2015 Annual Report


Thanks to all of you, 2015 was a remarkable year at Neighborland. We launched new projects in Oakland, San Jose, Raleigh, Akron, and Atlanta, and expanded our strategic partnership with the City of San Francisco’s Planning Department. We also announced a new partnership with 100 Resilient Cities, pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation.

Hundreds of thousands of people participated on Neighborland in 2015. People shared their insights, volunteered their time, and donated money to help make great projects happen across the U.S. Many of our projects from last year are now in the “delivery” phase. It’s inspiring to see project ideas implemented by our city agency, foundation, non-profit, and university partners. Given that our mission is to help residents shape the development of their communities, we’re thrilled to say that 2015 was our most successful year to date.

Our partners have continued to help us build better tools for collaborating with the public in a meaningful way. We have recently built new curating, surveying, mapping, donations, and decision-making features that compliment our place-based communications platform. Looking ahead, we will continue to build accessible, action-oriented, easy-to-use tools that support human-centered urban design and planning.

Here are a few of our notable partnerships from 2015:

In June, we announced a new partnership with 100 Resilient Cities, pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation. We are helping city agencies build an “inclusive, integrated, and transparent mechanism for communication and coordination between local government and residents.” We’re joining a remarkable group of organizations who are supporting this initiative as platform partners, including the World Bank, MIT, and Microsoft. Learn more about the partnership here.
City of San Francisco Planning
Market Street Prototyping Festival, Central Waterfront and Dogpatch Public Realm Plan, Lower Haight Public Realm Plan

Our partnership with SF Planning began with the Market Street Prototyping Festival. Now, we have started working formally with SF Planning on the Public Realm Plans for Central Waterfront and Dogpatch and Lower Haight. SF Planning has been instrumental in helping us understand the needs of internal urban design and planning teams, and we’re thankful for their strategic partnership.

A key input for the Central Waterfront and Dogpatch Public Realm Plan has been the Dogpatch and Northwest Potrero Hill Green Benefits District’s Vision Plan from 2013. The Green Benefits District is a community-led property-assessment district that funds maintenance and improvements of neighborhood parks, playgrounds, plazas, sidewalks and a wide range of other public space amenities. Many thanks to Build Public for leading this innovative approach.


City of San Francisco Administrator
Central Market and Tenderloin Community Benefit Agreements with Twitter, Zendesk, Spotify, Microsoft, and Zoosk

In 2015 San Francisco City Administrator Naomi Kelly signed new Community Benefit Agreements (CBA) with several companies located in Central Market including Twitter, Zendesk, Zoosk, Spotify, Microsoft. We helped the City Administrator collect local civic leaders and residents’ insights about how these companies could best support their most pressing needs.

Neighborland was at the heart of the engagement strategy as stakeholders’ insights were collected, mapped, uploaded to a project site on the Neighborland platform. This project site allowed the coalition to easily survey the proposals and make decisions about how to allocate over $15m in money, volunteers, and services to local non-profits.

Our City Oakland
Our City, City of Oakland, Mayor Libby Schaaf, Super Bowl 50 Fund, Bank of the West, James Irvine Foundation, MOCHA

Our City and the City of Oakland invited residents to imagine, build, and celebrate the future of Downtown Oakland with a focus on the theme of play. Opportunities collected on Neighborland helped inform the selection process, and the twelve winners were selected by a local jury. Winning project teams includedGensler, Morelab, and Sheena Lee. Each team was given funding to prototype a public design installation that would encourage kids, families, residents, and visitors of all ages to play in new ways. The three day event engaged over 1000 residents in public space and on Neighborland. Learn more about Our City and this innovative program model.

City of Atlanta Planning
Turner Field Redevelopment with Perkins+Will, Invest Atlanta, Atlanta Regional Commission, Annie Casey Foundation, Kimley-Horn, HR&A, AFCRA and Contente Consulting

We’re currently helping the City of Atlanta Planning Department collect resident insights on the redevelopment of Turner Field, the former Braves Stadium, in Downtown Atlanta. The 67-acre site is one of the largest redevelopment projects happening in any major US city, and we’re helping the City of Atlanta implement their broad-based engagement strategy. We’re thrilled to be included on the project team with some of the most well-respected urban planning firms in the world including Perkins + Will, Kimley Horn, and HR&A.

City of San Jose
Greenbelt Alliance, Street Plans, City of San Jose

Greenbelt Alliance and the Street Plans Collaborative are working with residents and business owners to jump-start implementation of the community vision for the the West San Carlos Urban/South Bascom urban villages with two tactical urbanism demonstration projects. Tactical Urbanism refers to a city, organizational, or citizen-led approach to neighborhood building using short-term, low-cost, and scalable interventions intended to catalyze long-term change.

University of California Berkeley
Berkeley Undergraduate Initiative Steering Committee led by Vice Chancellors Catherine Koshland and Harry LeGrand

In the spring of 2015, we worked closely with Vice Chancellors Catherine Koshland and Harry LeGrand on the Berkeley Undergraduate Initiative. Partnering with the Street Plans Collaborative, we designed, planned, and facilitated a charrette with 68 undergraduate students to introduce the initiative, share the Steering Committee’s thinking to-date, and listen to students’ ideas and answer their questions. All of the data collected at the charrette was uploaded to a Neighborland project site, and we provided in-depth data analysis and reporting for the Undergraduate Initiative.

