Finding common ground in community investment

By David Janner-Klausner - on 28/04/2015

David Janner-Klausner, ‎Business Development Director at Commonplace talks about how their product brings a new element of community engagement to local investment decisions.

At Commonplace we love engaging people in what matters to them locally. This matters on a whole variety of levels - both from a resident's point-of-view, and from the perspective of housing associations as place-makers, landlords and community builders.

I started my career working with residents in East London in the early 1980's, going door-to-door to talk to people about the future of the Royal Docks. Canvassing and interviews led to public meetings; the meetings found a focal point in a local converted shop - a pop-up, if you please; the effort led to presenting a plan.

Fast forward, and we can now use Internet resources to back up and amplify traditional engagement efforts. Data capture and analysis can be radically faster, creating rapid feedback loops and sharing information through social media. The traditional consultation approaches are still there - canvassing, meeting, creating a communal focal point - but the opportunities to do much, much better are accessible and cost-effective.

Commonplace, which is now being marketed in partnership with HACT, is a leading web-based engagement tool. It comes from the combined ambition of a team that is steeped in interactive web technologies and big data, yet has also experienced the excitement and emotion of face-to-face interaction. Commonplace operates using an app to enable users to add data to a tailored open web site, centred on a map showing previous comments and their prevailing sentiment. This encourages participation, gives confidence of neutrality and helps prevent a single voice dominating the sentiment.

Commonplace has three elements:

  • a user application through which residents can comment on specific local issues, development proposals and specific designs for buildings or public spaces; 
  •  a Data Dashboard that provides you the client with real-time information and in sight on who has commented and what they are saying.
  • a user registration page, where demographic data is captured; this is held anonymously and contributes to producing granular analytics such as what concerns specific age groups or ethnic groups. At registration, users are also offered an option to make their contact details available to the housing association so they can be contacted in the future.

We can provide a "Survey Mode" where the same Commonplace format can be used on a tablet or laptop to interview residents face-to-face; all data is collated in a single database. There is also the option of creating paper Commonplaces. Because the Commonplace interface is exceptionally clear, data input is very quick - typically 3-4 minutes net per questionnaire.

Poplar HARCA has used Commonplace to get residents' input ahead of planning the regeneration of a specific street in Poplar. Wandle have used Commonplace to consult on how best to spend several million pounds devoted to improving open spaces around their properties, while Genesis is about to start using Commonplace for post-occupancy evaluation.

Commonplace is flexible - we work with you to refine the questions you ask according to the information you want to capture. It can be embedded in existing web sites, enhancing your interactivity and contact with tenants and residents. Alongside Community Insight, it provides a layer of subjective information - sentiment and opinion - augmenting the objective information you already hold.

To discuss your ideas with Commonplace, please email directly and they'll call you back - david@commonplace.is 

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