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A data-driven approach to community placemaking in the digital age

“Assumptions are the enemy of placemaking. You need to ask the right
questions of the right people.”

Covid-19 accelerated the use of online platforms for public consultation and community
engagement from novelty to necessity within a matter of weeks. While the trend of virtual town
halls was evident prior to the pandemic, 2020 saw their move into the mainstream of local
authority public communications. The use of technology for placemaking is coming at a critical
time; months of spending time largely inside our homes and within close proximity of our homes
has transformed how we use and view space.

Collaborative is just one example of the latest iteration of cloud-based, community
engagement tools that embrace PaaS, or Platform as a Service, to act as a virtual town hall. It
quickly identifies community stakeholders and then becomes a digital bridge between
placemakers, their stakeholders and neighbours. It allows project owners to upload proposals,
planning decisions and changes to planning for all stakeholders to access and comment on in
real-time. This is a great way to bring citizens along in this process-driven system, using
immersive technologies like virtual or augmented reality to bring proposals to life. Of course, it
can also be used to promote and then live-stream more traditional approaches like workshops
or covid-compliant in-person discussion groups so that no one is left behind. The use of online
platforms allow members of the community to stay informed on area or development proposals
or changes, in real time, and to contribute their views from the comfort of their smartphone 24/7.
Local authorities can then reap the benefit of a decade-worth of disjointed smart city initiatives
and it takes them a step further towards the aspired ‘Digital Citizen’.

Transparent, technology-enabled, but data-driven

Also, this type of AI-enabled, digital placemaking makes sense for property developers (public
or private) as it offers a complete, multi-stakeholder, communications tool to facilitate
meaningful public consultation and further community engagement in a compliant and
technologically smart way. As we embrace greater building heights and urban density, which

are to be delivered at rapid pace, it has never been more important to engender community
support and cooperation. In its simplest form, digital placemaking leverages the power of
emerging technologies and social media to increase community engagement by meeting
citizens where they are, online, and sharing information and plans in a transparent way. More
importantly, the community has a much deeper awareness of local needs and challenges, and
these insights can be fed back to the local authority in a way that helps to prioritise resources. It
is critical for citymakers to embrace data innovation in order to deliver evidence-based projects
and investment decisions.

Share vision leads to owned spaces

Urban planning and design is about so much more than a green area of respite from traffic or
efficient parking that does not curtail retail opportunities. It is also about more than seemingly-
random outdoor seating or disjointed art installations copied from other successful areas
modelled. Every place is unique and, as such, presents with a unique set of challenges and
opportunities. The solutions and proposals form the basis of a placemaking strategy to which all
stakeholders can contribute. While it might sound overly simplistic, often the key to unlocking all
these contemporary solutions can be found within the space itself. Placemaking is the process
of mining all available natural resources like place, community spirit, local entrepreneurship and
creative talent, and then refining it into something precious – a shared vision. Once the vision is
shared, the place can really be owned by the community. And while it might sound
counterintuitive, the most successful placemaking never reaches a conclusion. ‘Place’ is a
constant work in progress and this is a good thing. As society changes and as people change,
so too do their needs and the space around them must evolve to reflect that.

“Good placemaking requires multidisciplinary experts to provide answers,
but great placemaking gives a voice to the community to pose the right
questions.” is a dynamic public consultation tool for fully-immersive,
digital placemaking and meaningful stakeholder engagement. The
team are founding members of the Public Consultation Institute of Ireland and are
currently contributing to an international, multidisciplinary body of work aimed at
establishing best practice in integrated on and offline public consultation for both the
private and public sectors in Europe.




Public consultation and community engagement