Textizen is a SMS platform for providing community feedback to urban planners and municipal decision makers regarding transportation, recreation, spending, quality of life improvements and more. To use the platform, cities ask questions on posters in public places and then collect citizen feedback that is provided via text messages.
Questions posed thus far have related to use patterns, proposal preferences and even brainstorming, for example, questions such as “what would make downtown more kid-friendly?”. In addition to providing a low cost, democratic alternative to surveys, the quantitative data offered can improve decision making, register public sentiment and even prioritize between competing topics on crowded agendas.
Gary Hack, a celebrated urban planner, has most recently lent his expertise to a crowdsourced plan in Bogota, Colombia called MyIdealCity. He believes that the future of urban planning is in crowd planning:
Engaging those affected by change in planning for it is morally right. It is also a way of tapping the intelligence of citizens, avoiding mistakes of misguided projects. Professionals also bring things to the table, including knowledge of innovations tried elsewhere and how they have fared. Mixing it up with citizens and professionals is a way to create great cities.
Participatory online platforms and visual tools are lowering the barriers to participation and empowering citizens to design their communities. These systems facilitate an open dialogue between city agencies and the people they serve, establishing a structured process for collaboration and encouraging a higher level of participation at the civic level. Another example of crowd-planning is the interactive tool, Is Peace Possible, which gives citizens the opportunity to construct their own border proposal to meet the needs of both Israelis and Palestinians, while generally functioning as a means to conflict resolution and policy-making in disputed areas.
John Geraci is the founder of DIYcity, a site encourages people everywhere to reinvent the spaces around them using common web applications. He told PSFK.com that he believes that crowd-planned initiatives can positively impact urban environments:
The world is in a place right now where it has to be open to change, because each day more and more of the systems that we formerly relied on suddenly no longer work. The challenge before us right now is to imagine new systems across the board: systems that are smarter, leaner, more efficient, more open, more participatory and more sustainable.
By seeking input throughout the development process, these crowd-planned systems help ensure greater transparency and buy-in that ultimately results in an end solution that meets the actual needs of the population.
Over the next 6 months, PSFK and a team of experts imagining the future of a city will be asking you what you envision as ‘My Ideal City’. Tweet us your ideas using the hashtag of the week and view all the submissions at the MyIdealCity site.