What’s next for OpenPlans in 2015

For over ten years, OpenPlans has been an amazing incubator of people, ideas and projects. Maintaining our deeply-held belief in better cities thanks to technology and participation, we’ve built impactful, well-crafted software – with occasional organizational refreshes along the way. And now it’s time for another. Hold onto your hats!

Recently we’ve focused on the challenges of public involvement in urban planning. We made it easy to collect useful input via Shareabouts maps, and simplified the process of setting up a map alongside other information planners need to communicate. We’ve learned and shared a lot, via three PlanningCamps, many successful community engagements, and a ton of open source code. Just in the past few months, Shareabouts has supported engagement by tens of thousands of people in New York City, Philadelphia, Cambridge, Long Beach, and more.

Despite these successes, not quite enough of the planning world is ready to use collaborative maps on their projects. So, at the end of January we cease our work as a team on these tools. The software group at OpenPlans will be on hiatus, and we’ll individually move onto new projects elsewhere. The other projects of our parent non-profit are continuing as strong as ever, with Streetsblog and Streetfilms making a difference every day with must-read coverage of streets issues.

Shareabouts is open source, and we’re hoping to see current users like PlaceMatters and Alta Planning continue working with and contributing to the software. Our own Mjumbe Poe will be putting his deep Shareabouts knowledge to work, offering consulting and taking over some of OpenPlans’ existing projects.

Between now and the end of January, we have some nice improvements coming, making it even easier for anyone to set up and host their own map (like this one-click Heroku button we’re testing, check it out). We hope these various efforts will see lots of meaningful community input happening via maps in the future. And before too long, tools like these will become part of the regular toolkit for outreach, engagement, and community data collection.

We’re really proud of the impact OpenPlans’ people and software have made so far, from bike share to bus tracking to participatory budgeting, and a whole lot more. Alums of OpenPlans are all over the place, working for some of the best cities and organizations out there. We’re excited about what comes next.

If you’ve crossed paths with OpenPlans, take a moment to reminisce via pull request to this in-progress collaborative history. We’ll be sharing that complete history soon, including highlights from our busy, high-impact 2014.