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March 19, 2012

Crowdsourcing planning

     The 21st century has brought all kinds of challenges for cities, but along with that has come technological advances -- in particular new ways of bringing citizens together to plan for the future. Harnessing the power and the wisdom of interested citizens, as well as experts, was a big part of last month's TED conference in Long Beach and and the TED Prize 2012, The City 2.0, a kind of global Wikipedia connecting citizens, political leaders, urban experts, companies, and organizations, to reshape cities around the world. The idea was to create a clearinghouse for tools and methodologies, best practices, resources, innovations and experimentations.
      To get the City 2.0 website up and running, TED called on The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and its Technology for Engagement Initiative, IBM’s Smart Cities initiative, Razorfish, and Autodesk. TED's Chris Anderson and TED Prize Director Amy Novogratz called for the further donation of ideas, drawing suggestions from Disney Imagineering, Architects for Humanity, Living Homes, and Intuit. The Lincoln Institute was also in discussions with the TED Prize team, and plans to make its own contribution: a new network promoting open-source and open-access scenario planning software, described in a Policy Focus Report, Opening Access to Scenario Planning Tools, that will be released at the American Planning Association National Planning Conference April 13-17 in Los Angeles.
     The TED Prize has for the last five years been awarded to individuals, ranging from Harvard biologist Edward O. Wilson to create the Encylopedia of Life to the street artist JR and his initiative to encourage portraits of people plastered on walls and buildings. This year marks the first time the prize has gone to a broader concept.
     Just before the announcement of the prize, one of the more enlightening moments at the conference that shed some light on crowdsourcing was a request for online guesses of the weight of an ox that was brought onstage. There were about 500 responses; some were as low as 800 pounds, some as high as 8,000 pounds. The average was 1,793 pounds -- and the beast’s weight was 1,795.
     Metropolitan Institute director Kevin DeSouza has a great essay exploring the uses of crowdsourcing in planning at Planetizen. Expanded coverage of the TED Prize and TED 2012 can be viewed at The Atlantic Monthly's The Atlantic Cities.

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