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Resiliency planning in Lyons, CO

Lyons Generic 2Flooding in September of 2013 devastated Lyons, CO, causing substantial damage to almost 200 homes in the confluence and neighborhoods near the North and South St. Vrain Rivers. This has caused many of these locations to be no longer eligible for development. In a town with very little available and suitable land for development already, the challenge of where to rebuild housing in order to bring back displaced residents and restore community assets is a huge and challenging undertaking. On October 27, 2014, the Town of Lyons Board of Trustees awarded Trestle Strategy Group the work for the Lyons Housing Site Analysis Study and the Lyons Facilities Siting Plan/Municipal Campus Feasibility Study. Both studies will be a trusted source of information for the community to help build a coalition of support, and guide the Town to the best options for the community as a whole.

Through a grant from HUD and EPA’s Sustainable Communities Initiative, PlaceMatters is coordinating efforts between the Town of Lyons, Trestle, DRCOG, CU Denver, and DOLA, and working to facilitate community discussions linked to the Town’s recovery plan and implementation. A lot has happened in a short amount of time, and keeping track of progress, including events and who is involved, can be a challenge with the immense amount of activity that goes with disaster recovery.

PlaceMatters provided support during the Halloween Spooktacular festivities on October 25, 2014 by hosting a booth with flood recovery information. The booth also had the now familiar yellow ribbons for residents. The ribbons represent the still displaced residents. Community members could also sign up to receive the Lyons Recovery Action Plan – a visual tour of the effects of the flood, and each commissions’ strategy towards recovery – and books from local students with stories from the flood.

Along with Trestle, we are also helping the Town build a website and social media page so that anyone can easily find useful information about the amount of work that Lyons has done since the flood, what is currently being done, and key decisions that will be to be made in the near future. To do so, an interactive timeline (to be built built on the Tiki-Toki platform) on the Town’s webpage will link to resources and help residents see the amazing amount of background work that has been done around these challenges.

The timeline will provide a visually engaging way to explore past, current and future efforts, milestones, and opportunities for involvement and input. It will include videos, audio, images, text and links to information. Most importantly, it will bring together all of the pieces of recovery to one location to easily navigate. We are hoping the timeline will be on Lyons’ website by next week.

In addition, many people from the community have worked hard during the last year to get Lyons’ residents to tell their flood stories; we are working with those community members to gather and publish the stories they collected on a common platform. Hopefully this platform will bring recognition to their outreach efforts and continue building the community’s unique identity.

How to Launch a Project: Imagine Central AR’s Participatory, Celebratory Kickoff

Imagine Central Arkansas Kickoff

Imagine Central Arkansas Kickoff

PlaceMatters has had a bit of a blogging dry spell, but we have a good excuse! In the last month staff members have been to:

We’ve been working hard, listening to our partners challenges and successes, and supporting some great events. More info on some of these trips will be forthcoming on our blog.  I will start things off with some highlights from our first trip, where we helped implement Metroplan‘s (Central AR’s MPO) Imagine Central Arkansas kickoff event.

The kickoff was held in a pavilion at the River Market in Little Rock. Over 200 people enjoyed the local band, popcorn machine, and fantastic fall weather.  They also were able to provide initial input via several interactive stations:

  • An “I Imagine Central Arkansas” station where people could fill in a white-board with their vision for the future of the region and have photos taken with their boards (Metroplan has collected quite a few of these, check them out here).
  • A station for kids where they could draw their favorite places (some in great detail!) and/or build their vision for the future with Lego blocks and paper streets (I got to work at this station and enjoyed every conversation I had with all the young people who came through–not surprisingly, the pool is a popular place, but they also loved the Big Dam Bridge and other regional destinations).
  • Treasured Places Station had a (PlaceMatters’ DIY) touch-table that showed a map where people could place virtual “pins” highlighting places in the region they particularly value and “like” places that others have identified (this map and the Know Your Region quiz was set up by our friend Chris Haller at Urban Interactive Studio, who has done the project website)
  • A “Your Story” Station where we video-taped short statements about what people love about Central Arkansas
  • Know Your Region, a quiz for people to see how much they know about Central Arkansas.
  • A Participation Station where people could learn about how to participate in the process and scan QR codes using their smartphones to see more info on the project website.

PlaceMatters also set up live streaming for anyone who wanted to join the fun, but couldn’t come in person. We also had students from each class at the nearby eStem Charter School join us, and we loved seeing them interact with the technology and provide their ideas.

