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PIBC: Planning & PlaceSpeak


This article, by PlaceSpeak associate, Maureen Mendoza appeared in the Fall 2012 edition of Planning West, the Planning Institute of British Columbia’s quarterly news magazine sent to 1,400 practicing professional planners, planning students, associate members and subscribers.

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Planning & PlaceSpeak Excerpts:

PlaceSpeak was developed to connect people to consultation topics based on their location. PlaceSpeak verifies a user’s online identity with their addresses of residence, work, and recreation so they can voice their opinions on local issues. This geo-verification is key, differentiating the platform from other online engagement tools. Given the increasing need for qualitative and quantitative data in the decisionmaking process, PlaceSpeak provides proponents with the confidence that they are receiving feedback from the right places and that users are non-anonymous as they are authenticated to participate.


For planners who do stakeholder engagement as part of their work but face challenges in getting feedback, bringing the conversation online presents the potential of connecting with citizens who have lost trust in the decision-making process, or who may never participate otherwise. Part of PlaceSpeak’s strategy is to develop the “gamification” aspect of a user-friendly platform, using non-monetary rewards and an enticing interface to encourage participation.


Jerry Behl, a Transportation Engineer for the City of New Westminster and key contact for the consultations was impressed with the outreach and was “surprised by the sheer number of people who logged on and took a look; we covered a lot of bases this way. We gave the people the option of turning up at an open house in the afternoon, in the evening, or coming on to PlaceSpeak.”


Online engagement requires the continuous imagination of what is possible in an age when technology is constantly being developed and changing. As planners look for new ideas for engagement, PlaceSpeak stands out for its
innovative approach.

How big is the potential? Ken Cameron puts it this way: “PlaceSpeak can be to spatial networking what Facebook is to social networking.”


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