3 Takeaways from the ISPM Conference

The International Society of Participatory Mapping (ISPM) conference is a forum that brings together scholars, planners and practitioners working with participatory mapping and spatial participatory methods. This year, the three-day event was hosted by Aalto University in Finland. Here are our three takeaways from the conference.

1. Lay Knowledge Should Be Acknowledged

Professor Greg Brown from the California Polytechnic State University opened the first day of the ISPM conference by presenting the idea about ordinary citizens being the experts of their surroundings. Participatory mapping and PPGIS does exactly this: it gives us all the opportunity to participate, and it challenges the status quo. We as citizens and residents are able to say what we think. 

But he also pointed out a challenge in this scenario: is lay knowledge acknowledged to the extent it should be? Is it considered inferior knowledge? The community gathered at the conference know it’s not but do, for instance, decision makers acknowledge it?  There was an interesting discussion around these questions on the second day of the conference in a panel discussion titled “Views from practice to participatory mapping”. You can watch a recording of the discussion here

2. Getting More People Involved is Essential

When we consider utilizing lay knowledge, it’s essential that we get to reach the people we want to and need to. This seemed to be an overarching dilemma in the conference presentations: how to get more people involved?

The City of Denver has managed to solve this challenge well in their community outreach project called Denveright. In his keynote speech, Senior City Planner Scott Robinson showed us how it is possible to engage citizens to increase public participation.

Robinson explained that their success factors with public participation were combining online and offline methods, and making engagement fun. They had, for instance, developed a game called “Growing a Better Denver” where participants were able to play a growth scenario for the city they wanted to pursue. They played the game with residents in community meetings and those who couldn’t attend, were able to play the online version developed in Maptionnaire.

One of the key factors was also using social media actively to both communicate about the project and to distribute the online surveys via Facebook, Twitter, and local social media application. In Denver, they also found that communicating about Denveright through community leaders was a good way to reach out to community members. The community leaders acted as advocates for the program and encouraged residents to participate in shaping their city.

Read more about how Denver used Maptionnaire for online engagement


3. Participatory Mapping Can Be Applied in a Million Ways

Participatory mapping and PPGIS can be applied in so many different areas – whether it’s about preserving nature, developing urban surroundings, about mapping green areas or renewable energy sites – or anything in between and beyond. Participatory mapping and PPGIS is used all over the world to map what people think: the ISPM Conference had over 115 participants from 30 countries and we got to learn about research projects and initiatives from every continent. But as said, no matter where you are, it’s important that scientists, researchers, decision makers, and citizens work together. As Professor Billie Giles-Corti put it nicely in her presentation, “PPGIS has great potential to close the gap between researchers and policy makers & practitioners.” We’re inclined to think so too :)

All the keynote presentations and panel discussions from the conference are available online. Watch the ISPM keynote presentations on-demand.

As a side event, we organized our yearly Maptionnaire Summer Meetup. Read a recap of the event.

Scott Robinson from the City and County of Denver telling about their public outreach strategy at the ISPM Conference.

Scott Robinson from the City and County of Denver telling about their public outreach strategy at the ISPM Conference.

Interested in learning more about the Maptionnaire tool for effective public participation?