Originally, Tallinn offered a digital feedback tool to its residents to share their ideas to redefine the use of the city’s public spaces. However, this option was limiting and inaccessible as interested residents were required to submit proposals through architectural plans. In 2016, in an effort to be more open and inclusive, the City of Tallinn began developing a public engagement app to crowdsource its citizens’ ideas. The app was an accessible and interactive channel where residents could co-create with city planners and monitor the progress of the project. 98% of Estonians have a digital ID-card that allows access to the country’s digital services of which 92% regularly use the internet.
Launched in 2018 as an evolved version of the city’s online planning register, the publica engagement app is a co-creation tool for citizens to crowdstorm by generating ideas, support and suggestions for the city’s public space plans. User ideas and proposed plans are plotted on an interactive map, voted upon and discussed by fellow citizens and city planners. In addition, a number of in-person engagement sessions and workshops were conducted to gather further information and ideas. The first major project was about a new public space in Northern Tallinn with two pilot projects for which ideas were crowdsourced. The first was for the structural plan of the Skoone Bastion area and the second was for a street originating from the Skoone structure plan area. Participants voted with a like or dislike in the app over 3,700 times and submitted 235 ideas and comments in these two idea-gathering periods alone. Since then, six major projects with over 60 areas for discussion have been co-designed using this digital participation tool.
What did we learn from Tallinn?
Using different forms of public engagement tools—digital and physical—ensures “accessibility, interoperability and user-friendliness”, which Tallinn has demonstrated and hopes to uphold for its people.
With the right platform, the community can be involved in the planning for its public spaces.