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I decided to do a map about biking around where I live in West Philadelphia. Despite having plenty of options for public transportation in University City, biking may be the easiest way to get around. The official boundaries of University City are, like many neighborhoods in Philadelphia, a little hazy. I decided to use the Schuylkill River as a boundary on the east, go as far west as 43rd Street, and as far north as Spring Garden to define the neighborhood. I also included bike shops, just in case you want to stop in for some supplies.

Happy Biking!

Check it out at


Blog #3

Crime is a very serious issue in many neighborhoods in Philadelphia. There are a number of ways residents deal with criminal activity within their community, but social media offers a unique opportunity to reach out to residents. The purpose of this blog entry is to inform local Community Based Organizations (CBOs) about the benefits of using social media to help residents stay informed about crime in their community. Social media and other digital technologies can be used to raise awareness about crime in the area and instantly relay vital information to a broad and intellectually diverse subset of the population.

As explained in the Digital Sustainably Conversationsarticle, over 75% of Americans are not online and have access to multiple forms of social media. More and more Americans are becoming tech-savvy and relying heavily on the internet for information. The New Generation of Public Participation: Internet-based Participation Tools article goes on to explain that word now seems to be traveling through social media rather than the front stoop. I think it is really important in regards to crime, to embrace social media to communicate with residents about crime in their neighborhood.

It is important to focus on crime issues within the neighborhood and consider the broad and intellectually diverse subset of the population you are reaching out to via social media. For example, many neighborhoods with higher crime rates have a culturally diverse community with a wide range of educational levels. Some forms of social media are probably better suited for some communities than others. It is important to try to figure out the most effective way to raise awareness and instantly alert residents to dangers in the community. Different methods and different social media platforms may yield significantly differently results. It is important to consider your audience to determine the best way to reach out to them through social media.

One of the most important ways social media can be used in regards to crime is to send out automatic alerts with basic information for residents about criminal activity taking place in their neighborhood. Residents can steer clear of danger if CBOs send out alerts via Facebook, