We held a webinar about online public engagement and had a lot of interesting questions from our audience. What is digital public engagement, how does GIS come into the picture, and how can 3D models be used?
The list of questions was so good (and also long) we decided to compile a blog post about it. So here it comes! Prepare some snacks and keep on reading .🍿
Ps. If you couldn't attend the webinar, you can watch the recording on demand (prepare some snacks, too!)
Maptionnaire and Other Digital Public Engagement Tools
Q: Who can use Maptionnaire? What does the Maptionnaire community look like?
A: Maptionnaire is a service for cities, (urban) planners, consultants and researchers interested in online engagement. Our community is global including countries like Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, USA, and many others.
Q: How would you compare Maptionnaire to other (e.g. Agency9's) software?
A: We define Maptionnaire as a community engagement service. Our core expertise is in using maps in various ways and thinking how we can foster place-based public participation.
Q: Do I need programming skills to be able to use Maptionnaire?
A: No, you don’t. It’s very easy and straightforward to use.
Q: When will the new version of Maptionnaire be available?
A: It’s already available. Please get in touch with us if you’d like to know more.
Q: Aren't these Public Engagement tools language dependent?
Considering the trends in urban population growth, is there an approach that accounts for non-verbal communication?
A: We are currently working in a R&D project where we look for new ways of doing language independent engagement. There are ways of creating surveys based more on visual cues, adding explanation videos in the surveys, and using plain language.
Q: Can you give examples of digital tools you could use in the participation process / project?
Here are some examples. It’s important to try and think about what problem you’re trying to solve and choose a digital tool that works for you.
Getting started with Public Engagement Software
Q: What is PPGIS?
Public participation GIS (PPGIS), participatory GIS (PGIS), volunteer geographic information (VGI), crowdsourcing, e-participation, participatory e-planning, and planning support system (PSS) are all examples for describing digitally supported communication and collaboration. You can read more from this blog post “PPGIS in a Nutshell”.
Q: What is gamified planning / engagement?
A: Gamified planning means that you add elements familiar from games to the engagement process. This can be done offline and online. (Only imagination is the limit here. 😊 )
Q: What is participatory budgeting?
A: In general, participatory budgeting is a process where people share their ideas and then vote for those they find the most interesting / important, i.e. how they think the budget could and should be used for actually implementing these ideas.
Participatory budgeting can vary from large scale projects for the whole city to smaller, more detailed projects (e.g. the development of a park).
Here are our resources on participatory budgeting:
- Participatory Budgeting: What it is and how it works
- 5 Participatory Budgeting Examples and Their Successful Outcomes
- A recording of the webinar about participatory budgeting
- Participatory Budgeting 101: The City of Lahti Shows How It is Done
Q: What resources are needed in order to commit to using online tools in the engagement process?
A: Obviously, starting to use new tools takes a bit of time and commitment. There is indeed a learning curve, but it’s surely worth it.
We believe that using online tools efficiently is more sustainable and efficient in the short term and especially in the long run. Here is our guide that will help you evaluate your resource and make a choice of an online community engagement platform that fits your needs.
Q: During the webinar, you mentioned legislation regarding urban planning and engagement. What were you referring to?
Currently many countries are renewing legislation that guides land use and urban planning. These processes are national and in different phases, but it’s clear that many countries are now in a situation where they need to create guidelines on e.g. how to do planning digitally and how to take care of public participation with online methods.
Q: How safe are digital participation tools in the age of fake news and internet trolls?
A: We haven’t seen a true data manipulation effort during the years we’ve been running these projects. Sometimes it happens that a certain group is interested in a project and gets their members to answer a survey, but this is easily recognizable by the open ended answers. In Maptionnaire, there is the possibility of requiring registration from the community members, and it’s also possible to create individual links to a sample of citizens to be personally invited to participate.
Q: How do you ensure when using a digital survey in the engagement process that it doesn't only reach the digitally literate?
A: You need to be mindful when you’re marketing your survey that you think of ways it reaches a varied group of people. You might reach younger people through e.g. social media but at the same time, for reaching out to the elderly, you might have to think of alternative ways.
The City of Denver has been very successful in their efforts of including different groups to participate in their surveys. You can read more about it from their customer story. Also, you should also keep your eyes on the data during collection if you happen to notice any anomalies there (and make changes accordingly).
Maptionnaire for Urban Planning and other Projects
Q: How long did it take to analyse the data from the Helsinki Walkability project?
A: As long as the analysis is descriptive , i.e. where we just show what kind of data was collected and where, visualise the maps and graphs, and give examples of the typical open ended responses, the process is pretty straightforward. The time the analysis takes varies by the extent of the geography, how much data was collected, and how detailed do we want the analysis to be. It took us around four days for the analysis and report of the Helsinki Walkability case.
Q: What are examples for 3D collaborations?
- You have a 3D model and the questions on the side.
- The respondent can place the answers on top of the 3D model (you get XYZ coordinates).
- You create a guided path for the respondent “within” the model adding e.g. places where to stop and answer additional questions.
Read a case study where 3D modelling was used in digital community engagement.
Q: Are there examples of using Maptionnaire in Design Sprints?
Yes, Maptionnaire has been used in Design Sprint projects. For instance, our friends at NordicWorks ran a Design Spring project quite efficiently with Maptionnaire. In the “early phase engagement” people brainstorm and use Maptionnaire to give ideas on top of the map.
There are many ways how this can be done creatively by using map-layers. The second stage is gathering the ideas and turning them into readable reports and sharing them with the community in order to get feedback on the draft concepts. After that, you gather the feedback on the “final” plan so that the end result suits as many people as possible.
Q: Do you also have examples of using Maptionnaire outside urban areas?
A: Maptionnaire can be used in doing research in both urban and rural areas. Again, only the imagination is the limit here. Maptionnaire has been used e.g. to map damages to crop in the UK and to find out where fish meet to mate.
Running Digital Public Engagement Campaigns
Q: Would you recommend setting up an info point at a public library?
or in other public spaces where those who need help with digital participation can come and seek assistance?
This has been done often, and it works well. You could also stop by, when the circumstances allow it, at retirement homes or other places where your target groups spend time or visit. For instance, the City of Denver and City of Lahti has been very successful in these kinds of efforts.
Q: How easy is it to spread these questionnaires in specific neighborhoods?
A: The means are there. You only need some dedication and imagination to be successful. You can consider local agencies, housing boards, QR codes on park benches, targeted email or “regular” mailing lists, local events, engaging community leaders in the process…
Q: How are you able to combine digital and face-to-face communication in public engagement?
A: There are several ways to do that. Read about 5 Ways to Enrich Community Engagement Workshops with Digital Participation Tools.
In case you couldn't attend our webinar, you can watch the recording on demand.