Digital tools and neighbourhood planning
People powered change, asset based community development, localism - whatever you call it we are living through a sea change in public expectations and opportunities to get more involved in shaping the future of their local area.
This is increasingly being driven by the growth and convergence of two phenomena - the overwhelming success of new powers for communities to draw up neighbourhood plans for their area and the mushrooming of the variety and range of digital tools which support people and communities who want to get more involved.
Neighbourhood planning powers have only been available for three years and already over 1,000 communities across England are signed up to produce a plan for their area - from the east end of London to the wilds of Cumbria, this is putting planning powers into the hands of local people.
The growth in digital tools has longer roots - combining trends in hyperlocal media, crowdsourcing and crowdfunding among others and tapping into the availability of open data, digital maps and new web tools. The work being done by Helen Hamlyn Centre on Creative Citizens and Nesta’s Destination Local show just some of the variety of what is going on.
The place where neighbourhood planning and digital tools meet is proving to be a very creative one, with a wealth of new opportunities for communities to learn from each other, build up the evidence they need and engage local people and businesses in planning the future of their area.
Some digital enthusiasts and entrepreneurs have already developed tools with neighbourhood planning in mind. You can turn to Boiler House Media’s Neighbourhood Planner to find details of who is preparing a neighbourhood plan and where – with the information largely drawn from local communities themselves.
Mapping for Change taps into people’s passion for maps - the fact that 75 per cent of local government information is geographically referenced demonstrates how mapping can be used to bring information and people together to generate impact.
Stickyworld and Commonplace also use digital maps, collating the conversations and feelings that people have about their area and using digital tools to stimulate, organise and analyse these. They provide fresh insight into community views, engage different people and provide a rich evidence base to underpin planning policies.
These apps are delivered through a mix of bespoke and subscription services providing access to the relevant digital platform, whereas Changify offers a different approach which puts the focus immediately on the user to express views and link up with others who have an interest in changing their local area.
These tools are just the tip on an iceberg of others which are creating a new and exciting agenda becoming known as digital civics. It is a fast moving world limited only by the creativity of those involved and fuelled by the passion people have for their neighbourhood.
So, watch this space...
Find out more - explore the presentations given at Digital Tools and Neighbourhood Planning Workshop, inspired and led by Tony Burton and hosted by Nesta in July 2014.