Interactive Strategic Plan Sets Industrial Region on a Path to Vibrance

The Southern Alleghenies region in Pennsylvania has a rich history in coal mining and steel milling. However, the decline of these industries in the 1980s prompted a need for economic diversification that would start the region down a path toward long-term financial stability. The Southern Alleghenies Planning and Development Coalition (SAPDC) recently created a Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) that is designed to bring together public, private, nonprofit, and educational sectors in collaborating with the community to create a roadmap for strengthening and stabilizing the regional economy.

In 2012, the SAPDC completed a CEDS that included an action plan with five key goal areas, outlined and described in a lengthy PDF that was cumbersome for both professionals and the community to navigate. With the current update, the SAPDC made a commitment to public participation and innovation that ensures the revised Strategy remains a living document that can be continually reviewed, evaluated and modified.

UIS supported the transformation of the CEDS into a visually compelling online experience using the Interactive Plan app from the EngagingPlans App Suite. The web app makes it easier for citizens to review and offer meaningful feedback on elements of the Strategy, giving the community a sense of ownership over the plan. On the landing page, infographics depict the results of a SWOT analysis and various population projections, simplifying the complexity of background information. Users can also review each goal area of the plan through short summaries, bite-sized text snippets, and graphics and charts, and each goal has a detail page that can be explored either sequentially or via the landing page overviews.

On each detail page, rich media and graphs outline the plan elements and drop-down menus allow users to easily view the associated objectives and strategies. Every detail page also has a feedback opportunity, encouraging users to offer their thoughts and ideas as they navigate the plan. Sections of the complete CEDS PDF are bookmarked on each goal detail page, and users can read content in a window optimized for browser viewing or download the full PDF. All of these features combine to offer a unique, interactive participation opportunity that promotes continued input throughout implementation.

As the SAPDC team continues to use intuitive digital engagement to inform its strategies, the Southern Alleghenies region is setting a precedent for how rural areas elicit feedback and community insights on economic development initiatives.

Envision Longmont Blends Engagement Techniques to Elicit Meaningful Community Feedback

Longmont, Colorado was the first planned community in Boulder County and like many areas in the state, it has seen significant growth over the last twenty years. Envision Longmont is an effort to involve the community in updating the City’s comprehensive and multi-modal transportation plans to inform critical growth and development decisions.

The project kicked off with a live community workshop, and we helped Envision Longmont augment this event by incorporating livestreaming to make the workshop available to citizens who preferred to participate from home. Once the live sessions were complete, UIS used the Digital Workshop App from the EngagingPlans Suite to host an Online Workbook that encouraged the same quality participation that often comes with in-person events.

This initial Vision and Values Online Workbook incorporated an Ideation Wall, a review and prioritization of various goals, and an assessment of where future growth should or shouldn’t be encouraged. Through these activities, the Envision Longmont team received hundreds of suggestions about future goals and priorities, identifying economic development, housing and neighborhood infrastructure, and community character and design, and growth and development as key considerations for the community.

The team also garnered useful qualitative insight that helped paint a more robust picture of the community’s preferences and concerns within each issue area. By combining an Areas of Stability and Change map with a feedback activity, the community was able to offer thoughts on affordable housing options and to suggest intentional efforts related to density and transit-oriented development.

Envision Longmont Civic Participation

To increase opportunity for digital participation, UIS provided tablet kiosks to the Longmont team, which are featured at community outreach events and placed strategically around municipal buildings the rest of the time. Site analytics indicate that this is an effective method of engaging participants and passers by, with nearly 50% of the sessions coming from tablets.

We just launched Envision Longmont’s second online workshop, and this one will focus on visual preferences for housing types and alternative land use scenarios. We look forward to receiving the next round of community feedback and continuing to support the future of Longmont via digital engagement opportunities.

Memphis Residents Weigh in on Fairgrounds Redevelopment; Urban Land Institute Makes Recommendations on Moving Forward

Our recent project with the City of Memphis, TN garnered quite a bit of interest because the Fairgrounds site is an iconic element of Memphis culture. The city set a high bar for public participation to ensure that all voices were heard in the process of identifying how the space should be used going forward.

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Several consultant teams came together to offer their respective expertise in citizen engagement. The National Charrette Institute, in cooperation with PlaceMatters, hosted citywide community meetings, and UIS created an EngagingPlans platform that supplemented the meetings by providing online input opportunities.

As a result of these collaborations, the team collected more than 600 community responses on the Fairgrounds Survey, with more than 50% of those submitted via the EngagingPlans site. In particular, Memphis saw markedly more responses from young people in their late-20s and early-30s online than in person, giving the project team a more comprehensive look at community preferences than they might have had using only traditional engagement methods.

UIS also provided an Ideation Wall app from the EngagingPlans Suite to offer an online alternative to the traditional sticky note and flip chart brainstorming method that was used at community meetings. Without needing to be present at the meetings, users could submit ideas directly on the site and via SMS or Twitter hashtag. More than 200 suggestions were made, and they included everything from a new event venue and city park to sustainable urban agriculture, a rugby field, and even a Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame.

Gathering public input was just one of the first steps on the road to redevelopment. The results of the engagement effort were shared with an advisory panel from the Urban Land Institute, which subsequently presented findings and recommendations related to development strategies and programs, land use and design, neighborhood connections, and financing and implementation. The overarching recommendation was to “preserve the purpose of the site as a regional public amenity,” including repurposing the coliseum to be a cultural events center, adding a sports and recreation complex and commercial water park, incorporating active and passive greenspace, and creating parking areas that can also be used for temporary markets.

We’re looking forward to seeing the Memphis Fairgrounds of the future, and are optimistic that the City’s residents, businesses and tourists will be excited by what comes next to this historic site.

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


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”.