February 1: PlanningCamp comes to Philly


WHEN: Saturday, February 1, 9am-5pm. 
WHERE: Impact Hub, 1227 North 4th Street. 
COST: $15, register online.


Thanks to the folks at OpenPlans we’re giving away tickets for PlanningCamp. Just email eots@planphilly.com with PlanningCamp in the subject before noon on Monday, January 27. Two winners will be chosen at random and notified by Tuesday, January 28.

Get out your explorers gear and let your inner plannerd out for the day: PlanningCamp is headed to Philly on February 1.

PlanningCamp is an “unconference” focused on the intersection of planning and technology, hosted by OpenPlans. It’s an opportunity for engaged Philadelphians to explore how we share and access more information about local projects and how we could do better.

Eyes on the Street caught up with Frank Hebbert, director of the OpenPlans Civic Works team, about just what to expect from PlanningCamp, who should come, and why it matters.

For starters, Hebbert says, we’re in an interesting moment. “Everyone has access to huge quantities of data and powerful analytical tools, and the revolution in micro-publishing means anyone with access to a phone has a platform to promote their cause. At the same time, cities are short of money, infrastructure is expensive and falling apart, we have gridlock in old-fashioned politics at every scale, we have growing inequality and climate change on top of that. So can all these tech tools help address some of these problems? We think so, and PlanningCamp is an interesting place to explore these issues.”

OpenPlans is hosting the event because they want to learn more about how information about local improvements – like a park project or street repair – is shared, the kinds of projects people want to know more about, and how different tech tools might help spread the word.

The goal, Hebbert explained, is to develop ways for anyone who cares about a project stay informed and learn more. “There’s a lot more to planning than having basic info, but we see it as the necessary foundation for more complex engagement. And once people have a good experience in engaging with a project, they will want to come back for more – there’s a positive cycle that the right information can create.”

Just how that might work for different sorts of projects is one of the questions PlanningCamp will explore. Because it’s an “unconference” all of the sessions are pitched and hosted by participants. (You can share your ideas and propose sessions now on the PlanningCamp website.) So it’s important that folks show up with an open mind and ready to share information and ideas. 

“We want everyone involved in cities there, from all the different fields that contribute to making cities great — community groups, businesses, city workers, software developers, map makers, social scientists, to name a few,” Hebbert said. Diverse experience is welcome. 

PlanningCamps have already been held in New York City and Oakland and Hebbert said the events were engaging and candid. “The conversations are small, and friendly. We had people from city agencies deep in discussion, working to solve problems with this amazing peer network.”

It’s all about crosspollination and collaboration around how we share, transmit, and discover information about what’s happening in our city.

“We want everyone to leave with their head full of ideas — new projects, new people, new tools,” Hebbert said. “A lot of the conversations in the corridors or at lunch are equally valuable as the sessions, because you get to meet new people or spend time getting into deeper conversations with familiar faces. Putting all those people together creates sparks, and sometimes those turn into new collaborations or projects, but sometimes they’re just a refreshing boost to remember when you’re back to regular life on Monday.”

PlanningCamp will be Saturday, February 1 at ImpactHub (1227 N. 4th St). Register in advance online. You can also win a free ticket from us. Just email us with “PlanningCamp” in the subject before noon on Monday, January 27. Winners will be chosen at random, and notified by Tuesday, January 28.

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