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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

How One City Engaged the Public Through Online Planning

Governing Magazine just published an article titled How Generation X is Shaping Government, about the City of San Mateo, California's recent experiment in "online" public engagement. 

The City Parks and Recreation Department had scheduled a meeting to present a new playground plan for one of its community parks and to obtain community input.  Eight people showed up.  But, when the City posted a set of the proposed designs online for a month and invited public comments, they were thrilled with the response - 130 people from around the City engaged in an online debate about the plans, including commenting on what they liked and didn’t like in the designs, and made suggestions.  What the City found most interesting was the age of the online participants - almost 60% of the participants were between the ages of 35 and 45.  This was significantly younger than the demographic typically drawn by public hearings in San Mateo and exactly the target audience the City was trying to reach.
The lesson for the City of San Mateo and other public bodies is that they shouldn't rely solely on the "tried and true" methods of soliciting public input on government issues (i.e., mailed surveys and public meetings).  To engage a younger demographic, governments will need to bring their message to the public, through the use of social media and other online sources.

For another great article on the benefits of social media and city planning, check out an article posted on Planetizin, a public-interest information exchange for the urban planning, design, and development community, titled For Planners, Investment in Social Media Pays Dividends.

Post Authored by Julie Tappendorf, Ancel Glink


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