Philly asks for feedback by text message

Philadelphia’s planning commission is set to meet on its overall plan for the Northeast. But not everyone goes to meetings, so the commission members also are asking for feedback by text messages that answer a simple question.

Philadelphia is trying out a new tool to encourage civic participation. It’s called Textizen — and anyone can participate straight from their phone.

The model was developed by Code for America fellows Michelle Lee and Alex Yule.

“You know, having in-person meetings is a really great way to gather in-depth data, but a lot of people don’t have the flexibility or the time to get to those meetings,” Yule said. “And so we hope that this will be a tool that will connect those people.”

The Northeast will be plastered with posters asking residents if they’d like to see rapid transit in their neighborhood.

Lee identifies one of the challenges as, “asking a question that will incite people to answer.” That prompted developers to pose questions that people would be likely to have an opinion on, such as: “Would you take rapid transit along this corridor if it existed?” and “What could make an area of the city more kid-friendly?”

Textizen uses text messages instead of an online form to try reaching a wider audience. More than 90 percent of Philadelphians have access to some kind of texting device.

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