Welcome to the final installment of our posts illustrating Sasaki's innovative approach to planning in conjunction with APA 2012 National Planning Conference and Sasaki's receipt of the association's National Planning Excellence Award for a Planning Firm! Today, we'd like to share a game-changing tool we developed for The Tomorrow Plan—a two-year regional planning process in Greater Des Moines, Iowa. The Tomorrow Plan centers around a geoanalytic scenario modeling process, in which several possible scenarios form the basis for discussion about the future. Sasaki is lead consultant for the project, which is funded by a regional livability grant from HUD.
Sasaki developed a dynamic, game-like tool that pushes the boundaries of technology and engagement in planning. Called Design My DSM, the tool takes an innovative, participatory approach—allowing citizen stakeholders to have direct impacts on the design of an upcoming scenario. The goal is to illuminate overlapping interests among stakeholders and to encourage people to think regionally before strategizing locally.
The interdisciplinary Sasaki team—made up of urban planners, visual and interaction designers, and web developers—started with three big ideas:
1. Most planning tools let consist of pre-made maps or research material. How could we design a fun interface that is all about the user, how planning impacts them, and what they want to see in the future?
2. Getting people engaged and excited about the planning process can be hard. Why don't we design a tool that is playful, focused on education, and designed to elevate the discussion of ideas?
3. Crowdsourcing and participatory planning techniques are the next frontier for planning. What if we used the dynamic tool to directly feed users' input into a brand-new scenario?
One of the ongoing challenges for planning is how to build trust among diverse stakeholder interest, and how to create an incentive to participate in the planning process. Design My DSM uses a playful approach to lower the stakes, making it easy for people to explore how their personal preferences relate to regional benefits—and to begin to see overlapping interests.
Sasaki has developed many different types of dynamic tools over the years, and the common theme is that all are designed to help inform decision-making. Our goal is to make engagement tools that can have a positive impact on public discourse. And the best way we know how to do that is to make it personal, and make it fun.