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New ways of governing: the Lincoln Institute’s approach promises something better

How can advanced network technology help governments to ‘listen better’ and ‘listen smarter?’ This is not a rhetorical question: planning has traditionally been a top-down affair, and this approach has, frankly, gotten us all (and particularly our cities, counties, and states) into a world of trouble.

There is a plethora of amazing technology at our disposal; how can we use them in new ways to empower decision-making that’s both bottom-up and top-down?

There is some good news to report: the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, a think tank well known for traditional academic research, is embracing cutting-edge technology in planning and tools for civic engagement.

The initiative began with Visualizing Density, which combined aerial photographs of different varieties of density with Sim City-style interactive gaming, and continued with Visual Tools for Planners, and a toolkit to engage citizens in communities planning for the future in Visioning and Visualization.

The use of GIS is an integral part of the program in Large Landscape Conservation, allowing regions to see disparate parcels of conservation land and how they might be connected. The Atlas of Urban Expansion employs Google Earth and satellite imaging as a resource for the megacities in the developing world to better plan infrastructure and urban land layouts.

The most recent initiative is Opening Access to Scenario Planning Tools, an effort to assemble scenario planning software, deployed in Envision Utah and Superstition Vistas outside Phoenix — a visual presentation of development outcomes based on variations of density, mixed-use development, and the availability of transit — in a single platform, and ultimately make such tools open-source.

The goal, says senior fellow Armando Carbonell is to harness the best of technology with established protocols for citizen engagement, in an increasingly contentious environment in planning and sustainability. Armando’s featured presentation during “The Meeting of the Minds 2012” (October 9-11) will focus on this very theme. We’re looking forward to hearing him detail the “how,” the “why,” and the “where.”

And in speaking of the where – I can tell you where one can find successful examples of bottom-up innovation. Right here at Cisco, within the IBSG public sector team. One noteworthy example: the Korean city of Busan (the world’s fourth largest port) transformed its whole approach towards economic development and sustainability when it embraced the public cloud. How did that happen? The Busan Mobile Application Development Center was a bottom-up initiative launched by Cisco, Korea Telecom, and the city’s entrepreneurs. It’s an amazing story….so be sure to stay tuned for an upcoming Busan-focused blog, from me, in this space.

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