Online platforms for participatory planning and urban development

Guest authors: Enzo Falco & Reinout Kleinhans

The use of Web 2.0 technologies for online interaction between citizens and their local governments has increased constantly over the last decade. Initially in the forms of forums and blogs, and then through social media and microblogging sites such as Facebook and Twitter, Web 2.0 has evolved towards tailored digital participatory platforms for online participatory governance and co-production in public decision making (Desouza and Bhagwatwar, 2014, Babelon et al., 2017). Web 2.0 emphasises user-generated content, usability, and therefore an improved user experience (see blog  posts by Ian Babelon on these themes, 1, 2) (see also Kavanaugh et al., 2012; Khan, 2015).

This blog post reports on the results of a research carried out in the context of the SmartGov Project (Advanced Decision Support for Smart Governance) and recently published, and expands the blog post published by Ian Babelon last year.  We look specifically at platforms which allow for co-production between local governments and citizens. Co-production is defined in several ways. We report two definitions: i) “the public sector and citizens making better use of each other’s assets and resources to achieve better outcomes and improved efficiency” (Bovaird & Loeffler, 2012, p. 1121); ii) a “solution to the public sector’s decreased legitimacy and dwindling resources by accessing more of society’s resources” and as a means “to reinvigorate voluntary participation and social cohesion in an increasingly fragmented and individualized society” (Brandsen & Honingh, 2016, p. 427).

It is important to stress that do not look at platforms defined as reporting or participatory sensing platforms such as BetterStreet, Buiten Beter, CitySourced, FixMaVille, FixMyStreet, Open 311, We Sense, Street Bump, WideNoise, Cycle Tracks, and many more. A full list of platforms for interaction and communication with local governments is available in the full publication Falco and Kleinhans (2018).

How many platforms are there available for co-production in participatory planning and urban development? Do we, and local governments, already have a lot of options to choose from? Should we stop developing new technological solutions in our research projects? Evidence points to widespread availability of such platforms, with some open sources options, and growing adoption and use by local governments.

Digital Participatory Platforms for Co-production

So, are there many platforms for co-production purposes? Are they being increasingly used by local governments? The simple and straightforward answer to these questions is: yes!! In order to find the platforms available on the market we carried out a systematic literature review and were able to find and classify 27 platforms that seem fit for co-production purposes. Table 1 below, the latest version was updated for this post, shows all of the co-production platforms we found (of course, it is very likely that many more are available or that other platforms will evolve towards co-production platforms from interaction and participatory sensing, or that some platform will just disappear). We also feel that more empirical research on the application of such platforms is needed. For this reason we provide links to the platform’s website and their case studies.

Table 1- Co-production Platforms

table 1 part 1table 1 part 2

The majority of these platforms are used in different cities and contexts. However, there are cases like MinStad and OurMK where the platforms were developed specifically for one city, respectively Gothenburg and Milton Keynes. Platforms generally include pricing plans but there are some interesting examples of open source solutions which can be more useful for community organizing and community planning efforts by civil society organizations as they are free of charge: Umap, Geojson, DemocracyOS, Shareabouts, Map Server, Crowdmap, and Crowdgauge.

Citizenlab is one of many online platforms for participatory planning and urban development. Here: a snapshot of ideas submitted by citizens to the online platform #SmarterTogether, Vancouver’s participatory platform, as part of their Smart Cities Challenge.

What are they used for?

Applications of digital platforms are mainly of two types, concerning: i) policy making or planning as part of  a general institutional planning vision, master plan, neighbourhood plan wherein citizens co-produce ideas in the fields for example of pedestrian and cycling mobility, cultural heritage, affordable housing, public transportation needs; ii) practical, small scale urban design/redevelopment issues oriented towards redesigning a specific, spatially-bound object or service, such as a market, a university campus, a bus station, or a park. In the first type we find Carticipe for the municipal and metropolitan plans of various cities in France such as Lille, Grenoble, and Avignon; and Crowdbrite which was used within the process of developing the Las Vegas Master Plan. In the second type we find more applications and use cases such as: Citizinvestor, Commonplace, Co-urbanize, Ideascale, Urban interactive studio whose application concerns solutions for the location of new bike racks, plaza upgrade, playground renovation, new concepts and ideas for a zoo, new sporting village and so on.

As seen, digital participatory platforms are used and applied in many and different instances. However, the blessings of such technologies are too often taken for granted. As a result, we know very little about the extent to which digital participatory platforms really facilitate effective and constructive co-production between citizens and local governments. Therefore, we believe that there is a need for more empirical research to find out what allows citizens and local government to meaningfully co-produce policy and planning decisions through digital platforms. We hope that this post allows more scholars to build upon our work and investigate the many examples available.


Babelon, I., Ståhle, A., & Balfors, B. (2017). Toward Cyborg PPGIS: exploring socio-technical requirements for the use of web-based PPGIS in two municipal planning cases, Stockholm region, Sweden. Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, 60(8), 1366-1390. Doi:

Bovaird, T., & Loeffler, E. (2012). From engagement to co-production: The contribution of users and communities to outcomes and public value. Voluntas, 23(4), 1119–1138. doi:

Brandsen, T., & Honingh, M. (2016). Distinguishing different types of coproduction: A conceptual analysis based on the classical definitions. Public Administration Review, 76(3), 427–435. doi:

Falco, E. and Kleinhans, R. (2018) Digital Participatory Platforms for Co-Production in Urban Development: A Systematic Review. International Journal of E-Planning Research. Vol. 7(3). 1-27. Doi: 10.4018/IJEPR.2018070105

Kavanaugh, A. L., Fox, E. A., Sheetz, S. D., Yang, S., Li, L. T., Shoemaker, D. J. and Xie, L., 2012. Social media use by government: From the routine to the critical. Government Information Quarterly, 29(4), pp.480-491. Doi:

Khan, G.F., 2015. The Government 2.0 utilization model and implementation scenarios. Information Development, 31(2), pp.135-149. Doi:


The authors

Enzo Falco, PhD in Urban Planning, is currently Post-doc researcher at TU Delft, OTB Department. He conducts research on ICT-based participatory governance processes and is currently daily supervisor for the SmartGov JPI UE project. Reinout Kleinhans is Associate Professor of Urban Regeneration and Neighbourhood Change at TU Delft. 


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