As we move to ‘digital meetings’ what are the ‘Modern Methods of Meaningful Participation’ that we can be using?

Bradford Civic Society toolkit that you can use to to suggest improvements to a specific street:


CreateCommunities tool which allows communities to re-think their city after lockdown.

Social Pinpoint

Social Pinpoint provides a complete toolkit to make it easy to engage with your community and stakeholders online. Listen, inform and strengthen relationships to create positive community outcomes

Community Engagement Platform

First posted on April 2nd:

Our Director, Ian Harvey (@ianmichharvey)  says that community groups need to be aware as to how existing and emerging technologies can give them a meaningful role in a 21st century planning system.

The government recently passed its emergency Coronavirus legislation to enable local authorities to hold virtual meetings, though regulations must be laid by the secretary of state before these come into force.  This was confirmed in a letter by the Chief Planner (see link).

These powers will allow councils to hold “virtual planning committees”whilst the “physical” is not possible. Civic Voice’s preference is support councils meeting in a virtual manner, as opposed to delegating all decisions to officers. It is something that civic societies and community groups need to be aware about and we will be thinking about the implications as to how communities can continue to have a voice.

At Civic Voice, we believe that information systems will play a much greater role in the planning system going forward, but we also know that we need to balance the advancement of IT with the opportunity to ensure that the local community can continue to make the appropriate representations. How can we do consultation when we cannot meet?

With authorities needing to find new ways to make decisions and to use IT, our Director, Ian Harvey shares some thoughts on some tools that he has come across that are helping to balance the system and make it more collaborative. The future of our planning system will sit somewhere between the “physical and the digital” to ensure that we get everyone engaged.

The founders of Built ID aim to democratise the system, making  data accessible to all players, large and small, creating a level playing field for everyone. The platform provides an ideal way for developers to engage with the community and showcase new projects, giving a voice to the often disenfranchised and ultimately leading to the creation of buildings that people truly want.

Alongside interactive timelines and digestible facts about the development, the community are given the opportunity to vote on key questions and decisions for the schemes, with their input having an actionable impact on the resulting planning proposal.

This online platform has engaged over 1 million people in trusted and diverse conversations about the places they live, work and play. The tools help councils and developers to make and evidence better decisions, for example during planning.

According to Commonplace, 70% of respondents to the system, based on 1 million users, are under the age of 45. This is helping to open and create more diverse views and to create a more democratic and transparent system. It passes power to communities as it visualises what everyone thinks, and not just what a local authority wants to concentrate on.

The placemap is a free-to-use , open resource for communities and other to invite feedback and build support for built environment initiatives. Seems to be a good way to be inclusive as a civic society!

It is helping to create a more accessible system (visual) and democratic planning system in that the community can see what everyone thinks and not just what the developer  tells you others think!

VU-CITY is helping to simplify the process of planning and is providing a view of what our towns and cities look like in a virtual way. Until now we have relied on physical models and Urban Rooms (think the London model) and CGIs to help visualise the future;.

VU.CITY has done something pretty impressive and created the first truly interactive digital model of cities, continuously updated to provide a revolutionary tool for everyone to access and to see the cumulative impact of proposed planning application.

It is helping to create a more accessible system (visual) and collaborative planing system in that the private and public sector are both starting to use this system.

The challenge will be to make this system mainstreamed and affordable to communities, but this is the future, today.

An organisation that I admire from afar is CitizenLab. It is based on the belief that empowering citizens can help governments make better decisions, improve trust and strengthen democracy. Obviously, I agree with this!

CitizenLab gives governments a digital participation platform to consult their citizens on local topics and include them in decision-making and they have dozens of case studies about how the system is giving communities a voice via Grab a cup of tea and spend 10 minutes looking through these case studies to see the art of the possible!


Civic Voice’s ambition is to move away from ‘confrontation to collaboration’ and from ‘consultations to conversations’.

This should be a continuous conversation, not just one every four to five years when local elections start. ‘Just voting’ once every few years is no longer enough to run a modern society. We need to equip citizens to become more active participants
in our towns and villages. Doing this will help create pride and commitment to the success of our places.

I believe that these systems are the future, today.

Do you know about other systems? Do you have examples of councils using online technology to support the decision making process? Let us know via


As we move to ‘digital meetings’ what are the ‘Modern Methods of Meaningful Participation’ that we can be using?

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