Maptionnaire – an upcoming standard for smarter urban planning?

Maptionnaire – an upcoming standard for smarter urban planning?

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To match the needs of the ever-growing population, smart urban planning has become a necessity. While experts everywhere are racking their brains to come up with the best of solutions, involving the general public in the process makes a huge difference. Citizens are the life and blood of any city and first-hand inputs from them as to what can be done to make their city smarter can aid in crafting out amazingly productive methods/means for urban planning.

Maptionnaire is a Finnish start-up that facilitates just that! It allows users (general public) to easily create their own map-based questionnaires and civic participation platforms on a cloud-based software. It is a PPGIS (public participatory GIS) platform which enables an effective engagement process. It works as a map-based survey platform that in one hand enables respondents to answer questions on the map by drawing map markings, drawing lines, or even polygons; on the other hand, they can also answer general survey questions with Maptionnaire.

The point is to enable better reach and communication through digital media, gather location-based data to generate good quality data, and allow citizens a smooth participation process.  Maptionnaire survey aims to empower residents, allowing them to freely point out locations where the city should or shouldn’t develop, and to draw inadequate or missing transportation connections.

So, how did Maptionnaire come up with the idea?

Festa Isufi, Community Engagement Advocate and Inbound Lead, Maptionnaire shares, “Mapita Oy is a spin-off from Aalto University, where the would-be founders started to develop PPGIS (public participatory GIS) tools to study perceived quality of the living environment in 2005.  Maarit Kahila, Development Director and Anna Broberg, Chief Executive Officer of Maptionnaire carried out their dissertations at Aalto University from this field. Noticing the lack of a method that would help answer the question “where”, together with Professor Marketta Kyttä, they formed the SoftGIS research team and that was the beginning of Maptionnaire.”

Maptionnaire focuses the development of place-based comments and discussions to enable efficient analysis and visualizations that are used to learn new information for smarter urban planning.

How does it work?

The main institutions that use Maptionnaire are cities, consultancies, and universities. maptionnaireThe Maptionnaire platform uses the following steps to receive ideas from the public.

  1. The user(s) creates a map-based questionnaire;
  2. The user(s) collects data by using cases that range from highly structured research to open brainstorming;
  3. The user(s) analyzes and reports the data online in either Maptionnaire or software of choice;
  4. The user(s) discusses and learns from the data by publishing the results in Maptionnaire.

Isufi shares, “For the urban and transportation planners it is the question “where” that very often helps to answer questions like “what” and “why”, and Maptionnaire has helped answering that.”

Maptionnaire has been used in projects where the scale varies a lot. Some projects have been implemented even inside the houses when the users of the building have been able to evaluate for example most liked and un-liked places inside a building. Very often Maptionnaire is used on neighbourhood level or in projects where the whole city is studied.

Happy to help

Isufi gladly shares, “Many of our customers have been with us ever since they started using Maptionnaire first back in 2011. The user-friendliness, easiness and high visual quality of the tool have attracted the users to use Maptionnaire continuously, turning Maptionnaire into a standard in many cities.”

Several urban planning projects have significantly benefited so far with increased community engagement achieved through Maptionnaire. For instance, the city of Stockholm uses Maptionnaire for many projects. Recently they have successfully engaged the residents for a dialogue around building 140000 new housing units.

In the words of Isufi, “Urban changes, and especially the densification of existing cities, are always tricky, so using Maptionnaire has also served as an informing tool where residents have gotten to know more about the future of their city. Most importantly, they also understand that they have a say in it.”

On the smaller scale, the data gathered with Maptionnaire has even turned to new design results. For example in Cities of Lahti and Helsinki as part of their detailed planning projects, new walking routes were designed according to the data gathered from the residents with Maptionnaire.

Besides Stockholm, many cities in Europe, US and New Zealand rely on Maptionnaire, when it comes to effective engagement with citizens. Maptionnaire has been used extensively in the Nordic countries, the USA, New Zealand, Australia, and other countries in Europe.

What lies in the future?

“We are focused on global growth. Our goal is to have more cities around the globe using Maptionnaire. We are eager to share information about good public participation practices among the countries where collaboration and engagement is getting stronger hold,” shares Isufi.

Residents are the ones that are most affected by the changes in their living environments and that is one important reason why they should be part of the decision making process. On the other hand, the experts should have smarter tools when communicating with people.

Using digital tools nowadays is far more beneficial for both; they enable a wider reach for the planners, and people can respond from the comfort of their home, or park, or wherever they happen to be. Maptionnaire is surely the tool for smart urban planning, what the world needs urgently.