Neighborland was born out of a street art project by Candy Chang, where nametag-like stickers reading “I wish this were a __________” invited the passerby to imagine possibilities for empty storefronts. The project generated onsite civic input for improving abandoned properties in the Marigny neighborhood of New Orleans. Today, Neighborland has grown into a website that helps democratize communities by allowing residents to voice what improvements they want in their city and where.
The site’s basic premise is a prompt: “I want ______ in New Orleans.” Users suggest bike lanes, pocket parks, retail centers and new food truck laws that they would like to see. Some get more specific, suggesting what they need in their specific neighborhood or on their street corner. The site demonstrates support for an idea by aggregating statements on the home page for your city or neighborhood subpage, for example, “386 neighbors want the ability to recycle glass in New Orleans.” Users can also share updates on existing social media sites to gather more support for an idea.
Neighborland can be a useful way for public officials to gather input from citizens who otherwise may not have the time or investment level to attend time consuming public meetings. Success can be seen on the website as wants are realized, such as the Regional Transit Authority making their GPS data available to app developers.
Organizations and advocacy groups make use of the site as well. Groups such as the New Orleans Food Truck Coalition can use Neighborland as a virtual brainstorm to generate ideas on the question: “How can we help the food truck industry in New Orleans?” Advocacy group Bike Easy has used Neighborland to gather specific input on where to lobby for new bike lanes.
Neighborland is also attracting use by real estate developers and commercial property brokerage firms. Developers ask Neighborland users what they would like to see at an abandoned building and commercial real estate firms gather input that can be useful for leasing ground floor commercial space. While this use of Neighborland is not a thorough method for soliciting public participation, it is one tool that opens up lines of communication between citizens and the firms that control urban properties.
Neighborland has now launched in cities across the United States, giving regular people a way to connect and influence the urban landscape of their cities. As new ideas, actions and success stories take off, Neighborland will be one tool to help the tech-savvy population engage in neighborhood improvement.
What are some other ways Neighborland can benefit your community?
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