GUIDE / Case Studies
A proposed plan or development will not succeed without buy-in and support from the people who live there. While public participation can sometimes be painful, contentious or laborious, we shouldn’t forget the value of local knowledge and opinion. Nobody knows a place better than the people who live there. How do we tap into this knowledge in a fun and effective way?
In the end, citizen engagement can only provide so much— planners are trained experts, tasked with balancing extremely complex political landscapes and stakeholders with competing interests.
By making it extremely cheap and easy to engage citizens, and by giving their comments a focus and a spatial context, canvis.app makes these complex tasks a little bit more pleasant.
In fact, I was inspired to build canvis.app based on own my experiences doing public participation and visioning for urban infrastructure!
Connecting people with places
In my case, I wanted to create a vision for bicycle infrastructure across the whole city. What connections are missing? Where would they prefer to have high-speed bike lanes? Where are their pain points in the city?
Similar questions are important to ask for just about any proposed plan, project or development. Do residents need this? Where would it be most effective? What do they like and dislike here?
The power of canvis.app projects comes from the co-location of this “soft data” (thoughts, opinions, observations), with specific geographic areas.
Insightful and informative results
We asked citizens to draw bike lanes and mark problems on the map, and spoke with local planning experts about the results. While the final map looked like a mess of points and lines, zooming and exploring the map reveals an insightful and thought provoking data set.
We identified the following benefits:
- Identify problems and pain points that only neighborhood locals would know about.
- Serve as a basis of reflection for ongoing projects and proposals.
- Justifying existing work, or encouraging it’s reconsideration.
- Identify patterns and hotspots.
- See clearly who is involved in the discussion, and who might be missing.
- Connect and collaborate with local activist and interest groups.
Two approaches for citizen engagement
Canvis.app offers two different methods for tapping into this knowledge. They are both super easy to implement, but the resulting data can be very insightful.
1. Show people a location, and ask them about it!
If you aren’t familiar with canvis.app projects, you should know they are simply web pages broken up into a set of pages. The user is guided through each page, where they are prompted to engage in different ways.
Currently, we offer three page templates: Content Pages without a map, Mapping Pages, and Content Pages with a map. To implement this method, all you need is a Content Page with a map. First, you need to choose what to show on the map. You can either select the zoom and extent yourself (like focusing on a specific district or property) or you can have it auto-zoom to the users location. Next to the map, we’ve given you the ability to add a set of survey questions, along with photos and text.
Imagine the map shows a college campus. Your study group are the college students and alumni. On one page, you can show the campus library. Do you use this library? What would make this library better?
The next page shows the campus park. Do you spend time here? What activities do you like to do here? What complaints do you have about this park? What do you think about our proposed improvements?
You could even show pictures of proposed changes, and in the near future, you will be able to add your own interactive map layers for users to explore!
2. Asking people to mark locations.
This second method is similar, but instead of asking questions, we ask users to mark stuff right on the map. Then, we ask questions about the specific place they’ve marked. This is made possible by adding a Mapping Page to your project. On Mapping pages, you can add collaborative layers. When a user taps or clicks the map, they can choose from one of these collaborative layers and add a point to it. Once they’ve placed a point, they are presented with the survey form you’ve put together for that layer. It’s simple but powerful!
Taking the example of a college campus again, what if we wanted our contributors to be more specific about how they use the park? We could add 4 layers: Study. Exercise. Eating. Other. The users could then mark exactly where they do each activity within the park.
When they place a Study spot, we ask them a few questions. Is it quite enough to study? Why do you prefer to study here? How often? When they place an Other spot, we can ask them what it is exactly they do here.
We provide the tools to ask any set of questions, in any order. How you guide your contributors, how you present them with questions, photos and content— that’s all up to you! Maybe one Mapping Page for negative complaints, and another for positive compliments. Maybe a Content Page showing the existing project, and another Content Page showing the proposed project. Or maybe one giant mapping page with 6 layers and dozens of subquestions for each. It’s up to you!
Let us help you.
We are great at designing projects and campaigns, and love getting our hands dirty. Don’t hesitate to reach out with questions, or ask us to build and launch you a campaign from scratch.