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Video - Using technology for public engagement, part 1. Presentation by Mack Male

Part 1 of a 2-part series. View part 2 here.

So how does social media fit with urban planning?

Mack D. Male is the Product Development Manager at Questionmark Computing, and owner of Paramagnus Developments Inc. Mack never describes himself as a social media expert, but has lots of experience using social media tools and services. Edmontonians may know him because of his widely read blog focused on urban affairs in Edmonton or perhaps because of his many community projects such as What the Truck?!. Mack likes to say he’s a passionate Edmontonian and that Edmonton is his city because he likes making things and this is the best place to do that.

In this presentation to the Alberta Professional Planners Institute, he talks about how technology can improve public engagement.

Engaging the public and involving citizens in project planning is an important element of city building. Unfortunately, our practices and approaches to public engagement haven’t kept up with technology. Thanks to social media, smartphones, and countless other technological improvements, citizens have greater access to information and experiences than ever before. They want to get involved and they want to have an impact by asking questions and also by providing ideas and feedback. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be difficult. Let’s look at some of the innovative, effective, and fun ways that we can use technology to engage the public

The general process involved in decision-making moves from idea to brainstorming to implementation to review to completion. Some decisions are made before the public is consulted, and to ensure the public gets engaged, technology can be used to inform. In order for public engagement to occur, setting expectations and providing context are both important. They explain the expanse and meaning of the project one wants to implement.

Another key stage is follow through. Letting people know how their opinions have impacted the final decisions keeps them engaged in the process and more likely to contribute to future public engagement opportunities. The types of technological tools one chooses is also significant. Email is effective in one way communication, while Reddit's Ask Me Anything series is an example of effective two way communication.

This presentation was a part of the Alberta Professional Planners Institute, Lunch and Learn Session, March 2014.

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