Meet Hatch

Hatch is a new tool from OpenPlans, enabling Twitter users to come together for conversations, and for others to follow and engage with shared ideas.

Use this lightweight, open source tool to expand your outreach and engagement by bringing Twitter into the mix alongside other activities like public meetings. Pose a question or topic, and have a conversation using tweets or directly on your Hatch site. It’s intended to be engaging for young adults, visually compelling, and simple to use on mobile devices.

To see Hatch in action, check out session proposals for TransportationCamp DC at ideas.transportationcamp.org.

How we hatched Hatch

We worked alongside Living Cities last year, looking at how tech tools can be used to engage low-income millennials — young adults — in urban planning projects. We learned a lot, as documented in these blog posts by Tamir Novotny.  During our conversations in Louisville, we heard that people like using Twitter to share with friends and stay informed. We also encountered neighborhood leaders and opinion formers on Twitter, typically power users who are active on Twitter as an extension of their community leadership. Hatch provides a venue for these different Twitter users to come together and exchange ideas, and for others to follow and engage with the conversations. Conversations on Hatch are shared on Twitter, and replies on Twitter are pulled back into Hatch.

Our initial rollouts of Hatch are teaching us about where it works and what a tool like this needs to be. In Louisville, KY, the Mayor’s team has used input and conversations they gathered earlier this year about the future of the West End – browse them at vizlou.org – and other local organizations are planning to or have started experimenting with Hatch on related initiatives. Sites in  Fort Worth, TX, and Newark, NJ are just getting started. In Forth Worth, Hatch is being used in partnership with a young leadership initiative called Steer FW. Their site is collecting suggestions for new business locations and other ways to bring energy and opportunities to the southeast of the city. In Newark, the site is being integrated into a new city website — current plans call for the tool to seek input on ways to better utilize technology, improve downtown nightlife, and make neighborhoods safer and more beautiful.

Is Hatch right for you?

Hatch is just a tool. Here are the ingredients for a successful Hatch project. Use these questions to decide if Hatch is a good fit for your project:

  1. The need: What are the topics you want to gather input on? Pick topics that are suited to gathering and sharing short messages on Twitter, and consider who you want to hear from. What makes this call for input authentic and meaningful to young adults?

  2. The convener: Who will lead the conversation, responding to questions? Could be a city hall team, a youth services organization or network of youth services organizations, planning professionals, or a grassroots nonprofit. Who will be watching the hashtag and writing replies?

  3. The partners: Who will help with outreach and getting the word out? Who are your neighborhood Twitter nodes, to help shape the conversation and engage with young adults?

  4. The outreach: Does your project have an outreach plan? How will your intended users find out about your project and your Hatch site? What kind of face-to-face outreach are you planning?

Read more about Hatch, including our guide to getting set up with your own install, and our suggestions for getting started if you’re not a web developer.

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