The City of Tallinn continuously invites its residents to participate in the development of the city, be it choosing modern art installations or planning a new green space in the city.
Here are three examples of civic engagement projects done with an online community engagement platform Maptionnaire. When digitized, their engagement projects became more inclusive and the planning is more efficient.
The possibility of communicating and asking for feedback using maps was especially efficient for community engagement in urban planning. It helps planners to visualize the project within its context, explain it better to the public, and receive precise geolocated feedback. Overall, online community engagement proved to be of value to Tallinn and its residents, and the city is on its way to adopting this solution in other departments.
Example 1: Sustainable Public Art as an Example of Civic Engagement
The buzz and greenery of the Pollinator Highway stretch through six districts of Tallinn. And while this green corridor became an inviting place for pollinators and other insects, the linear park lacked a component for attracting locals. That’s when public art came into the picture.
19 public art proposals were included in Place Buzz competition for finding a spot at the Pollinator Highway. All these different art installations were to be made in the spirit of environmental and community sensitivity. Two pieces were chosen, quite traditionally, by the jury. But the third art installation was to be decided by the online public vote made with Maptionnaire.
Tallinn didn’t have a precedent for civic participation in Public Art before. Kati Ots, Curator of Public Art at the City of Tallinn and the leader of this project, confessed that she was unsure about the whole initiative. It was unclear if enough residents will get involved and if they’d like the proposals at all. Or if locals and officials would be perplexed why such a decision is made by non-professionals.
But none of these concerns came true, and residents were enthusiastic about this participation opportunity. More than 1000 people took part in this voting! The survey was run in three languages (Estonian, English, and Russian) to cater to the major linguistic groups and was distributed through local communities and along the Pollinator Highway.
The winner of the public voting — an installation 'Interspecies Crossing' — is already in place! Although the community engagement project is over, its results continue to attract locals and encourage them to think differently about mobility and green spaces.
Example 2: Informative Citizen Participation for Welcoming New Green Areas
The Pollinator Highway project showcases another type of engagement — informative participation. The key goal of this activity is to introduce the public to the planning concept and the upcoming changes to the local environment.
The concept for the Merimesta area of the Pollinator Highway was showcased with the Maptionnaire platform. It was a suitable choice as you can nicely structure maps, prototypes, pictures, and documents as a coherent story.
This page explained the value of various natural areas within Merimesta and helped residents understand why some zones are developed in a certain way, while others remain untouched. Residents also got to learn about the path network plan and what recreational facilities will be in place.
Planners also made sure that Tallinn residents get to know about this project and would review it! The link was shared not only via administration and local websites but also in the streets. Residents stumble upon posters inviting them to evaluate the ideas for developing the area they’re enjoying right now.
This type of engagement increases awareness about local infrastructure and environmental issues and secures better eventual project buy-in. Locals could easily share thoughts and ask questions after reviewing the proposal — there was a feedback section on the last page. And residents’ considerations will further inform planners in the later stages.
Example 3: Community Engagement in Green Mobility Infrastructure Planning: Klindi Park Project
It’s equally beneficial to engage residents in the early stages of urban planning, as was the case with the Klindi Park project. This linear park stretches for nine kilometers through Tallinn, and residents were invited to share their thoughts about the future of this area before the final plan was to be drafted.
The civil engagement process had two goals: to find out how locals perceive the space at the moment and to understand what residents would want to see in the park. For that, residents were invited to answer a map-based survey (that was available in three most spoken languages) and take part in in-person events.
Tallinn’s Strategic Management Office used Maptionnaire for designing this engagement project because the community engagement platform was exceptionally user-friendly. It was easy for planners to put together the survey and then export data to run the analysis. Map-based questions were especially easy to visualize for reporting. At the same time, residents could submit their answers without downloading additional apps.
And there were a lot of answers to work with! Residents submitted hundreds of proposals through an online survey but one theme was central — the preservation of existing green areas and historic sights. Citizens also wanted to make the area more entertaining and safe for pedestrians. The data gathered with the survey was analyzed using GIS systems and sentiment analysis so that planners got to use both geolocated and qualitative data obtained from the public engagement process.
Later, these results were presented to the public online and at in-person meetings. Overall, this feedback helped planners to understand local priorities and include these insights into a proposal that would match the residents’ ideas.
Takeaway: Learnings from Tallinn’s Civic Engagement Projects
- These examples of civic engagement projects showed how community involvement at all stages benefits the planners, the residents, and the city. While in the earlier stages of the planning process you can get a clear idea of what a place means for locals and what they want to see there, in the later stages the city can inform residents about the upcoming changes or ask them to pick the best proposal.
- But we still shouldn’t forget about analog possibilities of civic engagement — they’re not entirely substituted by online platforms but complemented by them. Non-digital activities should be made on the same visually appealing and engaging level as the online surveys, advises Eva-Maria Aitsam, Urban designer at Tallinn’s Strategic Planning Services.