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Guest Blog post from Philip Higgins – Bristol CC

April 29, 2010

Bristol tries innovative map based consultation

Bristol City Council has teamed up with local software developer Logograph to offer a map based consultation for a new planning document they are developing.  Despite only being launched 2 weeks ago, the site has already collected over 100 contributions.  Visitors are being asked to place a cherish or change pointer on the map and then provide commentary.  They can also attach a photo or upload a video and comment on other people’s suggestions.  The ideas are being used by the council to provide citizen involvement in the issues identification ahead of the writing of the plan which will guide the urban development of Bristol’s central area. 

Crowd sourcing using interactive mapping tools is a developing area of public consultation.  Traditionally, councils would hold events and invite people to add ‘post-it notes’ to a map.  This time-honoured process works well, but only involves a handful of people.  How can you open up the process to whoever wants to get involved?  Interactive mapping tools can help, however, care must be taken to ensure the complexity of some GIS tools doesn’t become a barrier to citizen involvement.  The google mash-up approach of seems to be pitched at the right level to encourage this involvement in a relatively easy-to-use way.  Also, the council is capturing relatively precise geographic data rather than the ‘on the corner by the pub’ level of response which sometimes comes in via paper consultation.   

The site has also been used to good effect by Bristol City Council in its Cycle City and Quiet Places consultations

 Interested to hear about other ways for councils and government could carry out these map-based consultations…………….

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