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I had the great pleasure and fun of moderating a great session at the American Planning Conference in Atlanta earlier this week.  The session was called "Open Data, Apps and Planning, and it featured four of the brightest minds in the field.  So I could introduce them, sit back and shoot some video of their comments, which you'll find below.

Here's a few of the bright insights that came out of this session...

“There’s a bit of a ‘Being John Malkovich’ problem in software development,” says Bill Cromie, a co-founder at Significance Labs. “You know the scene where everyone in the world becomes John Malkovich? Developers can fall into the trap of thinking everyone in the world is just like them. But in low-income communities and communities of color, the lived experience is very different.”

Designing public engagement processes and institutions from the perspective of citizens alone makes them easy for policy makers to ignore. We need to pay more attention to the needs of those making policy in order to design public engagement processes which make a difference. 

If numbers are any indication, Monday morning’s packed conference room declared planners’ desire for new and creative ways to reach their respective publics.

Drawing on the experiences of four professionals, the “Innovative Community Engagement Tools” session explored planners’ options for moving beyond “traditional” outreach methods and towards creative alternatives that respect the unique character and scale of communities.

Trying to find focused time to talk to citizens in Charlotte is something that’s constantly on our minds, but felt we haven’t been doing enough of it yet. (We’re defining ‘citizens’ as local people who are affiliated with neither government nor the tech scene.) 

One way to combat that, we’ve found, is to take advantage of the time we spend getting around. Since we don’t have a car here, we’ve been taking the bus or a combination of Lyft / Uber X / cabs. What we discovered was that the Lyft / Uber X / cab drivers are pretty perfect for conducting casual, ad hoc interviews about the city. 

I've been trying to make dollars and sense of the open data economy for years. Does releasing data result in a more transparent healthcare marketplace? What business models for open datawork? Will publishing open climate data increase community resilience? Will releasing more open government data make better laws and result in more accountable governments, improvements to public services, or trillions of dollars of additional economic activity, as McKinsey & Company projected in October 2013?

In the early days of Twitter, it was easy and common to dismiss the infant social network as a simplistic tool that served a whimsical and nerdy niche.

In the field of urban innovation, perhaps no topic is as hot right now as that of the "smart city." But a new study finds that when broken down into its component parts, the approach is far more unevenly distributed than its catch-all label might imply — and that a better understanding of the concept, married with knowing the characteristics of a local place, can help predict which cities will get smart how.

by Travis Korte