June 5, 2012, Philadelphia — Last Friday, the City of Philadelphia and Code for America began a pilot of Textizen (www.textizen.com<http://www.textizen.com/>), a new system for gathering community feedback to shape the city’s ongoing Comprehensive Plan, Philadelphia2035.
For four weeks this summer, residents and commuters in Philadelphia’s Center City and Lower Northeast will encounter posters that have been posted throughout the neighborhoods–bus and transit shelters, recreation centers, and other public places–that pose questions about the city’s transportation, recreation, and quality of life. Passersby respond to the questions via text message to a phone number displayed on each poster.
Staff from the Philadelphia City Planning Commission will access the feedback through a web application and use it to help shape recommendations in the Philadelphia2035 District Plans.
As a digital tool, Textizen enables a wide array of residents to contribute, including those unable to attend the public meetings which are the traditional method of soliciting community feedback. One survey in the Lower Northeast begins, “Would you use rapid transit along the [Roosevelt] Boulevard to get to Center City?”
“We’re excited to pilot and prototype another civic engagement tool with Code for America,” said Mayor Michael A. Nutter. “Philadelphia is a two-time Code for America city and we have been experimenting with different tools to facilitate participatory and interactive connections between the public and government, including Change by Us Philly<http://philly.changeby.us/>, Neighborhow<http://neighborhow.org/>, and now Textizen<http://www.textizen.com/>. Philadelphia has received multiple awards for being one of the most open and transparent city governments in the country, and this demonstrates our continued commitment to increasing citizen engagement.”
“We’re very pleased to have the opportunity to collaborate with Code For America on this innovative public engagement project,” said Planning Commission Executive Director Gary Jastrzab. “We look forward to monitoring the results, and hope to expand this from a pilot into a permanent outreach tool as we continue work on Philadelphia2035 and other efforts.” This project is one of several under development at the City Planning Commission to expand opportunities for public input.
“I’m excited about what this pilot represents. On one hand, we’re using text messaging, a technology that’s time-tested and easy for residents to use. On the other hand, we’re drastically lowering barriers to civic participation, and doing it in an innovative partnership,” said Code for America fellow Michelle Lee. “The City Planning Commission designed how this feedback would enhance existing initiatives, Code for America designed and built the software, and together we’re rolling out the pilot just four months after our initial meeting.”
All Code for America projects the applications code is open souce and freely available for reuse on Github. You can find Textizen’s code here: http://github.com/codeforamerica/<http://github.com/codeforamerica/).>.
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A 1-minute video about Textizen: http://vimeo.com/43448446
Code for America
Code for America is a national non-profit that connects talent from the tech industry with local government to make cities more open, efficient, and engaging. Often nicknamed a “Peace Corps for Geeks”, Code for America recruits designers and developers for an 11-month fellowship where they partner with industry and government leaders to develop new ways of approaching civic challenges. This is Code for America’s second year of partnership with the City of Philadelphia, made possible by the Mayor’s Office and the Knight Foundation.
Philadelphia2035 is a project of the Philadelphia City Planning Commission. It builds on Philadelphia’s recent achievements and long-established assets to guide physical development for the next 25 years and beyond. The Citywide Vision portion was adopted by the PCPC in June 2011. Over the next several years, the PCPC will complete 18 strategic district plans, applying the objectives of the Citywide Vision at the local level.