The following week, Brad Barnett, our Planning Analyst, was back in the region, helping use the touch-tables again for a round of “Hometown Visits” around the region. Along with Metroplan and Gresham, Smith & Partners, Brad helped provide opportunities for participation (similar to the kickoff) in places around the region, part of an ongoing strategy to reach people where they are in their day-to-day lives.

We feel that the model for the kickoff and round of local meetings was a good one, particularly with the level of interaction that both provided. We almost never want people to spend their valuable time at a meeting where they aren’t providing feedback and input. We’ll be pointing our partners and communities interested in a great model kickoff event to the Central Arkansas example. The hometown visits were also a good idea, and could be very successful in similar projects if the right locations are chosen where there is a lot of foot traffic.

Stay tuned in the coming weeks for additional posts about our current project work and our thoughts about what is working well and lessons learned.



Participation by Design: Using Story in Community Planning

This post, by guest blogger Ariana McBride, is the fourteenth in a month-long series on the impressive diversity of participatory decision-making tools that communities can use for land use plans, transportation plans, sustainability plans, or any other type of community plan. Our guest bloggers are covering the gamut, from low-tech to high-tech, web-based to tactile, art-based to those based on scenario planning tools, and more. We welcome your feedback and would love to hear about the participatory design strategies that you’ve found to be the most useful.

Biddeford, Maine had a story booth at a local festival.

Everyone has a story to tell about their community. It doesn’t matter whether you are young or old, native or newcomer; we all have personal experiences that connect us to our city or town. Stories tell us a lot about what we value most—the customs, characteristics and special places that make our community unique.

There are many examples of how stories have been used to understand community, such as Why Here Why Now or Saving the Sierras, and there is also great potential to apply personal story in community planning efforts.

The Orton Family Foundation’s Heart & Soul Community Planning approach uses personal stories to identify what people value in their community. We rely on personal stories for three key reasons:

  • Stories draw in new people. Most planning processes are not inviting to people who may not have experience with land use issues or who do not feel comfortable speaking up at a typical public meeting. By starting with story people share their perspectives in their own words and often on their own turf. It’s also a great way to engage youth or create an opportunity for a multi-generational project.
  • Story sharing reveals common values and builds relationships. Stories reveal common community values and also allow us to understand our differences. Listening to someone else’s story lets us be more open to their views; it gives us a space to reflect on their perspective and grow to see new possibilities. This process can build relationships among individuals who typically do not connect or who in the past presented opposing positions.
  • Stories bring community change to life. Tired of looking at yet another graph of population change or listening to statistics about how employment has shifted in your town? Stories complement the numbers with the experience of those who lived through those changes. They can deepen our understanding of what is important to our quality of life and whether it is perceived as eroding or improving. Stories can also speak to our aspirations for the future in a way that invites others to feel connected to that positive vision.

You may be thinking, “Sounds great, but how do I actually incorporate personal stories into my planning project?”

Three key steps are critical to using story in planning: gathering stories, sharing them and identifying community values from them. Some story methods allow you to do all three at once whereas some may focus more on gathering and require complementary methods for dialogue around community values. How you use story and the form it takes depends on your project’s goals and community capacity.

Orton has produced a number of resources on how you can introduce story into planning projects. In general, you’ll be considering one of three broad approaches:

  1. Group story: Bringing people together to share stories can be a powerful experience both for identifying community values and for building new relationships. Group story experiences can be designed so that you get from people’s individual stories to community values in one session. For instance, story circle is a method where people share stories in small groups focused on a specific question and from those stories identify commonalities.
  2. Paired story: Often stories are gathered by an interviewer who may interview many people in a community. These story interviews are typically recorded conversations between two or more people where they can share memories, personal experiences, and connections to a place. This approach can be designed so that the interviewees are explicitly identifying community values or it may rely on follow-on activities where others listen to stories to identify those values.
  3. Solo story: There are many options where individuals create their own stories. Locative media, like Toronto’s Murmur project, or essay contests through the local paper or schools are just two examples. This option can is attractive because people can contribute on their own time and in creative ways but it can be more challenging to identify values or create opportunities for community dialogue.

Wondering how communities have already used stories in planning? Here are a few examples:

A story circle in Story circle in Damariscotta, Maine.

Damariscotta, Maine collected 80 stories about what people cared about in town using Neighbor-to-Neighbor Chats (one-on-one story interviews) and Community Conversations (potluck story circles). Those conversations, in combination with issue-specific workshops and a town survey, led to the identification of six core community values that informed a charrette and a town vision.

