level, and with the rise of bots and other fraudulent methods of participation, it’s becoming hard to tell whether participants are even people at all.

PlaceSpeak’s innovative geo-verification technology confirms the physical address of a user before they can participate in a consultation, bringing additional confidence to the citizen engagement process. This means the data you gather can be confidently used to make decisions.

In this blog post, learn how different industries and sectors can leverage PlaceSpeak’s unique location-based technology to gather real, relevant and defensible feedback for any project.

Community Planning

Official community plans (OCPs) and other long-range planning encompass broad issues such as housing, commercial spaces, transportation, public facilities and more. At the same time, they must consider expected population growth and formulate solutions to accommodate this growth. Long-range community planning takes into account the priorities of residents and other key stakeholders while also anticipating and mitigating future concerns. To ensure that the decisions made reflect the needs of the community, local government must ensure that they are hearing from residents and other relevant stakeholders (e.g. people who work in the area).

Case Study: The City of Chilliwack specifically wanted to hear from residents about the most important issues that they faced as the community grew. With five major goals in mind (Manage Growth Responsibly, Strengthen Agriculture, Grow Economy, Protect the Environment, Build Healthy Communities), the City hosted an online survey and discussion board to gather feedback from residents. In conjunction with several in-person sessions, the results helped shape Chilliwack’s 2040 Official Community Plan which will guide its growth and development in the next three decades.


From building new infrastructure to expanding transportation options, these projects can be controversial, costly, and involve a wide range of stakeholders. Transit authorities which serve multiple jurisdictions can leverage location-based feedback to better understand support or opposition for new projects. The ability to geo-locate participants and spatially segment feedback by municipality/region also allows for more nuanced decision-making that takes into account the different transportation/infrastructure needs of each area.

Case study: In 2015, the Government of Yukon was seeking public input on improvements to the 40 km Whitehorse Corridor section of the Alaska Highway. With a growing population in Whitehorse, the highway improvements were necessary to address concerns about safety and congestion, while adhering to current engineering standards. The consulting firm, CH2M Hill, selected PlaceSpeak for its ability to determine where feedback was coming from. “Given that we are dealing with a 40 km corridor which is used by residents, tourists and for goods movement, it is particularly important for us to understand where feedback originates,” said Peta Wolmarans, the project lead.

School Districts

Many contentious issues facing school districts are location-based, such as changing school boundaries, closing schools, or school policy changes. It is especially important to ensure that feedback is collected from students, parents, and families who will be impacted by these changes. By verifying the location of participants, school districts can be confident that feedback is coming from those residing within the affected catchment area. This allows school districts to make legitimate and defensible decisions which reflect the priorities and concerns of families in the area.

Case study: A new secondary school was under construction in the Clayton area of the City of Surrey to address overcrowding at three schools in the area. The Surrey School District sought parent and student feedback to establish catchment boundaries for the new school. To ensure that the feedback was representative of people who would be affected by the new secondary school, the District specifically sought feedback from parents and families who live in the area. By verifying the location of participants as they signed up, they were able to limit participation to only people living within those geographical boundaries.

Parks and Recreation

From community centres to sports facilities to beaches, Parks and Recreation facilities serve a broad range of users and provide significant economic impact at the local or regional level. In many cases, these facilities are widely used by the community, but are also key tourist destinations or attractions. Parks and Recreation professionals face unique challenges in engaging with residents, visitors, and key stakeholders. Location-based feedback helps differentiate between input from residents and visitors, and develop solutions that accurately reflect community priorities while ensuring that the facilities continue to meet the needs of visitors and other stakeholders.

Case study: The City of Calgary selected various sites for future skatepark amenities and sought public input in the selection process. A total of ten priority sites were selected for consideration and the City engaged citizens to understand public opinion regarding the shortlisted facilities. Using PlaceSpeak’s geo-verification capabilities, survey results were broken down by municipal quadrant and a respondent’s distance to a proposed skatepark was considered.

Resource Development

Pipelines, mining, and other resource development projects draw widespread attention from activists and interest/lobby groups, all of whom have a stake in influencing the outcome. Given the controversial nature of these projects, legitimate and defensible engagement processes are essential for demonstrating and gaining social licence. This includes the ability to prove, without a doubt, that feedback was collected from real people who will be directly impacted by the proposed project.

Case study: The City of Fort St. John sought community input in defining their city’s objectives and interests regarding the proposed Site C dam project in order to ensure that they reflected the needs and desires of the community as a whole. It was especially important for the City to hear specifically from residents given the controversial nature of the project, which had drawn attention from diverse groups across the country. As a direct result of the engagement conducted with residents, BC Hydro was able to reach a Community Measures Agreement with the City of Fort St. John.

From the above examples, you can see how location-based engagement plays a key role in all kinds of different consultations. Collecting feedback from real, relevant people to support defensible decision-making is crucial for all types of departments and sectors, not only those which are legally required to do so. Instead, creating legitimacy through authentication is a must for any organization that engages with the public.

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To get started with your online public consultation, visit placespeak.com.

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