Community PlanIt: Climate Smart Boston — Launches March 25, Gathers Public Input on Climate Change Adaptation, Resilient Neighborhoods
Global warming and community meetings — not usually two things that spring to mind on a list of fun things to do or discuss. But, what if there were a way to make participating in civic planning and preparing for climate change amicable, inclusive, and meaningful for people throughout the Boston area? Imagine a community meeting where hundreds of people attend, everyone has a voice, and you can talk to each other, while informing an official process effectively. What if, by going to that meeting, you could also playfully advocate for local organizations and schools to receive prize money to kick-off a project this summer? In person, that would be a chaotic scene. Community PlanIt: Climate Smart Boston — which launches online March 25 and runs through April 15 — makes it all possible.
We are already feeling the effects of climate change that is warming global temperature and impacting the lives of people all over the world. We often think of climate as a global phenomenon — somewhere else; but, the fact is that we experience its effects right where we live. As populations shift more and more to urban centers, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) sees cities as the most effective place to target education and advocacy about slowing down climate change and adapting to the effects that are predicted if we keep on the same course between now and the next, 20, 40, 60 years. In collaboration with the Engagement Lab at Emerson College, WWF is piloting an online engagement process in the City of Boston, to bring as many people into the conversation about climate as possible and activate them to take a role in public planning about climate adaptation — Community PlanIt: Climate Smart Boston.
Major planning is going on in Boston across all sectors through Mayor Walsh’s Imagine Boston 2030 initiative. As one piece of that process, the City of Boston is gathering information to make recommendations about how to effectively adapt response to global climate change. Greenovate Boston, in collaboration with The Boston Harbor Association, is channeling their findings from Climate Ready Boston into the planning process with the specific goals during the first nine months of the project to identify vulnerabilities in communities throughout Boston and to develop an initial portfolio of actions to strengthen the resilience of buildings, neighborhoods and infrastructure across the City. In collaboration with Dr. Atiya Martin, Chief Resilience Officer for the City of Boston, the Mayor and city officials and planners are taking a holistic approach to the notion of resilience — physical, social and environmental — to ensure that plans are in place to meet the needs of all who live and work in Boston. Community PlanIt: Climate Smart Boston is another piece in the public engagement effort of the City to reach out to the wider community to get a better sense of the needs and vulnerabilities experienced by businesses and residents and share with them programs and services already in place to mitigate and cope with the impacts of climate change in Boston.
Those who sign up to play Climate Smart Boston any time between March 25 — April 15 will earn in-game currency by giving responses to Challenge Questions. Simultaneously, by interacting with other players’ comments, they will be providing input into the City’s official planning process. Players can then use those coins to back local player-proposed projects that support local schools and community organizations. Sound fun? Some have described Community PlanIt as a social media platform, civic tech tool, and microgrant crowdfunding app all rolled into one. And just like your other favorite social apps, you can access this responsive web-based game from your desktop, tablet or smartphone. At the end of the three weeks the game is live, the top three coin-earning Causes, as voted on by players, will each receive $500 of prize money, courtesy of WWF.
In addition to the online experience, which typically engages hundreds of players across all age groups and backgrounds — from middle school students to City officials — there are live events happening as part of the overall community engagement process. The Boston Harbor Association has been hosting in-person community meetings to gather input. Their most recent, on March 12, took place at English High School in Jamaica Plain. Representatives from WWF, the Engagement Lab and Greenovate Boston were there to tell the approximately 120 people in attendance about Community PlanIt, so that they can get their friends and neighbors not present involved in the planning process. The next in-person community meeting is scheduled for May 14 (more details coming soon!), where outcomes from the online process will be shared, top players recognized, and winners awarded their $500 prizes. All player input from the game will be made available (in anonymized form) at boston.communityplanit.org in .csv format, so that other Boston area academics or activists can use the data for their own sustainability planning work and research. Additionally, a publicly available summary report of the data will narrativize key findings from the online game for a broad audience and feed into the City’s planning processes this summer.