Muni Art
SFMTA, SF Beautiful

Muni Art is SF Beautiful’s first installment of the Place Art program. Neighborland was thrilled to be part of this innovative project by supporting the artist application and voting process. Over 130 applications from artists were received, and more than five thousand votes were cast in just one week. Artists easily built support by sharing their Neighborland project pagewith their friends. Neighborland’s easy-to-use, responsive site allowed people to check out the project on-the-go, with over 50% of the traffic coming from mobile devices. In November, Muni Art filled 50 buses with the winning art, promoting emerging artists, engaging the public, and enhancing the daily commute for those 700,000 daily riders who live and do business in San Francisco.

500 Plates
Hunter Franks, City of Akron, Knight Foundation

Artist Hunter Franks was commissioned to engage Akron residents around the re-use of an underutilized stretch of freeway. Franks designed, planned, and hosted a meal for 500 local residents on the closed freeway to share their stories and thoughts about how the space could best be redeveloped. Residents’ suggestions from the event were then uploaded to a Neighborland project where residents continued to share insights on how to turn these big ideas into a reality.

John Muir Elementary School
SF PEPS, Community Initiatives


In 2015, we were proud to welcome John Muir Elementary School as our first-ever public school partner on Neighborland. Together, San Francisco’s Public Engagement for Public Schools (PEPS) and the school started a conversation with its school community as well as surrounding neighbors in the Upper Market, Fillmore, Lower Haight, and Hayes Valley districts in Central San Francisco.

How can John Muir Elementary be a good neighbor to you?

The school engaged its neighbors asking a question: How can John Muir Elementary be a good neighbor to you? Almost 100 community members and residents have already participated, and PEPS plans to further connect with neighbors at a community arts show. Popular ideas to better connect the school with neighbors have included volunteering from surrounding technology companies, tutoring, street safety improvements, and more. We’re excited to help reimagine a community school in San Francisco as a civic institution that can inspire change inside as well as in its surrounding neighborhood.

University of San Francisco, Middle Circle, St. Cyprian’s Church

Over the past two years, Now! organizers have recruited civic leaders and residents to co-create a week long festival in the Panhandle. Thousands of people have contributed to the festival, which has included free yoga workshops, silent discos, acoustic jam sessions, book talks, cookie swaps and beyond. The spring festival will be April 16th — 22nd. Join us!

Studio for Urban Projects, SF Planning

Building on the success of the Market Street Prototyping Festival held in spring 2015, the Central Market Showcase brought back a collection of projects for one month to one of San Francisco’s most dense, urban neighborhoods — Central Market .

The Outpost project performed as both an installation and an event in a neighborhood without much access to vibrant open spaces. For four weeks, programming like lunch-time discussions, film screenings and workshops all provoked new ways to interact with nature, enhanced the life of the street, served neighborhood residents, and connected it all to active transportation.

Make it Matter

Matt Tomasulo is an urban planner and entrepreneur based in Raleigh, N.C. Matt’s Walk Your City project has helped dozens of communities across the world improve their walkability. In 2015, Matt ran for Raleigh City Council and engaged with Raleigh residents on Neighborland.

Matt won 30%+ of votes in some downtown neighborhoods, and although he did not win the at large seat, the success of his campaign impressed the City Council members of Raleigh. The Council recently appointed Matt to the city’s official Planning Commission. Congratulations Matt!

Here are a few updates from some of partnerships whose work continued into 2015 …

Market Street Prototyping Festival
San Francisco Planning Department, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, The Knight Foundation, Gehl Studio, Exploratorium, Autodesk

The Market Street Prototyping Festival launched in April of 2015, and engaged over 250,000 residents in San Francisco as part of a $450m capital improvement of Market Street in 2018. SF Planning and YBCA are currently assessing feedback from the public on the projects, and are applying urban prototyping strategies across neighborhoods and public space in San Francisco. People all across the U.S., and in 85 countries across the globe, participated in the festival on Neighborland, raising awareness of urban prototyping as an emerging best practice for urban design and planning. We wrote a case study on the project, and highly recommend Gehl Studio’s evaluation of the project.

UN Plaza
City of SF Office of Economic and Workforce Development, SF Beautiful, Department of Public Works

This past year, the San Francisco Department of Public Works continued their thoughtful activation of UN Plaza by introducing a series of open-air public art fairs called Art Night SF. These fairs featured over 30 exhibitors and garnered the emphatic support for San Francisco’s local art scene. Here’s a case study that describes how we supported the Office of Economic and Workforce Development’s planning work that has informed the programming of the plaza.

Wayne State University
President M. Roy Wilson, Office of Economic Development

Last year, Wayne State University President Roy Wilson and the Office of Economic Development launched an innovative placemaking program which engaged over 500 stakeholders at a series of events and online via SMS,Twitter, and Neighborland. It has been inspiring to watch their team test these ideas with lightweight interventions and demonstrations on campus. Over the past year, they have deployed more outdoor furniture, green spaces, bike racks, and a public bicycle air and repair station on campus. Many thanks to Wayne State foradvocating for better bike infrastructure in Detroit.

Public Square
Greenbelt Alliance, City of Mountain View, Silicon Valley Community Foundation, Knight Foundation, Health Trust, and Google

Insights from Greenbelt Alliance’s Public Square project helped inform the City of Mountain Views’ strategic plans, including the El Camino Real Precise Plan and the North Santa Clara County Bike Vision Plan. Both of these plans will enhance the quality of life for Mountain View residents for years to come. Google had an opportunity to make a meaningful, lasting contribution to their hometown by funding the research and creation of a comprehensive bike vision plan. Read the full history of the project here.

Making it Happen

Neighbors coming together to take action on local issues is the reason we created Neighborland. In 2015, we’ve been inspired to see dozens of projects implemented across the U.S.

