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Today we have a guest post by from Magdalena Pawlowicz of

Apps are revolutionizing residents’ ability to occupy more prominent roles in how communities are shaped and developed.

Crowdsourcing, at its base, gathers inputs (names, money, information, etc.) and applies it to a shared goal – build a well, produce a film, fund a scholarship. Communities are experimenting with the same, amassing resident thoughts, desires, feedback and aligning them with public initiatives to make tangible improvements to neighborhoods, large and small.

Technology (apps specifically) can play a significant role as an enabler for wider engagement with various city planning process phases and also as a democratizing platform allowing both the loudest and the more marginalized voices to come together in a shared manner.

For years now, municipalities and businesses alike have been using “participatory planning” to both engage their stakeholders and create what they perceive to be a tighter bond between “user” and “provider.” Reporting techniques (typically employed by municipalities) allow individuals to feed information directly back to a local municipality (via an app or web technology) surrounding tangible issues – potholes, broken street lights and so on. In this manner citizens get relatively small-scale problems dealt with quickly and efficiently, and local municipalities benefit by drawing on local intelligence surrounding issues that could become costly if neglected. Yet, the level of engagement is rather basic.

In the UK, a Localism Act was introduced in 2010 with much fanfare. More than simply communicating potholes to the powers that be, the Act was slated be groundbreaking – the start of a new era and a catalyst by which decision-making powers would be devolved from central government into the hands of individuals and communities. However, it has not worked out that way. In fact, the Localism Act has had negligible effect on the balance of power between local communities and authorities, or between central and local government.

The inherent problem with participatory planning is that an intermediary usually needs to step in to help communities translate neighborhood ideas into an action compatible with the policy landscape and the decision-making processes. The intervention of intermediaries is becoming less sustainable however as public-sector budgets get leaner by the year.  Creative solutions are needed so communities can independently gather data surrounding their respective areas, identify key issues and communicate their feedback in real time.

Here is where the app,, can help. While communication is one thing, mapping is where the real value lies. And taking this a step further – mapping in real-time. employs an innovative, geo-location platform where users drop “Gemies” to highlight certain items – bikes for share, a new falafel joint, acoustic music in the park, broken street lamp – you get the picture. Other users either tap into that information or simply filter the information they choose to digest per individual tastes and preferences.

Communication between users is valuable. But communication between “user” and “provider” as mentioned above might be the Holy Grail city governments have long been seeking. Officials are elected, paid by tax revenue, and in place to serve their constituency., a constituency voted, opined post-election via traditional media, and perhaps even communicated with the “powers that be” via Facebook or similar platforms. however now provides an outlet on pertinent issues happening here and now:

  • A proposed park to be built at the intersection of Elm and 7th.
  • A new wing on the Civic Center that could be slated for several activities – Vote Now!
  • Areas where police presence on the weekend is most necessary per resident feedback.

Empowering residents is more than simply lip-service. Voices are vital to the construction of sound, civic-minded communities, and has taken this concept and literally sprinted with an innovative, geo-location mapping service that is unparalleled on the market today. The app enables for wider engagement, and most important, an equal platform for all to weigh in. Wasn’t that the democratizing thought behind the internet in the first place?

About the Author:

Magdalena Pawlowicz, co-founder of, a free location-based app that allows users to explore, create and connect with the city in innovative ways via smart phones. She is a successful serial entrepreneur in the technology field with a vision to change city life via the empowerment of the very individuals who live and visit cities to share their data freely. Join the movement to make our cities more livable and send us an email to find out more:

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