Free Tools to Digitize your Community Planning

Drawing representing people connected via text message

Across the world and nation, public gatherings are getting canceled due to the exponential spread of the coronavirus. With the World Health Organization declaring COVID-19 a pandemic last week, we can’t help but think of all the community engagement gatherings that have been postponed or canceled until further notice. These meetings are critical to communities, serving as opportunities to foster collaboration, civic engagement, and vocalize community needs. You may not think of community meetings as opportunities to collect data, but they are. 

These events are publicly documented, in some cases recorded, and shared online with the public. The end result is thousands of qualitative data points that are used to shape policy, approve community plans, and even impact local community board budgets. With canceled events for communities, this means we are losing several opportunities to collect the voice of the community and synthesize these points to use for policy advocacy. Even the U.S. Census, a once-in-a-decade opportunity to collect critical data is now concerned with their feasibility to collect data with this growing public health issue. 

With a great potential impact on the local level, we wanted to share our guide to digitized community planning for community boards, block associations, and local governments. Consider it community planning 2.0; engage, collect data, and synthesize the voice of your community all through digital tools. 

Here are four free tools local residents and electeds can use to digitize your community planning process:

We know governments mandate which technologies are used, but there can be opportunities to try new products given the immediate changes that are happening. Announcements about public gatherings are changing on an hourly basis, so we hope this resource provides short-term and in some cases long-term solutions that can ensure your community is connected during this time.