Edmonton Offers Urban Planning Classes: Opportunities To Take Citizen Engagement To The Next Level

Jennifer Belissent, Ph.D.
Principal Analyst
November 3, 2011

I love the idea of the Edmonton’s Planning Academy, which offers planning courses to anyone in the city.  What a great way to get citizens involved in the complex challenges of city planning!  It made me want to live in Edmonton.  OK, so maybe I’m kind of addicted to school, and taking classes (corporate learning programs, continuing studies programs and even the Red Cross have seen me in their classrooms in recent years).  But really, this one looks so cool I had to write about it. 

The City of Edmonton’s Planning Academy’s goal is to “provide a better understanding of the planning and development process in Edmonton.”  And, it grants a Certificate of Participation following completion of the three core courses and one elective.  These three core courses include:

  • Use Planning: The Big Picture.
  • Getting a Grip on Land Use Planning.  
  • Come Plan with Us: Using Your Voice.

And, the elective course options include:

  • Transportation.
  • Urban Design.
  • Transit Oriented Development.

Cities have always held town hall meeting or open planning sessions.  Similarly, a number of cities have launched initiatives to get citizens involved in the budgetary process – participatory budgeting – and other decision-making processes. 

Where does technology fit into this discussion?  Exactly!  Bringing these input sessions online can vastly extend their participatory reach. The CovJam run by the City of Coventry in the UK with the help of IBM is a great example of soliciting input from citizens.  The “jam” lasted three days and drew over 800 participants offering ideas for projects and reforms in the city.  Not only did citizens get to provide their input but the city also got to leverage analytics tools to better understand that input. 

Yet, imagine the value of actually training citizens to provide this input – or at least helping them better understand the process.  Providing classes to prepare citizens for these types of discussions takes engagement to the next level.  And, making them available online extends them even further.  And, for tech vendors, it's another great opportunity to engage with cities. 

I’ve asked Edmonton if they have online access to the courses.  Maybe I can sign up as a remote student.  I’m tempted.

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