Process applications provide a forum for users to discuss ideas for solving problems and improving services. Note that all the applications described below also include educational and engagement elements either within the application or via links.
Examples of Process Applications
MindMixer (My Sidewalk)
MindMixer is an excellent application used by many cities and agencies to help facilitate online discussions about complex issues. The information can be used to help generate understanding about problems, identify good ideas from the community, obtain community support, and to help set priorities. MindMixer provides a suite of tools so organisations can develop customised sites for specific projects.
MindMixer was updated in 2015 to a more comprehensive product and is now called MySidewalk.
MetroQuest is an excellent public involvement software system that very thoughtfully combines education and process in a unified package. The company has developed templates for many different types of planning processes and is able to efficiently customise these for specific projects.
The MetroQuest blog is a great source of information on using new technology to improve public participation.
596acres uses crowdsourcing to help develop support and ideas for reusing vacant property in New York City.
An especially interesting aspect of the website is that it describes the progress and steps taken for converting vacant property to better uses … and that information helps others understand what they need to do to convert property in their neighbourhoods to better uses.
Loomio – Make decisions together
Loomio is a public process application designed to help facilitate collaborative decision-making. It’s open source software and independently developed (partly through crowdfunding).
The application has its roots in the social justice movement and took lessons from the Occupy movement.
BusMeister Facebook Collaboration Application
The BusMeister Forum was a Facebook-based collaboration application in operation 2010-2011. It was part of our BusMeister public transport project which also included a learning game and online educational resources.
We learned that, while the Facebook platform has the significant advantage of a huge user base (increasing participation) and built in social tools (likes), it has certain limits in terms of being able to fully customise the user experience and in terms of data privacy.
More about the BusMeister project.
Participatory budgeting consists of asking people for their preferences in allocating public agency budgets. Participatory budgeting has been used by many organisations – in fact it’s probably the most used process application.
We’ve place participatory budgeting in the process category because the applications are designed to guide users through a quite structured process: users are given a certain amount of money to spend and see the results displayed on the screen. Most applications include features for users to learn more about public resources, spending and results. Almost all include features for sharing and voting.
References: Process Applications
- These Online Platforms Make Direct Democracy Possible, by Tom Ladendorf, In These Times, 31 May 2016.
- Democracy Reinvented, Participatory Budgeting and Civic Innovation in America, (2015) by Hollie Russon Gilman presents a comprehensive academic treatment of participatory budgeting in the United States. It includes case studies and policy recommendations.
- You too can help decide how your city spends its money. (Really). – by Njaimeh in Urbanful (23 January 2015).