2012 could be the end of the world as we know it. Or not. Either way, some things definitely will be ending–for example, funding for the Sustainable Communities Initiative program hasn’t been renewed for 2013. Despite the end of funding this year, or perhaps because of it, I’ll point again this year (as I did last year) to the SCI program as something I’m excited about for the coming year. 2012 is our chance to get as much information out of these processes as possible and apply lessons learned to future regional or local sustainability projects (in whatever way they are funded). The projects that were begun in 2010 are well underway, and are already providing a slew of lessons learned for the 2011 grantees and sustainability planning in general. Grantees have been tackling problems like data acquisition, equitably engaging citizens, managing large groups of partner organizations, and working collaboratively with groups opposed to the SCI process. PlaceMatters is working with several 2010 grantees, and will be starting work with two more 2011 grantees (the Denver Regional Council of Governments and Erie County, PA). We also are Technical Advisors around equity and scenario planning for the full program, so we will be sharing our continued lessons learned throughout 2012.
I also want to highlight the increasing focus within community decision-making on equity–not only equitable engagement of citizens in decision-making, but also how spatial analysis can help us understand inequity in access to various resources like healthy food, education, and transportation. The tools that can help us do this analysis about equity are increasingly available at low or no cost, which helps all communities have access to better, clearer information to support robust decisions. In 2012, PlaceMatters’ Decision Lab will continue working on increasing the availability of low cost or free tools, while the Sustainable Solutions Group is focusing on applying a low-cost toolkit on the ground. We’re also teaming up with PolicyLink to provide equity Technical Assistance to SCI grantees, and we’re looking forward to learning more from their extensive expertise.
I’m interested in how the U.S. Open Government National Action Plan will shape best practices around public engagement. The White House recently asked for input on “metrics that will allow agencies to assess progress toward the goal of becoming more participatory.” In other words, what should we measure to gauge success at engaging citizens in government. Number of people at a meeting? Diversity of those people? How many people vote? We don’t yet know how much input they got (I’m guessing/hoping it was quite a bit) but I’ll be very interested to see how they synthesize this input and what they recommend.
Lastly, we are constantly improving our own touch-tables and have talked before about tech (like our Kinect) that reads gestures. 2012 might be the year we figure out a way to use this tech to create a lower cost option for times when gesture-reading makes sense for public engagement and decision-making. In the meantime, just enjoy the coolness of Traveler’s Insurance’s ads at various airports. They’ve been around for awhile, but they are still fun. Here’s MSP: MSP Traveler’s Ad.