Ontario Citizens Use Community Mapping to Enhance Cycling Culture

London, Ontario is updating their Cycling Master Plan (CMP), which is a long-term vision for bike routes in the City.  The CMP will propose new routes that connect to existing pathways, and will develop programs, initiatives and policies that support and manage the City’s cycling culture.

London ON Bikes, the City’s name for this project, used EngagingPlans for public outreach and integrated Community Mapping from our App Suite to get more granular information about specific areas that are great or problematic for cyclists. Citizens can add photos and descriptions of places, and then rate and comment on other submissions, giving the City quality insight into how best to allocate resources to the future of cycling in London.

   
 

Students Envision New Campus Hub with Digital Workshop App

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Union Court is the heart of the Australian National University campus, and the University is revitalizing the area to create a new hub for the ANU community. ANU envisions a village that is integrated with the campus and extends connections into the wider community, so the project is considering a variety of potential components like student life facilities, academic and research buildings, and spaces for entertainment and cultural events.

To engage students, faculty and staff in the visioning process, ANU used an EngagingPlans Core site and the Digital Workshop app to supplement a five-day live event  that offered pop-up kiosks for digital participation and an information booth with details on how to get involved in the project. The Digital Workshop incorporated elements like the vision for Union Court and its integration with campus life and the larger community, and the ANU team incentivized feedback by transforming activities into a competition with a live leaderboard populated by points earned for online participation. The EngagingPlans site also featured an integrated Instagram feed that used the hashtag #reimagineunioncourt to highlight the live event and related student photos.

The University now plans to develop an Urban Design Plan that draws on and addresses the preferences and concerns of the ANU community.

This isn't our first project with ANU: check out The Learnery, a digital opportunity for students to “cultivate the learning experience”.

Visitors help shape the Zoo of the Future

In early 2015, the Denver Zoo asked patrons and neighbors to help shape the "Zoo of the Future" by offering feedback on concepts for the new Facility Master Plan. The Master Plan guides future decisions related to animal needs, community experience and global partnerships, all in the interest of securing a better world for animals through human understanding.

Serving nearly 2 million guests annually and caring for 3,000 animals, the Zoo must consider factors like guest flow and parking inventory in addition to providing top-notch animal care when planning for the future. Zoo staff are considering a recent Facility Assessment, eight Guiding Principles and seven Site Planning Strategies as they develop the new Master Plan.

In order to gather community insights about priorities during this Master Planning process, UIS developed an interactive website using the Urban Design Feedback app from the EngagingPlans Suite. Users begin by ranking priorities related to educational opportunities, animal interactions, integration within the surrounding neighborhood, improvements for animals, and parking. Users are then directed to an interactive map of the draft master plan, complete with flags, photos and descriptions of new exhibit concepts.

Because the map is optimized for tablets and mobile phones, Zoo patrons can access it while they are on the campus, giving them firsthand insight into the proposed changes and how they might impact visitor experience. After reading background information and viewing renderings of the exhibits, users can rate each design and submit their feedback for Zoo staff to consider. The Zoo incentivized participation by offering giveaways like general admission passes, special event tickets and even a few annual memberships.

Please welcome... the new EngagingPlans & App Suite!

Over the last few years, the team here at Urban Interactive Studio has been continuously experimenting with new products, constantly tweaking and improving them to better serve our clients and their communities.

Today, we’re excited to announce the new EngagingPlans platform and App Suite, which streamlines digital outreach and provides unique, intuitive opportunities for online public involvement.

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For the most part, EngagingPlans Core will remain the same great project hub that it’s always been. Project updates, event calendars and timelines, searchable document library, FAQs, a survey builder, polls, and open questions are all included in the Core platform, so you can easily involve your community throughout the project lifecycle.

The new App Suite is designed to provide creative and intuitive public feedback opportunities that raise the bar on the typical engagement process. Some will look familiar to you, like our Community Mapping app (formerly VividMaps) or the Trade-Off Explorer app (formerly FlipSides). But we are also introducing many other apps that evolved through our ongoing process of learning and improvement, and these apps can be used to support engagement during distinct project phases.

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Our favorite thing about the new App Suite is that apps can be configured in many different ways to meet the specific needs and goals of your project. To give you a sense of how this might work, we’d like to highlight Imagine Central Arkansas (ICA), a planning effort to expand transportation choices in central Arkansas. UIS provided an EngagingPlans Core platform with a custom design and used the Community Mapping, Digital Workshop, Trade-Off Explorer and Interactive Plan apps to encourage citizens and stakeholders to share insights about the region’s long-term future.

