sMap is a company that gives users the tools to do public outreach through mapping. They focus on making their product a fun and engaging on-line tool that allows individuals to create maps of the issues and opportunities facing their community. Users can identify thousands of points of interest through sMap, and then categorize, map, and bring together ideas in an innovative new format. sMap works as a public outreach tool by allowing residents, stakeholders, and other participants to provide feedback and comments on an issue that is tied spatially to a point or area. In essence, the tool provides a way for anyone to create a map of their community, identifying their own issues, opportunities, weaknesses, and threats. It responds to a fundamental shift in the habits and attitudes of residents who seek to do nearly everything online, and can now address the problems in their community, visualize them, and share them like never before. Broken street lamps, holes in the road, sources of pollution, or lack of funding for certain institutions are some examples of issues that can be raised by individuals through sMap.
sMap also assists users in identifying “hot spots” of key issues within a community. This hot spot analysis helps to focus community-led conversations around key areas of the community and helps to identify areas of commonality or consensus. This democratic and publicly involved platform can give individuals a greater voice in their own neighborhoods, and show others where they think the most serious concerns need to be addressed. This utilization allows cumulative community feedback, rather than simply summarizing individual responses.
The American Geographical Society reached out to sMap for further information on their background and vision, and Devin Lavigne from the sMap team was kind enough to provide us with the following insights:
“Cities of all sizes struggle with how best to communicate with their citizens. That’s why we created sMap. In the last 5 years more than 140 cities across the world – a have utilized sMap to Fight obesity; Improve community health and livability; Strength economic development; Tackle public safety issues; and, much more
sMap is built on top of Google Maps, a popular and widely used mapping site, and transforms it into a public outreach tool, allowing residents, stakeholders and other participants to provide feedback and comment tied spatially to an area or point. In essence the tool provides a way for any resident to create a map of their community, identifying their own issues, opportunities, weaknesses and threats.
The world around us has changed however, and the widespread use of technology is commonplace. While traditional outreach techniques are effective and important, sMap allows “charrette style” participation via the internet by providing the means for anyone from anywhere who has access to a computer to mark up a map, locate priority issues and areas, and create the narrative to go along with their map.
sMap is fully customizable, allowing communities to customize their points to the type of they would like users to map. Loveland, Colorado is utilizing sMap as a means to identify the things that promote a healthy lifestyle for residents, while Chicago’s Northwest Municipal Conference is using sMap to engage cyclists and trail users to improve the Des Plaines River Trail Corridor.”
Read more at: http://www.smapapp.com/About.aspx
By: Christopher Ewell, AGS on July 14, 2015