Block party interviews in Golden, Colorado.

Golden, CO gathered 360 personal stories through recorded interviews and then used a series of listening sessions and community workshops to agree on two guiding principles and ten core values that now guide the City’s new Comprehensive Plan and other community plans.

Biddeford, ME used story in very creative ways in its Downtown Master Plan Project. Two hundred fifty stories were collected using a combination of storytelling fellows, high school students and Downtown Heartspots. Themes from these stories, captured as five core values, informed a series of neighborhood meetings and community workshops that resulted in a Downtown Master Plan. The power of story is in its ability to get at what really matters to people about where they live and to build the personal relationships that are essential for collaborative community action. The possibility for story in community planning relies on the creativity and courage of practitioners and citizen planners to try out this age-old tradition in a new context.

This post was contributed by Ariana McBride, a Senior Associate (Northeast Projects) with the Orton Family Foundation.

Participation by Design: How Do You Capture Compelling Visitor Stories? Interview with Christina Olsen

This post, by guest blogger Nina Simon, is the eighth in a month-long series on the impressive diversity of participatory decision-making tools that communities can use for land use plans, transportation plans, sustainability plans, or any other type of community plan. Our guest bloggers are covering the gamut, from low-tech to high-tech, web-based to tactile, art-based to those based on scenario planning tools, and more. Nina originally published this post, an interview with Christina Olsen, on her own Museum 2.0 blog on May 3, 2011. We welcome your feedback and would love to hear about the participatory design strategies that you’ve found to be the most useful.

Lots of museums these days have video comment booths to invite visitors to tell their stories, but how many of those booths really deliver high-impact content? Last week, I talked with Tina Olsen, Director of Education and Public Programs at the Portland Art Museum, about their extraordinary Object Stories project. They designed a participatory project that delivers a compelling end product for onsite and online visitors… and they made some unexpected decisions along the way.

How and why did Object Stories come to be?

The project arose from a grant announcement from MetLife Foundation around community engagement and outreach. I knew I didn’t want to do something temporary—a program that would last a year or two and then go away. And I also knew we wanted to connect with the Northwest Film Center, which is situated in the museum. There hasn’t been a history of collaboration between the museum and the film center and we wanted the chance to partner more deeply, and build a platform where we could continue to do so.

In the education department, we have some key values around slowing down, conversation and participation around art, and deep looking. And so this concept of asking visitors to spend some focused time thinking about their relationships with objects and artworks really made sense to me.

Also, on a personal level, I had this really powerful experience with my mother in a Storycorps booth in Grand Central years ago that had a profound impact on me. She had revealed things I’d never known, and I kept coming back to it. There was something in there that I wanted to play with in a museum concept.

What did you end up with and how did you get there?

Our first notion was all about something mobile, something that would go out to the community. We imagined an cart at the farmer’s markets where people could record stories. But we couldn’t figure out how we were going to sustain that with our staff.

We ended up with a gallery in the museum instead. It’s in a good location, but it’s also kind of a pass-through space to other galleries. It has a recording booth that you sign up in advance to use, and you go in and tell a story about an object that is meaningful to you. The other parts of the gallery are for experiencing the stories, and for connecting with the Museum collection. We have cases with museum objects that people told stories about, with large images of those storytellers adjacent to the object, and in the middle of the gallery is a long rectangular table with touchscreens where people can access all the stories that have been recorded.

Your recording booth asks participants for audio stories plus photos of themselves with their objects. Why did you choose this format instead of video?

We had planned on having it be video. The proposal to Metlife was all video. Then we started working with our local design and technology firms — Ziba Design and Fashionbuddha — and in the prototyping, it became clear we had to go another way.

We partnered with the Film Center to conduct workshops with community organizations around personal object storytelling. These really informed the project, and helped get the word out about the gallery. We rigged up a video recording booth in Fashionbuddha’s studios. We found people would go in, do their story, come out, say it was so powerful and cathartic, but then the videos would be really bad—boring, too long, unstructured. They were often visually uncomfortable to watch. And some participants were turned off by the video recording—they found it too scary, and being on camera distracted them from telling their story – especially older people.

We had this moment where we were going to sign off on design and move to fabrication, and I was really worried. We had participants who loved the experience, but the watchers were really lukewarm about the results. And we realized of course that the majority audience would be watchers, not storytellers. We invited a cross-section of artists, filmmakers, and advertisers to join us for a think tank. We all sat down and looked at the content and we said, “this is not good enough, this is not watchable enough.”