  • The San Francisco Housing Action Coalition took to Neighborland to advocate for more affordable housing options in the city. Their tireless efforts contributed to the passing of Proposition A, a $310 million affordable-housing bond that San Francisco voters overwhelmingly embraced. Prop A will provide new housing for low- and middle-income individuals and families, seniors, veterans, and people with disabilities and repair dilapidated public housing for San Francisco’s lowest-income families.
  • The SFMTA will begin construction on Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco to widen sidewalks, improve public space and lessen transit congestion throughBus Rapid Transit.
  • BART has replaced all fabric seats and carpeted flooring with more durable, solid surfaces, and will incorporate active retail operations into unused spaces in train stations.
  • With the help of Downtown Detroit Partnership (DDP), the City of Detroit’s Department of Transportation and the Henry Ford Health System/Health Alliance Plan, neighbors in Detroit are bringing a bike-share program to the city in 2016.
  • The Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation put people first in their housing development in Cincinnati with demonstration projects, public office hours, and participatory planning workshops.
  • Neighbors in San Francisco’s Hayes Valley neighborhood rallied for a new pedestrian crossing which opened in November, 2015.
  • Creating a ‘bikes yield’ law in San Francisco has been discussed for years by San Francisco neighbors. Finally, legislation encouraged was passed by the Board of Supervisors, but vetoed by Mayor Ed Lee.
  • More housing is coming to the Western Addition of San Francisco in the former Harding Theater.
  • Residents in Raleigh and Atlanta requested high speed Google Fiber and in 2015 Google delivered.
  • Together with the Oakland Museum of California, residents encouraged thereuse of steel from the Bay Bridge for five projects on public display.
  • San Francisco Transit Riders Union’s campaign encouraged public officials to ride SFMTA transit for over 250 trips within one week.
  • The Golden Gate Avenue Block Safety Group created Four Corner Fridayin the Tenderloin neighborhood of San Francisco to bring attention to the public safety and health challenges in their community.
  • With the help of the City of San Francisco in 2012, we asked neighbors how to improve the N-Judah rail turnaround. Today, we’re inspired to see one of the most popular ideas for the area, a mini-garden, thriving because of the the love and support of neighborhood volunteers.


Where we’re headed

We will continue to focus on building better tools for urban planning, tactical urbanism, and participatory budgeting. We are contributing to an evolving practice called “human-centered governance,” described by theLittle Hoover Commission’s report “A Customer-Centric Upgrade for California Government” :

“Rather than simply collecting feedback about services provided or analyzing customer complaints, government agencies should use human-centered design practices to research customer needs to figure out ways to better meet them.”

With this in mind, we will continue to build an “inclusive, integrated, and transparent mechanism for communication and coordination between local government and residents” (Dr. Judith Rodin, The Resilience Dividend).

We’re based at 1776 in San Francisco. Stop by and say hello, or contact us if you’re interested in partnering with us.

Make Things Happen: Oakland Public Design Fair


Oakland Public Design Fair

February 4th-6th, 2016

Frank Ogawa Plaza in Downtown Oakland

How can we make our public spaces more playful? While the Bay Area prepares for Super Bowl 50, Oakland residents will come together at the first ever Oakland Public Design Fair to reimagine Frank Ogawa Plaza as a place for community play.

Since our launch in Oakland, thousands of residents have shared their insights for making their city a better place. Now, we are thrilled to partner with the City of Oakland and Our City to transform these ideas into action. On February 3-5th in Frank Ogawa Plaza, visitors to the Oakland Public Design Fair will be able to explore and test the suggested projects.

Of course, you don’t need to wait until February to get involved. Beginning today, you can learn more about the Design Fair, provide feedback, volunteer, RSVP for events, and even make direct donations on Neighborland.

We’re thrilled to see the City of Oakland, Our City, and Mayor Libby Schaaf encouraging human-centered urban design by asking Oakland residents to “imagine, build, and celebrate the future of their community.” We can’t wait to see what they come up with!

Curious about other Neighborland projects? Find out more about our work here.


100 Resilient Cities


We’re thrilled to announce a new partnership with 100 Resilient Cities, pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation. Within the program’s resilience framework, we will help city agencies build an “inclusive, integrated, and transparent mechanism for communication and coordination between local government and residents.” City governments will have access to our human-centered design tools to engage residents in public space and at community events. And they can upload this data to Neighborland to extend stakeholder engagement online, map ideas and insights, update residents with resources and events, and share this public data securely and openly.

By 2050 the world’s population will approach 10 billion people. 75% of us will live in cities. That means that 5 billion people will move to, or be born in, cities in the next 35 years. Given all of the challenges that cities currently face, how will cities become more resilient during this period of exponential growth? Clearly, it will take innovation at all levels of the city “stack” — water and sewer management systems, power grids, public transit, housing, and economic opportunity.

We believe that cities must also innovate at the fundamental layer of the stack — the human layer. Remember that we can have complete streets, solar powered transit, and foolproof infrastructure … but we cannot have a city without people. Cities are one of civilization’s most promising inventions. They occupy 2% of the world’s land, contain 50% of its population, and account for 80% of the world’s economic output. How people collaborate within these dynamic and complex systems is one of the great opportunities of the 21st century.

In The Resilience Dividend, Rockefeller Foundation President Judith Rodin states, “we need to strengthen and improve our approaches to governance and leadership, knowledge creation, communication, community development, and social cohesion.” The good news is that we have the technical knowledge to solve most of the wicked problems we face. What leaders need are ways to accelerate the process of building legitimate buy-in from their stakeholders. Otherwise, technical expertise is useless. Our purpose at Neighborland is to help city leaders build this consensus in a legitimate and lasting way … as quickly as possible.