Treasured Places, ICA’s name for their version of the Community Mapping App, encouraged locals to submit their favorite places in the Central Arkansas region. Through photos and detail pages, residents were then able to explore, rate, and comment on other submission.

To make the extensive State of the Region analysis accessible and fun, UIS visualized it using the Digital Workshop app. At the core of this experience were small games that display content with the user in mind and trivia questions with incentives like badges and high scores.

In later phases of the project, games based on the Trade-Off Explorer app were used to help residents weigh transportation alternatives. As people adjusted their regional priorities and vision for timing, real-time infographics shift to display the impact of those preferences on a variety of indicators.

When the final plan was ready for posting online, ICA took their document a step further using the Interactive Plan app. The intuitive layout and graphics introduce people to the core goals, concepts and components that underlie the Plan, helping them understand the document and better respond to relevant areas of interest.

We’re excited about the projects that will take their public feedback elements to the next level through EngagingPlans Core and App Suite. Our intuitive, mobile- and tablet-optimized solutions are ready to reach different audiences, educate them, and get their insights on building the best community possible.

Citizens of Central Arkansas map out the future of their region through interactive draft plan

Interactive Plan App - Case Study

Imagine Central Arkansas

Charting the long-term growth and development of a community takes careful planning - and also a good bit of imagination. “Imagine Central Arkansas” is the effort developed by the regional metropolitan planning organization (Metroplan) to increase the quality of life for Central Arkansans over the next 30 years.

The process of gathering feedback started more than a year ago, with an interactive online game that encouraged users to imagine and communicate about the future of their region.  Working from the resulting data, Metroplan moved on to drafting a plan document, which the organization is now seeking to refine by involving the public once again.

Make content fresh, interesting, and easy to navigate.

Make content fresh, interesting, and easy to navigate.

Challenge - Bring plan documents to life for maximum citizen participation

Draft plans can be long and wordy, hard to digest and slow to download. Not many people are interested in reading a whole plan document or commenting on it. This makes feedback hard to obtain - especially meaningful conversations around specific plan elements. Metroplan sought to present the new draft in a fresh, relevant way that would hold the attention of today’s citizens. To do this, the document would need to take on an eye-catching, easy-to-read flow - abandoning the static, lengthy format common to draft plans.

Solution - From static document to interactive experience

To bring the document to life, Metroplan used the Interactive Plan app from the EngagingPlans Suite - an app that allows agencies to plug in their content and turn it into an engaging, responsive experience for users. “Did we get it right?” asks the website for Imagine Central Arkansas, enticing citizens to dive in and take a peek at the proposed plan for their region’s future. Instead of long, wordy paragraphs, users encounter readable blocks of text highlighted by clear infographics. An overview of the plan is easily obtained in a few minutes, or users can explore in-depth if they have time.

Interest-based navigation is encouraged using three handy icons:

  • READ: Navigates to a section of the actual plan document online, offering in-depth information with the option to download a PDF version

  • EXPLORE: Leads to interactive elements like layered maps, responsive charts, and scenario comparisons

  • SUBMIT: Allows users to give instant feedback about specific sections of the plan using a simple thumbs-up-or-down and a dialogue box for detailed responses

This flexible structure is completely different from typical draft plans, allowing individual citizens to experience the document in a way that is most relevant to them. From “Healthy Communities” to “Quality Transportation” and beyond, users can skim the basics or follow intuitive links to further information. Scenario comparisons highlight the differences between current trends and the regional vision, using zoomable maps and other responsive elements to paint a clearer picture than static charts inside a PDF.

Benefits - From draft to final document, citizens help shape plan development

Interactive graphics help citizens understand issues.

Interactive graphics help citizens understand issues.

With this bright, intuitive format, the draft plan guides citizens seamlessly from playful exploration to in-depth investigation to meaningful feedback. This results in greater public involvement and better-informed comments from readers. Plus, the draft plan is mobile-optimized to be accessible from laptops, tablets, or mobile devices, so it can be used in a variety of situations by citizens and stakeholders.

By engaging the public at every step - beginning with “Are we there yet?” and ending with the draft plan just published - Metroplan is now able to craft a final document that best fits the needs of the communities it serves. Meanwhile, Central Arkansans are left with a deeper understanding of how their priorities can be woven into the future while accounting for the realities of existing trends and budget restraints.

With modern technologies making interactive content possible, there’s no reason for planners to rely on outdated methods of distributing information. Today’s audiences are accustomed to being engaged by every service and website they interact with. That’s why Metroplan chose to present the new plan document using the Interactive Plan app, counting on greater participation from the citizens who are helping to Imagine Central Arkansas.