We’ve been up to a lot in the past year at PYP. For my part, I recently put together a brief update on my research over 2012 and the beginning of 2013 for a donor. Here’s the bulk of the piece, to give you a very quick idea of how we’re progressing.

Community Engagement

In the spring and early summer of 2012 I led the planning and execution of a community engagement process in Glamorgan, Calgary. The process followed initial introductory and familiarization work carried out by Dr. Hunter (which I attended as well). Spring and summer saw meetings with the community association members and staff to plan workshops and conduct extensive recruitment work. Recruitment included posters, door-to-door visits to the business community, and even mailings to each home on some blocks.

The engagement portion consisted mainly of open public workshops. The first workshop introduced the project to the community at large. It was followed by three focus groups designed to elicit information from single-family home occupants, multi-family home occupants, and the business community, each separately. A second open workshop asked participants to plan what they would like to see in the community by marking and annotating community maps. Finally, the third workshop presented the findings of previous meetings and solicited any final feedback and correction of results necessary. Following the workshops, data collected in the form of notes, annotated maps, and various written feedback were coded. I am currently in the process of analyzing the findings and writing up results.

The engagement process was attended mainly by single-family homeowners. In order to gather more information from multi-family residents — who we felt were under-represented — I administered a door-to-door survey to supplement the engagement process. These were completed in the fall of 2012. I then transcribed the surveys and completed an initial analysis. More analysis of these is still needed, after which we’ll write up the results. The final written product from both the engagement process and door-to-door surveys will then be prepared for presentation in either a journal paper or in my master’s thesis.

PlanYourPlace Education Component

In July, I attended the GI Forum 2012 in Salzburg, Austria. There I presented the extended abstract of our education paper, titled “Delivery of an Online Education Component to Support a Participatory Planning Platform“. Essentially, we performed a literature review of papers concerning online education and retention. We were looking for ways that a website can be designed to effectively deliver online education to an enjoyment learning audience. We expect that our tool will be used by people on their own time for their own benefit, and we want to know how to effectively deliver educational material to that kind of user. We found 27 delivery characteristics, as we call them, ranging from discussion, interactivity and dynamism, to full integration of educational material into the platforms tools.

Since then, we have extended the study to include evaluation of existing educational websites. Evaluations were completed by both myself and by members of the public in the form of a survey. With the survey completed, we are in the final stages of preparing a full manuscript for submission to the Journal of Planning Education and Research.

PlanYourPlace Impact Assessment Tool

During fall 2012 and winter 2013 my research has centred on design and prototype development of an impact assessment tool. The tool will assess the impacts that proposed plans will have on factors important to sustainability and community residents. These factors are still under development, but are likely to include estimates of such things as water use, individual transportation costs, land use, and energy use. I am currently completing review of background literature and PlanYourPlace workshops (both internal project and community engagement workshops) to ascertain specifically what the tool should do, how it should do it, and how results should be communicated. These will inform the tool design. I am concurrently doing preliminary development work on the tool, testing the viability and utility of existing open source impact models and platforms for our purposes. Finally, I am also doing preliminary planning of the tool-testing phase of the research.

Keep checking back for updates on this, as we will eventually need testers! You may have a chance to test the tool, and your feedback may then be incorporated into the final design.

Master’s Thesis

In winter 2013 I increased the pace of work on my master’s thesis. This involved consolidation of already written portions, from the proposal, and the education paper and engagement process write-up mentioned above. I have completed the thesis outline and continue to add to sections as progressing research and literature review warrant.

Project Communication

Finally, I continue to work on project communication, as requested by stakeholders in project workshops and as indicated by project participatory philosophies. Communication is both in-person and electronic. Electronic communication is primarily in the form of the project website, blog, and social media feed. These efforts have recently (winter and spring 2013) increased as I continue to learn about social media communication strategies and tactics. In person communication occurs regularly on an informal basis, and also at the conference mentioned above, and an upcoming poster presentation session.

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