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Building better cities through community involvement.
Most real estate development projects have at least an implicit goal to improve the neighborhood they are located in, if not, there wouldn’t be much interest in their project afterward. Still, often new real estate projects are received with skepticism and suspicion from local residents. Left unmanaged these feelings might turn into NIMBY protests and challenges to the building permit. Traditionally real estate developers organize face-to-face neighborhood information moments to comfort the neighbors, but digital alternatives are available, not only to inform but even to embrace community input and transform it into a joint development process.
One of the leaders in the community engagement space is coUrbanize. CoUrbanize has built a customizable technology platform that makes it easy for project developers to bring community engagement online. The solution consists of various software tools, eg. polls & surveys, interactive maps, data analytic tools, … That can be used in the community outreach process.
Photo by Nina Strehl on Unsplash
It goes without saying that even though the digital platform part is a big differentiator, their solution must be seen as an addition to more traditional mechanisms for community engagement and doesn’t completely replace all in-person community gatherings.
coUrbanize was founded by Karin Brandt in 2013. They are headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts. She started coUrbanize with the goal to have a positive change in communities everywhere by giving them a voice in what is built in their neighborhood. 8 years later coUrbanize is a growing organization with clients like Aecom, Alexandria real estate, and Brookfield Properties. This year they are selected for Fast Company’s 2021 World-Changing Ideas Award.
🕵️♀️ Who else?
Imagery courtesy coUrbanize
Providing a digital solution to inform and poll local inhabitants leads to a more inclusive picture of neighborhood sentiment towards the project. It will give busy and less motivated locals a convenient way to get up-to-date with the project and allow them to voice concerns before anything is finalized.
In a progressively more diverse urban environment, the ability to engage the community in a standardized way and in multiple languages can be another valuable tool in preventing opposition to the development plans.
Resident input helps to better formulate answers to the challenges the local community is facing, issues that aren’t immediately visible to the people that aren’t living in the area, are unearthed, and can be included in the future plans for the lot.
A real estate project that is embedded in the local community, where locals support and promote their improving district, will help in making it a desirable area and result both in financial and social rewards.
👎 Why not?
Sadly, not all feedback can be taken into account, so some people might be even more annoyed or even offended by the fact that you ignore their brilliant suggestions. A lot of energy and empathy is needed to make all the contributors feel valued and to explain why specific items didn’t make it into the final version of the project.
Taking into account Henry Ford’s classic quote about the faster horses, collecting feedback is only part of the solution. After the collection phase, the feedback must be analyzed and translated into practically feasible solutions with possibly additional feedback iterations needed. Resulting in a lot of hard numbers on the expense side, and a less obvious ROI calculation.
📚 Further reading?
Don’t remember to be thankful for any input.