So what did you do next?

We came up with a system that was much more structured and is based on audio, not video. In the current setup, you walk into the booth, all soundproofed and carpeted, and then you sit down on a cozy bench. You can come alone or with up to three people. You face a screen, and the screen is close enough to reach out and touch without getting up. The screen prompts you, with audio and with words, and it’s in both English and Spanish, because we really wanted to reach out to the Spanish-speaking community in Portland.

First, the screen asks if you want to watch an example story. If not, it says “let’s get started.”

There are five prompts that follow, and for each, you get 45 seconds to record a response. Each of the prompts was really carefully written and tested to scaffold people to tell a great story. People don’t necessarily walk in the booth knowing how to do that. For example, the first prompt, which is about discovery, asks, “When and how did you first receive, discover, or encounter your object? What was your first feeling or impression of it? Who was there?” This prompt really gets people sharing specifics, sharing details—the things that make a story successful.

Another good example is the final question: “If you had to give it to someone, who would it be and what would you say to them?” This question really makes people focus on the meat of what’s important about their object, and it’s a natural summarizer… but in an interesting, personal way.

After you record your audio, you get to take the photos and give your story a six-word title. We experimented with when in the process to take the photos, and it’s nice at the end—it’s a kind of reward. The recording is often very intense—people cry, it takes something out of them. Photos are fun. We prompt participants to hold the object in different ways: close to camera, pose with the object in your lap, hold your object as close to your face as possible, hold it in profile.

How do you edit the stories?

Fashionbuddha built a backend content management system where you can choose audio segments, reorder them, and choose photos. This is made to be sustainable with current staffing– while we have the ability to edit within a 45 second chunk, 99% of the time we don’t do it—we just pick the segments and photos we want to use and put them in order.

The gallery also features objects from the museum’s collection with people’s stories about them. Who are the people who record stories about museum objects?

That is more curated. The first testing we did there was very much the same as Object Stories – anyone could sign up and get involved, pick an object in the museum and tell a story about it. Those stories were, frankly, often very banal. There was an imbalance between stories with people’s own objects, with which they have profound relationships, versus museum objects that they might come see once or twice and like, but not really have a deep connection with.

So we realized we had to have an equivalence–the museum stories had to be profound too. And it couldn’t all be curators, but these storytellers had to be people who had profound relationships with museum objects. We have four stories up now: from a guard, a curator, a longtime museum lover, and an artist. In the future, I’m thinking of really mining our membership, putting out a call to them, building some programs that might help us seed and support the museum stories.

The website for the stories is beautiful. You also got some prime physical real estate for this project. How did you get the gallery?

That was really hard-won. At first, it was going to be a little booth tucked away somewhere. As the project progressed, our prototyping showed us we didn’t want a shallow experience–a photo booth where you could just drop in and do it. We wanted something where people could spend the time and focus deeply on the experience at hand. That required more space.

And it was really important to the director and to me that Object Stories connected to our mission and to our collection. That led me to feel strongly that we needed to have museum objects in the space. It couldn’t be an educational space with no works of art in it. I wanted to integrate this experience into what you do in the rest of the museum. We ended up with a very multi-departmental team, and that helped too.

The big goal is to activate your connection with objects in the rest of the museum, that Object Stories models the idea of having deep relationships with objects for any visitor who comes in.

What do you know so far about the non-participating visitors to the gallery?

I only know anecdotally. People are really entranced with the stories, browsing them on the touchscreens, and with the museum objects as well. They even spend a long time looking at this big case we put up that just features 8×10 cards with photos of people with their objects.

I was surprised at how long many visitors will spend at this case. It’s just graphics. Why would people look at that? I think it may be because people are visually included in the space, and that’s rare in an art museum. They’re very interested and maybe even moved by it.
You can browse stories online and sign up to record one at Object Stories is funded by the Metlife Foundation, the Kress Foundation, the Lehman Foundation, the Oregon Arts Commission, and the PGE Foundation.

This post was contributed by Nina Simon, Executive Director of The Museum of Art & History in Santa Cruz, CA, author of the Museum 2.0 blog, and author of the book The Participatory Museum. Nina has published a number of other blog posts in recent years that would have worked really well for this blog series. They include “Fifteen Random Things I’ve Learned About Design for Participation This Year,” “How to Design From Virtual Metaphor to Real Experience, and an Example,” “The Johnny Cash Project: A Participatory Music Video That Sings,” “Adventures in Participatory Journalism: An Interview With Sarah Rich About 48 Hour Magazine,” and “The Psychedelic Experience.”

