Citizens of Central Arkansas map out the future of their region through interactive draft plan

Interactive Plan App - Case Study

Imagine Central Arkansas

Charting the long-term growth and development of a community takes careful planning - and also a good bit of imagination. “Imagine Central Arkansas” is the effort developed by the regional metropolitan planning organization (Metroplan) to increase the quality of life for Central Arkansans over the next 30 years.

The process of gathering feedback started more than a year ago, with an interactive online game that encouraged users to imagine and communicate about the future of their region.  Working from the resulting data, Metroplan moved on to drafting a plan document, which the organization is now seeking to refine by involving the public once again.

Make content fresh, interesting, and easy to navigate.

Make content fresh, interesting, and easy to navigate.

Challenge - Bring plan documents to life for maximum citizen participation

Draft plans can be long and wordy, hard to digest and slow to download. Not many people are interested in reading a whole plan document or commenting on it. This makes feedback hard to obtain - especially meaningful conversations around specific plan elements. Metroplan sought to present the new draft in a fresh, relevant way that would hold the attention of today’s citizens. To do this, the document would need to take on an eye-catching, easy-to-read flow - abandoning the static, lengthy format common to draft plans.

Solution - From static document to interactive experience

To bring the document to life, Metroplan used the Interactive Plan app from the EngagingPlans Suite - an app that allows agencies to plug in their content and turn it into an engaging, responsive experience for users. “Did we get it right?” asks the website for Imagine Central Arkansas, enticing citizens to dive in and take a peek at the proposed plan for their region’s future. Instead of long, wordy paragraphs, users encounter readable blocks of text highlighted by clear infographics. An overview of the plan is easily obtained in a few minutes, or users can explore in-depth if they have time.

Interest-based navigation is encouraged using three handy icons:

  • READ: Navigates to a section of the actual plan document online, offering in-depth information with the option to download a PDF version

  • EXPLORE: Leads to interactive elements like layered maps, responsive charts, and scenario comparisons

  • SUBMIT: Allows users to give instant feedback about specific sections of the plan using a simple thumbs-up-or-down and a dialogue box for detailed responses

This flexible structure is completely different from typical draft plans, allowing individual citizens to experience the document in a way that is most relevant to them. From “Healthy Communities” to “Quality Transportation” and beyond, users can skim the basics or follow intuitive links to further information. Scenario comparisons highlight the differences between current trends and the regional vision, using zoomable maps and other responsive elements to paint a clearer picture than static charts inside a PDF.

Benefits - From draft to final document, citizens help shape plan development

Interactive graphics help citizens understand issues.

Interactive graphics help citizens understand issues.

With this bright, intuitive format, the draft plan guides citizens seamlessly from playful exploration to in-depth investigation to meaningful feedback. This results in greater public involvement and better-informed comments from readers. Plus, the draft plan is mobile-optimized to be accessible from laptops, tablets, or mobile devices, so it can be used in a variety of situations by citizens and stakeholders.

By engaging the public at every step - beginning with “Are we there yet?” and ending with the draft plan just published - Metroplan is now able to craft a final document that best fits the needs of the communities it serves. Meanwhile, Central Arkansans are left with a deeper understanding of how their priorities can be woven into the future while accounting for the realities of existing trends and budget restraints.

With modern technologies making interactive content possible, there’s no reason for planners to rely on outdated methods of distributing information. Today’s audiences are accustomed to being engaged by every service and website they interact with. That’s why Metroplan chose to present the new plan document using the Interactive Plan app, counting on greater participation from the citizens who are helping to Imagine Central Arkansas.