From left: Ji Lucas, Marisa Novara of MPC, Sheila Miguez, Pallavi Anderson, Stephen Newell of IBM, Shauna Martin, Esperanza Ayala, Kim Wasserman and Silvana Favaretto
Chicago gets props for being a city that thought way ahead about its green space: When the neighborhoods that are now Humboldt Park, Garfield Park and North Lawndale were still peripheral, city planners engaged the likes of Jens Jensen to create the West Side’s great green string of majestic parks and boulevards. Burnham’s “forever open, clear and free” lakefront is a shining testament to the power of public space for creating a high quality of life. But, as recently chronicled in the Chicago Tribune, all 50 wards do not enjoy this green space bounty. In fact, the community of South Lawndale – more commonly known as Little Village – contains the least green space per capita of any Chicago neighborhood.
This is part of what got us so excited about the winner of our Placemaking apps competition, Mi Parque. Created to support the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO)’s decade-long effort to transform a former industrial site into a 24-acre park, Mi Parque is a bilingual app that keeps local stakeholders involved and informed in shaping plans for the park and the broader community. Just a few of the things we love about this app:
- It’s massively interactive platform that emphasizes the Placemaking principle that the community is the expert, through portals such as:
- Mi Idea: Users can view and submit ideas for Mi Parque, as well as vote on ideas they like best. By integrating the app with their Facebook accounts, users can share their favorite ideas with their Facebook friends (or simply do so via text messaging) and encourage them to vote them up, too.
- Mi Voto: Users can participate in community polls and vote on ideas posted about how to best use the park.
- Mi Aviso. Users can learn about upcoming community happenings and volunteer opportunities and receive safety, weather and health alerts impacting Little Village.
- Mi Mapa. Users can locate park sites, open lands, and community gardens in Little Village and view where alerts are being posted block by block.
- The collaborative nature of its design. Chicago-based techie Pallavi Anderson noticed the distinct lack of a female presence in apps competitions, and vowed to do something about it. A few emails later, she had a dream team of women software engineers from Motorola Solutions, Orbitz, Pearson VUE, and Thomson Reuters/Hubbard One, all ready to donate their expertise by mentoring aspiring developers from Columbia College Chicago, Illinois Institute of Technology, and University of Illinois-Chicago. This talented group, however, needed a need. Enter LVEJO: During Pallavi’s outreach, someone suggested she contact Mindy Faber of Open Youth Networks at Columbia College Chicago, who had a long-standing relationship with LVEJO and its environmental advocacy in Little Village. A brilliant app was born. (For a complete list of the women participating in this all-star team, visit http://miparquelv.wordpress.com/about/.)
- It raises the bar for the role of community in the design of public space. We are so excited about the potential to adapt the concept to other neighborhoods, other needs, and other public spaces.
Many thanks to Metro Chicago Information Center, organizer of the Apps for Metro Chicago Illinois competition (of which our Placemaking app contest was one small part), and of course to IBM, which generously sponsored the Placemaking app award.
I’ll close with one final heartening detail: The $2,500 cash prize will go not to the female volunteers who spent long weekends crafting the winning platform. Instead, at their request, the check is made out to the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, in support of their work advocating for healthy and safe green space for its residents.
Viva Mi Parque!