With a recently launched project which uses digital tools to offer local residents the opportunity to contribute to the planning of their city, the city of Santa Monica, California becomes the latest in a rising trend among forward-thinking cities the world over. In August, 2016, the city of Santa Monica announced that, in addition to hosting small-scale workshops of 8-12 people, city planners would call on local residents to contribute their opinions, ideas, and needs for their city using a digital map platform.

This approach utilizes an online, map-based survey solution developed, by Finland’s Maptionnaire, to facilitate communication between residents and local governments by allowing local residents to leave comments and feedback directly on a map, offering a natural visualization of the area underdevelopment and allowing residents to interact directly with the map. This tool has previously been used, in 2013, by the City of Helsinki in developing the city’s Master Plan for 2050, building on the interests of its residents in order to create a sense of unified development that would forego future frustrations that can slow or hinder progress.

Another earlier effort in the utilization of digital participatory tools was Carticipe, a 2013 platform developed in France and eventually utilized in over a dozen territories in France and abroad, which provided residents with a similar, map-based platform to submit ideas and proposals for city development.

In addition to city planning departments, similar tools are also being utilized by public transportation authorities in planning the expansion of their networks. Currently under way, the city of San Francisco’s subway expansion process is gathering suggestions and input from the city’s residents regarding the routes and connections they see as most crucial. The city has developed its own map-based survey which allows users to plan their own dream networks and stops which will be considered alongside other feedback in the city’s future development plans.

These creative efforts to bring residents in to the city’s development processes represent the next stages of the research conducted in the World Alliance for Low Carbon Cities’ Systemic Architectures for Sustainable Urban Innovation (SASUI) project which explored new means of efficiently supporting multi-party planning. As a crucial element in the development of smart cities of the future, city planning procedures are among the issues that can be explored at the Smart City Experiences mini-workshop at the Alliance’s upcoming autumn forum, held in Turku from October 5-7, 2016.

See Santa Monica’s map survey 

The City of Helsinki reported on the results of its 2013 survey 

 See a demo of the Carticipe platform 

See San Francisco’s development tool 

Read the SASUI project’s final report

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Reframing City Districts (ReCiDi)

A research project conducted by the Universities of Turku and Tampere which aims to form a new conceptual framework which will help shape the collective identity and common vision necessary to realize the future low-carbon and sustainability targets.

Systemic Architectures for Sustainable Urban Innovation (SASUI)

An action learning and research project conducted by Aalto University and the University of Tampere which aimed to form a better understanding of the architectural requirements for successful innovation projects.