As part of our partnership, we are encouraging cities to rapidly test solutions generated from their strategic planning outreach. These “tactical urbanist” or “lighter, quicker, cheaper” interventions demonstrate a responsive, action-oriented approach to challenges and empower stakeholders to gain a deeper understanding of tradeoffs and potential solutions. During this iterative process, successes and failures can be shared on Neighborland with our simple publishing tools.

We’ve worked with over 150 city agencies, local non-profits, universities, and foundations over the past few years, and we’re ready to help 100 Resilient Cities with our tools and expertise. We’re joining a remarkable group of organizations who are supporting this initiative as platform partners, including the World Bank, MIT, and Microsoft. We’re excited to contribute to this global effort with the guidance of the foundation that supported us from our founding days in New Orleans.

Year in Review


Thanks to you, 2014 was our most successful year to date. Hundreds of thousands of people participated on Neighborland across the U.S. We collectively contributed over 100,000+ hours of action to make our neighborhoods more healthy, vibrant, and sustainable. Thank you for stepping up!

We worked on 25 projects in San Francisco and the Bay Area, partnering with ten city agencies, four universities, and several local non-profits. We launched our first partnerships in Detroit, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia. And we continued work in Chicago, Atlanta, Pittsburgh, and Seattle. Unsurprisingly, our partners continued to challenge us, helping us craft our vision and build more effective tools. In short, we’ve learned a tremendous amount this year, and we’re excited to continue developing our platform to help civic organizations across the U.S.

Here are a few of our favorite partnerships from the past year …

Market Street Prototyping Festival


San Francisco Planning Department, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, The Knight Foundation, Gehl Studio, Exploratorium, Autodesk

We partnered with the City of San Francisco’s Planning Department, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, and the Knight Foundation on the Market Street Prototyping Festival. Fifty project teams were selected to prototype new design solutions for engaging residents in public space. We posted all of the projects on Neighborland, and the design teams shared their process over the 6 month program. Teams unlocked a variety of community assets on Neighborland, including finding space to store their projects, raising additional funds, and sharing their insights from the process.

Over 250,000 residents in the Bay Area participated in the festival on Market Street, and 15,000 people shared their feedback online. All of this data will inform the City’s $450m capital improvement of Market Street in 2018. As SF Planning lead Neil Hrushowy stated, “We believe in public spaces that are about the ideas and aspirations of the public themselves. And not us telling them what they should be aspiring to.”

See all of the festival projects here on Neighborland.

San Francisco State University Strategic Plan

San Francisco State University

President Leslie Wong led a highly collaborative strategic planning effort at SF State over the past 18 months. The team engaged a diverse set of stakeholders in common areas on campus, at workshops and town halls, through SMS, Twitter, and on Neighborland. The steering committee achieved an unprecedented breadth of engagement with the campus, collecting over 10,000 insights from students, faculty, alumni, and staff about the future of the university.

The committee asked questions included how to improve the university’s physical infrastructure, community, academic programs, and student success. Key insights from the engagement included the importance of mentorship and climate resiliency to the student body. President Wong and his team used the input from their community to develop this draft of the Strategic Plan with specific initiatives for the short-term, mid-term, and long-term.

Here’s a video about the university’s process and the partnership with Neighborland.

Placemaking at Wayne State University

Placemaking at Wayne State University

Wayne State University President Roy Wilson and the Office of Economic Development’s launched an innovative placemaking program on campus last fall. The project team engaged over 500 stakeholders at a series of events, and online via SMS, Twitter, and Neighborland. Events included PARK(ing) Day, the WSU Farmer’s Market, Student Org Day, and the homecoming football game. All of this data was aggregated onto Wayne State’s project on Neighborland, and the Office of Economic Development is now testing several community-generated ideas on campus.

Here’s a complete case study of Wayne State’s project.

 Pause, Play, Connect in UN Plaza

Placemaking in UN Plaza

City of San Francisco Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OEWD), San Francisco Beautiful, University of California Hastings, Tenderloin Economic Development Project (TEDP), Art Institute of California, City of SF Department of Public Works

We provided our real-world and online toolkit for San Francisco Beautiful’s “Pause, Play Connect” program last summer. SF Beautiful was awarded a grant from the Office of Economic and Workforce Development’s Invest in Neighborhoods program to test new programming ideas in UN Plaza. The goal of the program was to find ways to make the city’s “most underperforming public space” a safer, healthier, vibrant community asset.

Over 1500 neighbors in the Tenderloin and Central Market shared ideas and insights at a public meeting, a voting event in the plaza, and online with SMS, Twitter, and Neighborland. Locals wanted to see activities that brought the diverse groups of people in the neighborhood together, and several ideas rose to the top of the honest and open dialogue — activities for children, film and music, and a night market.

SF Beautiful led the implementation of these ideas with a series called “Pause, Play, Connect” from August to October 2014. Tens of thousands of neighbors have participated in the program, and the Friday Night Market has become a regular event in the plaza.

Learn more about the process and outcomes from this partnership here.

Living Beyond Expectations

The Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) “Living Beyond Expectations” project temporarily transformed two blocks of Auburn Avenue in Old 4th Ward into a model Lifelong Community. ARC worked closely with Street Plans and Better Block to design the program model. The project started with a visioning workshop with community leaders. From there, the tactical urban intervention was planned by Street Plans with support from Better Block. All of the ideas were posted on Neighborland, and the team continued to collect ideas for improving the community at the event. This project was generously supported by the Pfizer Foundation.

Learn more about ARC’s project on Neighborland.