PlaceMatters Blog Roundup: May 24, 2011

Deliberative Democracy writes about a new report by the IBM Center for the Business of Government about using online tools for community engagement.

inCommon had a great run: posts on NYC’s effort to improve civic engagement in immigrant communities, a link to a Christian Science Monitor article on participatory budgeting, how crowd wisdom is undermined by knowledge of other people’s responses (citing a story in Wired Magazine), and clues that a public engagement process may not be very effective.

You’ll find another post on participatory budgeting in Engaging Cities, this one exploring its spread in the United States. And Engaging Cities also makes the case about the importance of online tools like Twitter for public involvement.

Cooltown blogs about an experiment in crowdsourced planning, which resulted in the inclusion of a piazza in the new Bristol, Connecticut downtown plan.

Gov 2.0 Watch considers how internet personalization impacts civic engagement, drawing on a recent TED talk by Eli Pariser.

A Ken Eklund guest post on Museum 2.0 describes a terrific game-based experiment with mobile phones, designed to help visitors connect with a park in San Diego. The approach could be used in plenty of contexts.

Online forums can be a central element in a community engagement strategy, and Intellitics posts about the key to making online work: deep listening.

Deliberations describes “Citizens Assemblies,” a deliberative process approach that relies on a cross-section of the entire impacted population.

The Australian e-journal On Line Opinion describes the elements of an effective deliberative democracy, including the ability of participants to actually influence the decision-making process, and how representative the group is of the larger community (h/t to Deliberations for the link).

The Orton Family Foundation Blog explores the use of storytelling and art in understanding community values.

Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space comments on the value of the initiative process for securing community buy-in for large infrastructure projects.

On the PlaceMatters blog, Jason asks if games can save the world, and Jocelyn wonders aloud about applying the lessons of TED and TED’s exceptional speakers to the challenges of community decision-making. Jason also reports on a new spatial decision support portal from the University of Redlands.

What did we miss?

PlaceMatters Blog Roundup: May 5, 2011

Photo of "Before I die" street art by Candy Chang in New Orleans, from the Engaging Cities website, originally posted on flickr by user

Engaging Cities describes a community input approaching inviting residents to offer ideas for vacant spaces by placing easy-peel vinyl stickers with those ideas on the windows of the empty buildings. It’s essentially a crowd-sourced idea mapping strategy designed to collect citizen ideas on-site.

Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space posts about an unusual engagement technique for deciding on the seat configuration on San Francisco’s BART light rail system: invite people to play around with actual prototypes of the rail cars. Even better, it’s set up as a mobile system, allowing the BART planners to bring the prototypes to Bay area communities.

Museum 2.0 has a guest post by Tina Olsen, from the Portland Art Museum, about a deep story-based museum engagement.

While Tina Olsen writes about fostering effective engagement by making people feel comfortable, another approach is to to create juxtapositions that throw people out of their comfort zone, like the two fun videos Full Circle Associates links to, one with Yo Yo Ma and Lil Buck (cello + jookin) and the other with Julie-O (cello + beatbox). All sorts of goofy, interesting, and sometimes important things can happen when you create the space for unexpected mashups.

Sustainable City Network describes our Albany 2030 project (with collaborator WRT), a comprehensive plan effort utilizing a wide range of community engagement and civic participation strategies.

Planetizen published its list the Top 25 Leading Thinkers in Urban Planning & Technology, which is a great survey of some of the coolest, most interesting folks around. We are super-pleased to see three folks with PlaceMatters affiliations included, among them Ken Snyder (our CEO), Holly St. Clair (of Boston’s Metropolitan Area Planning Council and on our board), and Chris Haller (a former PlaceMatters staffer now running Urban Interactive Studio).

Intellitics describes a new public participation effort known as the Canadian Community for Dialogue and Deliberation project.

Some web site and blog launches: The Davenport Institute for Public Engagement and Civic Leadership kicked off their Gov 2.0 Watch blog and another blog called inCommon, focused on participatory governance. Among inCommon’s early posts is an interesting discussion on “vote mobs.” And America Speaks launched their American Square project, “A place for civil, informed dialogue on policy and politics.”

PlaceMatters’ Ken Snyder posted a video showing our recent – and largely successful – urban aerial photography experiment using a helium balloon and an iPhone. Not one to be outdone, Holly St. Clair of Boston’s Metropolitan Area Planning Council (and a PlaceMatters board member) posted in the comments section another (amazing) video about using the same basic approach but sending the iPhone into the upper stratosphere.

