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Academic Customer Success New Features Public Consultation

Strategy Consulting Initiative – PlaceSpeak x SCI


From January to April 2024, PlaceSpeak undertook a project with the Strategy Consulting Initiative at the University of British Columbia. The team consisted of five students from the Sauder School of Business.  The subject of the project was: How to attract users and build engagement? on the PlaceSpeak citizen engagement platform. 

Founded in 2011, the UBC Strategy Consulting Initiative (SCI) is a student-run not-for-profit program that offers pro-bono consulting services to businesses and charities in Vancouver by staffing top graduate and undergraduate students. The Strategy Consulting Initiative is designed to provide an opportunity for both students at the University of British Columbia and businesses in Vancouver, Canada to work together and achieve their respective goals. 

PlaceSpeak is an innovative location-based public engagement platform developed with the support of the NRC-IRAP beginning in 2011 with Technology Validation. PlaceSpeak is the subject of its Founder’s PhD Thesis in Applied Innovation through the ISGP at UBCPlaceSpeak is a certified BCorp, or social purpose corporation, in recognition of its mission to authenticate the online citizen engagement process, and strengthen trust in government.

To understand the project one must first understand the innovative nature of PlaceSpeak.  PlaceSpeak is fundamentally a 2-sided platform that integrates: (1) public sector organizations, and; (2) citizen participants based on geographical location. This SCI project was focused on the citizen-side of the platform. 

The logic is: by increasing the number of citizen users, PlaceSpeak will become more attractive to potential client organizations and therefore be further differentiated from competitors in the business-to-government B2G market. The key is growing the user base, and to do that, PlaceSpeak needs to attract more users and make the platform habit-forming. 

This project focused on establishing the key elements of the Civic Network in order to attract and maintain citizen users.  To make PlaceSpeak an online destination it is necessary to address the user value proposition and make its approach habit-forming, as has been the case with social media and other digital technology. This included social media tactics.

Link to the final presentation: SCI PlaceSpeak.pptx

The project team also looked at the PlaceSpeak user interface and made recommendations around streamlining, simplifying and gamification.  Lessons from examining what was needed to attract new users was then applied practically to adapting the platform on the software engineering side.

“It was a genuine pleasure working with the SCI team on this project”, said PlaceSpeak Founder and CEO, Colleen Hardwick.  “It was a challenge to knit together technology development with behaviour marketing tactics, and this group did a terrific job of integrating the two.  This was very much an emergent process, and kudos to the team for their careful analysis and creative out-of-the box thinking”. 

Many thanks to Vaibhav Sohnvi, Luke Lee, Max Moore, Molan Liu and Sahaj  Khanna.


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