Vantaa has been the first Finnish city to adopt Maptionnaire Community Engagement Platform on a city-wide level. We interviewed Participation Coordinator Yu-Yi Huynh, who is responsible for coordinating the city’s community engagement activities. We asked her how the introduction and implementation of the new Maptionnaire service has gone, and what kind of reception has the service received both internally and from the residents.
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Towards a More Digital Public Participation Process
Community engagement in Vantaa covers both face-to-face and digital methods. The means of online participation are playing an increasingly important role. The coronavirus pandemic has also highlighted the importance of digital tools. “The situation has encouraged experts to think and change their methods of working. Right from the get go, we transferred several resident meetings and workshops to our online service osallistuvavantaa.fi, which we have built with the help of the new Maptionnaire service,” says Huynh.
We received about 1,000 responses to three different surveys. By using online surveys, we reached – for instance – parents of small children as well as students who normally don’t attend face-to-face workshops.
An example of the quick reaction of the city's specialists to the changing situation was the development project of the new Kivistö library. The city wanted to hear residents' opinions and ideas for the selection of magazines and books to be offered in the library and for the interior design. Initially, opinions were planned to be gathered in a face-to-face workshop, but due to the coronavirus situation the project was carried out by using Maptionnaire’s online service.
Vantaa was satisfied with the number of respondents and the groups of people the questionnaires reached. “We received about 1,000 responses to three different surveys. By using online surveys, we reached – for instance – parents of small children as well as students who normally don’t attend face-to-face workshops. On the other hand, senior citizens are more difficult to reach with online surveys compared to face-to-face events,” explains Huynh.
Getting Rid of Silos Between Departments — Better Service for Residents
In Vantaa, Maptionnaire Community Engagement platform has been well received. The aim is to harmonize the procedures of community engagement by collecting and gathering the possibilities for influencing city planning under one roof. Almost all the departments in Vantaa have already started using or are about to implement the new Maptionnaire platform. A shared platform for all the departments provides an opportunity to enhance cooperation internally. In addition, because information can now be found in one place, it offers Vantaa’s residents an easier way to participate in the development of the city. Furthermore, this way the city appears as a more unified actor to the residents, and the service encourages participation in different kinds of projects because they can be found easily.
The urban planning department has traditionally been a typical user of map-based tools. In Vantaa, however, the department of urban culture has been active with utilizing Maptionnaire. Also the department of day care and education as well as Vantaa’s healthcare and social services plan to utilize the new service. Ease of deployment has mainly depended on the services a certain department offers. The community engagement team and the departments have been looking for best practices for using the service together.
Two Keys for Implementing the New Maptionnaire
Vantaa has a main user model, which means that each department has designated Maptionnaire users who help with implementing the service. They identify opportunities of how the service could be used within the department but also within the entire city to get the most out of the platform.
There have been two decisive factors in the implementation of Maptionnaire in Vantaa: (1) the role of administrators and (2) pilot projects. “Vantaa has a main user model, which means that each department has designated Maptionnaire users who help with implementing the service. They identify opportunities of how the service could be used within the department but also within the entire city to get the most out of the platform. They also communicate about Maptionnaire internally and pass on development wishes and needs to the Maptionnaire team,” says Huynh.
Pilot projects are projects where the different departments within the city are introduced to the use of Maptionnaire and to the practices of community engagement. The aim is to use innovative examples to encourage both the city’s specialists and also residents to participate. Pilot projects can be used to develop operating methods as well as to develop the service further based on received feedback. The Kivistö library project is an example of such a pilot project, which eventually produced excellent response data even though the face-to-face workshops had to be canceled. “At Vantaa, the community engagement team is heavily involved when the projects are planned and launched. Our common goal is to get as many residents as possible to influence the development of their hometown,” says Huynh.
Efficiency for Data Utilization and Transparency
In the past, information related to community engagement has not been easy to share and utilize internally between different departments. There hasn’t been a clear place for archiving information. The new Maptionnaire service will make it easier to document the information and data gathered from different surveys. In the future, historical data will also be easily available for the entire city to utilize.
The new Maptionnaire Community Engagement Platform also supports transparency. The city’s departments can now easily take advantage of digital engagement tools and use the city's common online service for community engagement, named osallistuvavantaa.fi.
If you’re planning on getting a participation tool for your city, check this guide on choosing a citizen engagement platform. It helps you prepare a list of all the decisive factors that define what are you searching for.
Easily Accessible Community Engagement
In the future, the city of Vantaa wants to reach its residents in different ways. The introduction of the Maptionnaire Community Engagement Platform is part of this goal. It will increase opportunities for digital participation and communication. “In particular, we want to reach young people better. Those who do not speak Finnish as their mother tongue are also in our target group,” says Huynh
The goal is for the citizen to see the connection and continuity of participation, planning and development work.
Vantaa wants to make resident communications easily approachable. “Individual surveys are something we’re hoping to get rid of. Our goal is to continuously communicate and engage with our residents. A resident of Vantaa can answer a survey but also see how his or her and others' opinions have been taken into account, for example, in the planning and implementation of a new bike path. The goal is for the citizen to see the connection and continuity of participation, planning and development work,” says Huynh.
Maptionnaire Community Engagement Platform, developed in close communication with the City of Vantaa, has been awarded the Smart 50 Award in the Community Engagement category. Smart 50 Awards by Smart Cities Connect annually recognizes global smart cities projects, honoring the most innovative and influential work.