Central Market and Tenderloin Community Benefit Agreements


City of San Francisco’s Office of City Administrator, Neighborhood Empowerment Network, Twitter, Zendesk, Spotify, Zoosk

San Francisco City Administrator Naomi Kelly partnered with five Central Market companies (Zendesk, Twitter, Spotify, Zoosk, Yammer) and several local non-profits to collect residents’ insights for the City’s Central Market Community Benefit Agreement (CBA) program. The City hosted two public workshops facilitated by the Neighborhood Empowerment Network, and extended this outreach on SMS and Twitter. With the support of sixteen community partners, the project team collected insights from over a thousand participants who contributed over 80 hours of their time to the project.

All of this data was uploaded to the City Administrator’s project on Neighborland and helped inform the coalition’s decisions of how to allocate resources for local nonprofits as documented in their 2015 CBA Agreements. Furthermore, this rich set of qualitative data has been analyzed by the City’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OEWD) as part of the Central Market/Tenderloin Economic Strategy Update.

Neighborhood Empowerment Network

Miraloma Park Improvement Club, MIT Urban Risk Lab, City of San Francisco Department of Earthquake Preparedness and NERT Program, Ingleside Police Department

We continued our partnership with Neighborhood Empowerment Network(NEN) with projects in Bayview, Miraloma Park, and Diamond Heights. The Resilient Miraloma Park project engaged over a thousand residents in a series of workshops to help the neighborhood be better prepared for challenges like heat waves and earthquakes. NEN partnered with the MIT Urban Risk Lab to design, plan, and facilitate the workshops with the Miraloma Park Improvement Club. We helped facilitate and uploaded all of the asset-mapping and solutions-generation data on Neighborland. This project will result in an action plan later this year.

I Heart Hutch

I Heart Hutch

Hutchinson Community Foundation, City of Hutchinson, Downtown Hutchinson, Hutchinson/Reno County County Chamber of Commerce, Hutchinson Recreation Commission, Reno County, and United Way of Reno County

The Hutchinson Community Foundation launched I Heart Hutch to collect the community’s insights on how to improve their community. Over 700 residents participated at workshops, community events, and online. The Foundation and their partners hosted the Envision Hutch Unconference in March 2015 where seven residents received $15,000 grants to implement their projects. All of the insights collected during this project are being used as a framework for the City of Hutchinson’s Comprehensive Plan, set to start in spring 2015.

Learn more about the Hutchinson Community Foundation’s project on Neighborland.

Our mission is to help all residents shape the development of their neighborhoods. We work with organizations who have clearly demonstrated their commitment to creating healthy, vibrant, and sustainable communities through their past work. Contact us if you’re interested in partnering with Neighborland. Again, a sincere thank you to all of the residents, organizations, and cities who collaborated to make great ideas happen this past year on Neighborland.

How to engage the public

SF Beautiful installation in UN Plaza

As an Organizer, your first task is to define your Project. Residents will need to understand the constraints of your Project: what resources you have to implement ideas, what’s the timeframe for your Project, and how can they collaborate with you to help make the great, feasible ideas happen? 

Before your event, sign up to Neighborland with your organizations’s admin-friendly email, and send us your profile URL. We will set you up as an Organizer on Neighborland which will give you access to all of our input and moderation tools. Describe your Project goals, timeline, and outcome in detail in the “description” field of your question. If you are interested in SMS and/or Twitter input, let us know

Swim with the Current

Now you’re ready for the fun part–engaging with residents in public space or at your event. First, choose a great site to engage with residents. For most place-based Projects, you will engage with residents in public space or at community events. For events in public space, we can not overstate the importance of foot traffic. Don’t expect people to come to you. You’ll get much better engagement from a bustling sidewalk, park, city plaza, or farmers market. One of the easiest ways to do this is to partner with existing cultural or civic events that residents love like block parties, arts festivals, and placemaking events.

Greenbelt in Mountain View

Sparking Conversation

There are three simple ways to collect input in public space with our tools – stickers, posters, or whiteboards. Our stickers work on any surface like glass, plastic, concrete, or wood. They are non-destructive in that they peel off any surface without leaving residue or damaging it. You can order the original “I Wish This Was” stickers, “I want ____ in my neighborhood” stickers, or custom printed stickers on our Handbook. Often organizations will print key information on the backs of the stickers, like their campaign URL and SMS/Twitter input instructions. Stickers are the most lightweight and mobile of all of the tactics. 

Organizers can print their own posters or stickers using our DIY design toolkit. Remember to keep stickers within reach for all residents. For example, stickers should not be placed higher than 30” from the street level for residents in wheelchairs and children. 

100 Custom Stickers

If you don’t have a wall or surface to set up a grid of stickers or printed poster, you can create a surface. Mobile whiteboards work well in plazas, markets, block parties, and street fairs. We recommend that you work with a local sign fabricator to create a mobile, re-usable whiteboard. We can send you a 3D design file with suggested fabrication materials. For a design services and materials fee, we can have a mobile whiteboard fabricated and shipped to you.

Start by Listening

So you’ve figured out where, when, and how you’re going to spark a conversation in public space. It’s time to make it happen! Bring 5-10 markers (non-permanent if you’re using a whiteboard, sharpies if you’re using stickers on a wall) and a few folks to help facilitate the engagement. Your team is ready to help residents share their ideas. Here are some tips on better brainstorming from the team at IDEO: encourage residents to think outside of the box, defer your judgement, and build on ideas. Have fun! Narrowing down ideas to those that are feasible and actionable comes a little later in the process. 

If you are passing out stickers as a takeaway, encourage participants to write their ideas on a sticker and paste on their clothes. Don’t worry, the stickers won’t damage even delicate fabrics. It’s ideal to have one or more facilitators by the stickers or board, and one person photographing the input. Take as many good pictures of people wearing or holding stickers as possible.

New Museum Ideas City street festival.