We also blogged and posted a video about our “Beers in Beantown” unconference event in Boston focused on creative disruptions in planning

What did we miss?

PlaceMatters Blog Roundup: March 30, 2011

I had a week off because of a few conferences in Washington, D.C. (including the terrific Nonprofit Technology Conference) and then an unplanned week away from the office as a raging wildfire threatened my town (we learned some great lessons about communication, community, and social media – I’ll blog about that separately), but I’m back and have got a great set of links to share . . .

PlaceMatters is presenting a panel at the APA conference in Boston in a couple of weeks called “What to do When Public Participation Goes Terribly Wrong?” Ken, who is a Planetizen blogger as well as the PlaceMatters‘ CEO, posted on the panel and invites folks to send in their own stories of near misses or total disasters. (He also cross-posted on our blog).

Bridges of B offers a lengthy description and generally favorable critique of Akoha, a civics-minded mobile-based direct action game. It offers a game-based platform for creating community-oriented missions, using game mechanics to motivate engagement. One criticism: “Place matters, especially in civics,” and Akoha doesn’t tie to one’s place very well, but Bridges of B seems pretty enthused about Ahoka as an early stab, and about the promise of the approach more generally.

National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation links to a National School Public Relations Association post called “Recipes for Innovation in Public Engagement,” focused on community engaging in the context of public education.

The Irish Cultural Center blogged about a photography project in which the subject of each photograph held a Polaroid image of the previous subject, so each photograph subject is connected to the person photographed just prior and the one photographed just afterwards. (Thanks for the link, Ethan!).

Ragtag posted a terrific (Euro- and Wikipedia-centric) data visualization relying on a cross-referencing of the location and date data in Wikipedia articles on historic events. (This one was Ethan, as well).

Reimagine Rural describes their Front Porch Forums tool, a social media application designed for smaller, rural communities. They contrast the tool with conventional social media languages and tools: it’s designed to encourage face-to-face interaction (rather than designed to maximize the time engaged with the tool). It’s focused more on general community and civic engagement as opposed to community decision-making, but it seems applicable to a wider range of situations. One post describes the Front Porch Forum and the other post has a short video explanation.

Intellitics blogs about the central role small group discussions can play in anchoring a community process.

Digital Urban continues their ruminations on the use of QRCodes in the context of museum exhibits. We find the technology and the applications pretty interesting from a broader public engagement perspective as well.

Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space grapples with the challenges of web-based engagement around redistricting.

Orton Family Foundation blogs about a story-gathering, asset mapping, and visioning effort undertaken by high school students for their Biddeford, Maine downtown.

Augmented Reality posted about two interesting innovations. The first, including a video, described an application involving driving a radio-controlled car around a track, with cameras for a real-time cockpit view and “augmented reality scenarios overlaying animations onto the live-video image which were triggered either with a light barrier or optically.” Very cool. The second shows the use of an augmented reality app to create a racetrack for a video game by mapping Red Bull cans laid out on the floor. Both illustrate ways in which augmented reality technologies can be used, and for us it’s always with an eye toward planning and community decision-making.

Common Sense California writes posts on the Marine Corps’ version of a town hall meeting at Camp Hansen.

Engaging Cities writes about the QR Code trend and offers some best practices tips for folks who may want to experiment. QR codes clearly offer process designers a tool for sparking certain types of engagement, and will be increasingly useful as camera phones continue their market saturation.

Engaging Cities also reflects a little on the use of film and community storytelling in urban planning.

My PlaceMatters colleagues have been busy with other posts as well, including Jocelyn’s on IBM’s City Forward online tool (about which Fast Company wrote recently as well), Jason’s interview with ESRI’s Matt Baker about geodesign and sketch-based feedback in ArcGIS, Ken’s thoughts on integrating DIY touchtables with GIS, and my post about the iPad 2 Best Buy vs. Mac Store face-off.

What did we miss?

Simple Storytelling

Hans Rosling is known as a data visualization guru, for his complex research of global economic development patterns and his striking ability to clearly explain those patterns, and for his role in developing sophisticated data visualization software. He is also – lest we overlook this – a master storyteller. His skill at using complicated software to tell complicated stories is unsurpassed, but he also knows when to the set the technology aside and rely instead on simpler tools. Here is his three-minute version of the story of population growth and economic development using legos.