Helsinki recently adopted a new master plan which will guide the city’s development for the next decade. Helsinki is a quickly-growing city with pressing a need for new housing amid commitments to delivering ecologically- and socially-sustainable neighborhoods. In order to find viable, practical solutions, Helsinki has made it a priority to develop the city together with its residents.
However, engagement is not always easy. Meeting with residents, advocacy groups, and other stakeholders can take up a lot of resources and provide meager benefits. People are often hard to reach and, when you do reach them, those opposed new changes often dominate the discussion. What’s more, social media has taken much of the conversation about development online. For urban planners, feedback generated through these channels can be difficult to handle and use.
Helsinki’s City Planning Department bridged these gaps with their master plan project by widening their public participation toolbox. They kicked the planning process off with a Maptionnaire survey which empowered residents, allowing them to freely point out locations where the city should or shouldn’t develop, and to draw inadequate or missing transportation connections.
The results were astounding: in just one month, the questionnaire attracted 4,700 respondents who marked more than 33,000 personal-experience-based ideas on a map of the city. Much of the input was received from conventionally hard-to-reach demographic groups such as parents and youth and, unlike those attitudes often expressed via traditional participation methods, the responses showed that Helsinkians welcomed urban densification within already built-up areas.
“We had an excellent number of respondents and entries. The Maptionnaire survey was a success. It was very usable, and responding was clear and easy. I believe that the survey’s results will be used as background material for a wide range of future projects.”
— Heikki Mäntymäki, Communications Manager in the City Planning Department
The Maptionnaire project helped planners and decision-makers to acquire a more detailed sense of the areas where new construction is generally accepted as well as those areas where it’s not. The gathered data was also used as an important information feed in a series of workshops for citizens to continue co-planning what their neighborhoods could look like in the future.