Most residents will take a look at the ideas on the sticker walls or boards for a few minutes. Ask them what they think, and encourage them to checkmark ideas they agree with. Some residents will share their own ideas. Often, people will have a discussion about an idea posted with others engaging with your installation. They will share information, news, and resources with each other. That’s what Neighborland is – a way to empower residents to share ideas, insights, and resources around a place-based question. And make sure to thank residents for their participation.

If participants become interested in your Project, encourage them to share their idea with their smartphone. Neighborland works great on all mobile devices. If a resident doesn’t have a smartphone, they can text their idea, or let them know that ideas from the stickers or whiteboard will be uploaded to the Project page. Residents can share their email with you so that you can keep them updated on your Project. Keep a simple clipboard with name, email, and idea fields handy. Encouraging people to sign up on their smartphone, or noting their email, will help you connect with participants during the entire length of your Project.

Neighborland at Philly Magic Garden

Some people will simply check out the discussion on the stickers or boards, and keep moving.  Having a stack of stickers to hand out is a great way to engage these folks. It’s important that you share the link to your Project online on the stickers. It’s easy for a busy resident to slip a sticker in their pocket or handbag, and check out your Project at a time convenient for them.

Meaningful Data

At the end of the event, you can use our simple “Idea Uploader” tools that enable you to upload a spreadsheet of ideas, votes (“me toos”), and participant emails to your Project page. Once you have all of the ideas uploaded, we have clustering and de-duplication capabilities to help you generate a meaningful set of data. You can select ones that are feasible, impactful, and actionable based on your Project’s goals, timeframe, and intended outcomes. These ideas will be highlighted on your Project page, and you can notify your participants as your Project evolves.

San Francisco Beautiful in UN Plaza

Human-Centered Urban Design

You’ve engaged the public and captured their desires for their community. You’ve collected their most popular, feasible, and impactful ideas and facilitated a constructive dialogue both online, and more importantly, in person. Now you can encourage your participants to help you make their great ideas happen.

Some organizations we’ve worked with, like San Francisco Beautiful, have taken selected ideas back into public space and had residents vote on these ideas. At the Heart of the City Farmers’ Market, SF Beautiful had over 850 people vote on programming ideas for one of San Francisco’s most popular public plazas. Other organizations take the next step of prototyping the community’s ideas like the Safer 6th Street Coalition’s traffic calming project with the SFMTA in SF. Some organizations, like the New Orleans Food Truck Coalition, have used Neighborland as a petitioning and network-building tool in their successful campaign to change the mobile vending laws in New Orleans. To see other outcomes of our partners’ work, visit Neighborland.

We highly recommend studying the work of tactical urbanists across the U.S. who are accelerating real change in their communities. We call this approach of ideation, co-creation, and experimentation “human centered urban design.”

Northwest Quality of Life

Note that Neighborland is an extension of traditional advocacy forums like community meetings. If there have been great ideas collected in past forums or planning initiatives, you should include them as “seeds” as a way to inspire dialogue.

Contact us if you have any questions or are interested in learning more.

In the City with Neighborland

Thanks to Takepart and IBM Smarter Cities for their profile on co-founder Dan Parham and the Market Street Prototyping Festival.

“You’ve strolled through that open plaza with a fountain and a few pigeons countless times—business suits during the day, a few wayward loiterers at night. Then there’s the boarded-up business around the way. That vacant lot over there. A crowded bus stop. A blocked bike lane. Those damn potholes…

While they may be the stomping grounds you love in your city, you also have ideas for improving things. That’s why Neighborland co-founders Dan Parham and Candy Chang conducted a simple social experiment in New Orleans, where they set up stickers and markers for people to share their thoughts for improving their community. They saw the reaction: what was lacking was unified action. Soon thereafter, Neighborland was born.

Parham helped create the Neighborland website to give people the opportunity to voice their dreams and concerns and improve their respective communities. The site gives information, support, and resources needed to follow through—collectively. For example, a user can share they want more food trucks in their neighborhood, then they would work with other community members to come up with initiatives. Neighborland provides another powerful outlet for connecting with residents and making change in real time.”

Read the full article on Takepart

Redesigning UN Plaza

San Francisco Beautiful in UN Plaza

This spring, SF Beautiful was awarded a grant from the City of San Francisco to make United Nations Plaza a healthier, more vibrant public space. SF Beautiful led a coalition of local organizations who shared their goals including: The City of San Francisco’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OEWD), Tenderloin Economic Development Project (TEDP), University of California at Hastings, Art Institute of California, Federal Department of Homeland Security, and the SFPD. They reached out to Tenderloin and Mid-Market residents for their ideas, insights, and resources, and are now programming the plaza with ideas suggested by residents. This initiative is grounded in the philosophy that the people who live, work, and play in UN Plaza know what it needs to thrive.


UN Plaza is a 2.5 acre “park” surrounding the Civic Center BART/MUNI station in the center of the city. The brick and concrete plaza is the only open space accessible for many neighbors in the Tenderloin. It’s also one of San Francisco’s most popular public spaces, with over 50,000 neighbors reflecting, exercising, meeting friends, and passing through the plaza on any given day. The opportunity is that it’s one of San Francisco’s most underperforming public spaces.

The Heart of the City Farmers Market has brought much needed healthy food and economic vibrancy to the Tenderloin and Central Market neighborhoods. Now, SF Beautiful is engaging with locals to implement a series of ideas to activate the plaza with music, arts, recreation, and activities for children and families.

In this program, neighbors’ ideas could be temporary improvements (removed daily), one­ time events, or recurring events. The budget for implementation, not including labor, was set at $2,500 ­- $5,000 for each idea. Impact is determined by the estimated number of people that will actively engage with the idea, sense of safety created by the intervention, and extensibility of the idea.


