Modelling and scenario development has traditionally been an expert lead undertaking, both because experts have access to the data and skills needed to produce technologically advanced predictions and because experts have been tasked with setting the agenda as to which questions should be addressed.
This runs the risk of giving the impression that the subject is beyond “ordinary” people, and thus also someone else’s problem to solve. The contrary argument, as set out in chapters 1 and 2, is that people are an integral part of helping to identify the problems and effect a solution. We consulted with ExCites team at UCL who run the long standing social enterprise “mapping for change” project http://www.mappingforchange.org.uk/ . The origanisation has looked at a wide range of social issues, usually in an urban context, such as noise pollution, air pollution, accessibility and community facility provision, all built on a common internet mapping platform http://www.communitymaps.org.uk/ . They had some important lessons :
- New technology has allowed Citizen Scientists to directly contribute to the science and the debate. Yet, at its root, it remains a process of engagement between people in their roles as local residents, visitors, scientists, NGOs or governmental agencies.
- Don’t ‘pilot’ the technology live because function failures may risk losing the interest of key individuals and organisations – permanently.
- Keep the engagement as low-tech as possible, certainly in the initial few (2-4) meetings, and instead focus on the issues using paper maps, post-it notes, pins etc. to aid discussion and ensure participants are comfortable with using map data.
- Introduce people to the map representation of their area, from a few streets at first to walkable scales.
- Turn up with something to offer, to stimulate discussion. For example maps of relevant local statistics such as air quality, demographic data, predicted flooding levels etc.
- Invite participants to question and challenge the official data with their own experience.
- Don’t use a template, start from scratch.