The Genesis of PlaceSpeak:
In the summer of 2010, PlaceSpeak CEO Colleen Hardwick was exploring the potential for transit-centered development along the Arbutus Rail Corridor in Vancouver. The City of Vancouver and the CPR had been deadlocked on this issue for decades. Both sides recognized that there was a “log jam” in public consultation, but needed to see “evidence” of public support. Traditional methods for obtaining evidence of public opinion were lacking: public meetings, door-knocking and land-line telephone were no longer effective strategies. Online consultation was not place-based and being anonymous, did not constitute reliable evidence. One day, while staring at Google Maps, Colleen started to see green dots popping up on the map, in her minds’ eye. That is when she realized that she needed to create a way to connect people’s digital identity to their address online, but in such a way that protected their individual privacy.
Since then, PlaceSpeak has advanced from prototype through beta-testing to its 1.0, 2.0 and now 3.0 versions. The company has adopted a software-as-a-service (SaaS) revenue model, acquired 12,500 users, and conducted over 200 consultations in Canada, the USA, Northern Ireland and now Tasmania.
A Unique Solution:
PlaceSpeak™ makes it possible to connect with people online within specific geographical boundaries. Up until very recently there has been no way to communicate with citizens online according to their actual address. PlaceSpeak authenticates citizen users to their location and in doing so generates verifiable feedback data to enable evidence-based policy and decision-making. Participants can weigh in on local issues, inform deliberation and influence outcomes in their neighbourhoods. It advances public consultation to a whole new level. Colleen foresees a day where every digitally connected citizen can participate in having more involvement and easier participation in shaping their communities, thus creating better neighborhoods.
Exciting New Developments:
PlaceSpeak recently launched a free service called Neighbourhoods which allows residents within the boundaries of specific neighbourhoods to communicate privately with one another. Participants within neighbourhoods can connect with each another, post items of interest on a community noticeboard and create and share local events.
Also, our innovative Open Data initiative is automating notifications for residents about proposed land use changes including rezoning and development permit applications. Open data is a central pillar of the PlaceSpeak’s development strategy – as more and more open data becomes available through all levels of government and civic organizations, it makes it possible for us to be able to share that information with our participant base.