In March, the UN Plaza Coalition hosted a public meeting at UC Hastings with over 200 neighbors in attendance. Neighbors’ ideas and insights were collected from written input, SMS, Twitter, and Neighborland. All of this input was aggregated on the #UNPlaza Project page. It was the first time that an organization used Neighborland as a live ideation and voting tool in a public meeting.

TEDP Executive Director Anh Nguyen live tweeted all of the ideas that were submitted by Tenderloin neighbors. It was a simple, but powerful way to extend the public input in the meeting to a wider audience. Often ideas presented in the oral statements are not captured in the design process, but Anh’s innovative use of Twitter helped amplify neighbors’ voices. Two of the resident’s ideas that were suggested at the pubic meeting, and live tweeted by Anh, became finalists in the program.

Offline + Online

For the next 6 weeks, neighbors voted on all of the ideas publicly on the#UNPlaza Project. A panel that included staff from various city agencies lead by OEWD evaluated all of the ideas on the basis of impact, feasibility, and scope. On June 4th, SF Beautiful then took the four finalist ideas and had neighbors vote on them in UN Plaza during a beautiful, sunny, summer day. Over 850 neighbors cast their votes and chose the winners.

SF Beautiful in UN Plaza

Here’s how SF Beautiful describes the first event, a pop-up music concert:

San Francisco is home to a lot of great musicians. Performance stages will be set up for various genres of music performances on a weekly basis. Sipping a summer drink, you can relax on the grass with your friends while enjoying live music!

Good for:
Everyone, especially music lovers

How does this event make UN Plaza a better place?
Positive activity
Supporting local artists
Welcomes everyone
Enjoyable and relaxing experience
A space makeover with music

Weekend Mid Day- Evening

Making it Happen

SF Beautiful is bringing these winning ideas to life this summer in events series called “Pause, Play, Connect.” It’s a community-generated programming and placemaking special event series sponsored by Invest in Neighborhoods and the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development, curated by MJM Management Group. It is a first-of-its kind event series on Mid Market that will offer a huge variety of events, easy access to BART, and the best performers and organizers in Bay Area dance, live music, children’s programming, indie film, cultural cuisine, and circus arts. Pause, Play Connect at UN Plaza has something for everyone. Join us!

2013 Year in Review

As we look forward to 2014, we wanted to take a few minutes to thank all of our neighbors and partners for a remarkable 2013. For the past year, we’ve been collaborating with advocacy organizations, community groups, universities, planners, and city agencies across the U.S. They have been helping us design new mapping, messaging, moderation, and analytics tools to improve the way they collaborate with residents. On that note, here’s a list of our favorite projects from 2013:

San Francisco State University

San Francisco State University President Leslie Wong invited students, faculty, staff, and community to participate in the strategic planning of the University by asking “What would make San Francisco State a better place?” Thousands of students, faculty, staff, and alumni are collaborating on the project on public whiteboards, SMS, and Twitter to make the planning effort as inclusive as possible.

Greenbelt Alliance engaging residents at the weekend farmers market, Mountain View, CA

Greenbelt Alliance engaged Mountain View residents in a dialogue about the sustainable development of Silicon Valley. Thousands of residents have participated either in person at the weekend farmers market or online. Key issues so far include housing density, complete streets, and vibrancy downtown.

N Judah Beautification Project leaders engaging with residents on the street in the Outer Sunset, San FranciscoN Judah Beautification Project leaders engaging with residents on the street in the Outer Sunset, San Francisco

The N Judah Turnaround Project, led by the Neighborhood Empowerment Network, asked Sunset residents, ‘How can we beautify the N-Judah Turnaround?’ They paired their survey with interactive signs in public space and discovered popular ideas, including a farmers market, better waste management, and artist murals. The project was recognized by City of San Francisco Supervisor Carmen Chu who awarded it a $15k grant for implementation.

League of Awesome Possibilities’s public installation in Ravenswood, Chicago

The League of Awesome Possibilities engaged residents with a series of events and workshops to plan the future development of Ravenswood, Chicago.

#Safer6th Street intervention between Market and Stevenson, Mid-Market, SF (Photo: Sergio Ruiz)

The San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency (SFMTA), District Supervisor Jane Kim, SPUR, Twitter, and Urban Spaceship prototyped a traffic calming solution and collected community input on one of San Francisco’s most dangerous streets.

Bike Easy rally on Decatur Street, New Orleans

Bike Easy successfully rallied for complete streets on Decatur Street, a major biking thoroughfare, and prototyped shared bikes during the Super Bowl in New Orleans.

New Museum Ideas City street festival.

Neighborland participated in the New Museum’s Ideas City street festival on the Lower East Side in New York City. Over 65,000 people came out to explore the theme Untapped Capital and re-imagine ways to use our community resources.

Food Truck Rally, Ashé Cultural Center, Central City, New Orleans

After a year-long campaign by the New Orleans Food Truck Coalition, the New Orleans City Council passed legislation that adds more licenses for mobile vendors, expands locations, and allows for longer operating hours. Given the success of this project, we are developing a new framework for measuring both the economic and social impact of civic engagement.


Corporate Realty solicited community ideas for the abandoned Wiltz Gym in Bywater, New Orleans. As part of their outreach, the realtor used Neighborland to ask residents what they wanted in the Wiltz Gym and initiated discussion on the future of the building, which is currently being renovated.

Project Homeless Connect volunteers at Bill Graham Civic Center for PHC50

Project Homeless Connect engaged clients and volunteers in a dialogue about how to help people experiencing homelessness in San Francisco.

Mark Roth describing a mobile tool lending library at Freespace.

