October 23 2012

Online Participation Tools Within Urban Planning: A Quick Fix for Local Problems?

Do you have a problem? Mark it on the map and we’ll take care of it – if you vote for us. Prior to Germany’s Berlin Senate election in 2011, the Green Party presented an interactive online tool that people could use to suggest changes for the urban environment. More than 800 requests were sent in, forming a visual map of suggestions for change. As visitors could share and “like” the requests via social media, the tool gained a lot of attention during its time.

Although receiving much positive recognition for their attempt to involve Berlin residents, not long after the election (which didn’t turn out as hoped for the Green Party) the tool has been offline. So far it remains unclear: what will happen to all of this gathered information?

The participative tool of the Berlin Green party has not yet brought forward any mayoral changes to the urban environment. However, the concept of web-based tools for participation is more and more common within urban planning.

In Hamburg, Germany a similar website has a more positive approach: rather than only marking complaints, users of the website www.nexthamburg.de can make suggestions for new projects for the improvement of central Hamburg. From spanning cable cars across the river, inner-city animal farms, to new solutions for better biking – anyone who is interested in shaping his or her immediate environment can contribute. The idea with most votes will be presented to the city council.

In the UK, a website called www.fixmystreet.com focuses on smaller concerns like potholes and litter, however brings the participatory tool to the next level: local problems collected via this website are directly forwarded to the responsible regional council, which will attempt to fix it.

All of these attempts towards a more participatory planning process are new and there is a lot of room for improvement. But looking at these projects, I believe that there is a great potential for web-based crowd-sourcing tools within urban planning. If more people take part in the planning process, if they have a direct way of sharing concerns and ideas, it creates useful data for urban planners and the support for arguments of change.

Do you know about similar projects? What kind of tool would you like to have for your region?

Credits: Images and data linked to sources.

Luise Letzner

Originally from Berlin, Luise Letzner currently pursues a Masters at HafenCity University in Hamburg, Germany, in Urban Planning. She also holds a B.A. in European Studies from Malmö University, Sweden, where she focused on inner-city redevelopment projects, place branding, and the concept of urbanity. She worked as a concept strategist and social media manager for several online agencies and in trend research, where she investigated new forms of communication via mobile and online technology, as well as trends within city marketing. Apart from Sweden, she has lived in France, Switzerland, and the U.S. and is fascinated by different approaches to the creation and use of public spaces within city centres. For The GRID, she investigated current urban and environmental design projects in Berlin and Hamburg.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012 at 6:25 pm and is filed under Community/Economic Development, Content, Infrastructure, Social/Demographics, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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