Freespace prototyped a new type of community center in Mid Market, San Francisco, as part of National Civic Hacking Day. They were recognized by the White House as ‘Champion of Change’ and continue their work in 2014 with a grant with the City of San Francisco.

Imagine Atlanta at Root City Market, Photo by KT Marie

Imagine Atlanta engaged residents at Root City Market in Atlanta (Photo by KT Marie).

Street seats mapping party in New York City

Street Plans mapped public street seats in New York City.

Popuphood at Art Murmur in Koreatown, Oakland

Working with the City of Oakland, Popuphood engaged locals around the re-development of the Koreatown-Northgate neighborhood.

A few more …

Folks for Polk held a series of resident workshops to advocate for pedestrian- and bike-friendly street designs as part of the SFMTA’s plan to redesign Polk Street in Nob Hill, San Francisco.

The City of Lowell, Massachusetts’s Office of Economic Development engaged residents with a public installation.

R&M Realty surveyed residents about possible anchor tenants in a commercial property in Edgewater, Chicago.

Defend the Daquiri educated residents around proposed changes to open container laws in New Orleans.

Neighborland teamed up with Square to clean up the streets in Mid Market, San Francisco.

The City of Portland, Maine’s Department of Planning surveyed residents about their vision for Congress Square.

Mission Mercato won a $2k grant from the Mission Repair Fund in Mission Dolores, San Francisco.

Walkable Springfield surveyed residents about how to make Springfield, Missouri more pedestrian friendly.

Chacha Sikes prototyped Fruit Fences as part of the UP Prototyping Festival in Mid Market, San Francisco.

Urban Spaceship activated public space in Manhattan, New York.

UX for Good designed tipping solutions for live musicians in New Orleans.

Neighborland presented at the University of California at Berkeley’s Landscape Architecture + Environmental Planning symposium, Adaptive Metropolis, and the Smart Cities World Congress in Barcelona.

Collaborate with us

Our mission is to help all residents shape the development of their neighborhoods. We only work with organizations who have clearly demonstrated their commitment to creating healthy, vibrant, and sustainable communities through their past work. Contact us if you’re interested in partnering with Neighborland.

Thank you

Again, a sincere thank you to all of the residents, organizations, and cities who collaborated to make great ideas happen in 2013.

Open Source Tools

Open Source Tools from Neighborland

We have open sourced five new ruby projects. These libraries are general-purpose web tools usable by anyone. The projects are all MIT licensed, so you can use the code with no restrictions. Look for more gems as we continue to extract small components from Neighborland.

If you are not a ruby developer, we hope that they still may be instructive.


CacheRocket improves Rails server-side HTML caching with a simple technique that lets you cache more content. By caching more generic fragments of HTML server-side and injecting dynamic content, you can improve your hit rate while also reducing the overall size of your cache.


Sluggi provides basic slugs, slug history, and the ability to define multiple slug candidates so that you have nice-looking URLs. It’s a simpler version of the popular friendly_id gem and it does more than the new Rails 4 to_param method.


Scopy provides common ActiveRecord utility scopes as ActiveSupport model concerns. Scopy provides scope methods for id, name, and created_at fields.


Mobu does server-side User Agent detection to categorize requests as mobile, tablet, or neither. It modifies your Rails view paths based on the request type*. It does not require custom MIME types or separate subdomains, so no more m.example.com URLs.

*Rails 4.1 introduces ActionPack Variants, which we will support soon.


This resque plugin allows you to enforce unique jobs. It is a rewrite ofresque-loner that works with the latest version of resque.

The Neighborland Mission

Bike Easy rally on Decatur Street, New Orleans

Our mission is to empower people to make their neighborhoods better. We started with a simple question, “How can we help people improve their neighborhoods?” We built tools for people educate one another about the most important issues in their neighborhoods, and make ideas happen. Now we are focused on building Projects, a set of tools for organizations to collaborate with their supporters.

Solutions to our communities’ most important issues can be complex, and often organizations need residents to engage in a series of actions over time to make ideas a reality. Some issues require money or volunteers, others need petitions, or a visible show of community support. The structure for dialogue on Neighborland helps residents, organizations, and municipalities track campaigns and nudge them towards resolution.

As we have evolved from an experiment to a social enterprise, we have developed these core values:

Action matters

We are experiential learners – we learn by doing. Small, incremental actions are an important way for residents to express their desires for their neighborhoods. Tactical interventions are not a replacement for traditional advocacy planning. Rather, they can inform the strategy of larger urban planning initiatives that require substantial amounts of time from experts and municipal funding. Not all prototypes succeed. If we want to innovate in our cities, we should embrace civic hacking as part of the urban design process.

Foster collaboration

We believe in open and transparent collaboration. Residents, community leaders, and municipal governments each have valuable perspectives on the development of our neighborhoods. Public dialogue about ideas big and small should be accessible, ongoing, and inclusive. Neighborland complements traditional advocacy forums like neighborhood meetings and city council hearings, adding voices and energy to ongoing debates and campaigns. Connecting residents with organizations who are already working on solving a problem is key. There is no us or them.In the wise words of Theodore Roosevelt, “We are the government.”

Social enterprise

We exist to make a visible, positive impact on the people, environment, and economic conditions of the communities where we work. Because accessibility and equity are core values of ours, Neighborland will always be free to use for residents. We have been working on several paths to sustainability as an organization. Whatever path we take, we won’t break with our core values.

Our purpose is to help communities become, in Douglas Farr’s words from Sustainable Urbanism, more “connected, compact, and complete.” By fostering the capacity for likeminded residents and community leaders to take action on their most important problems, we will help them build healthy, vibrant, and resilient cities.

Contact us if you’re interested in partnering with Neighborland in your city.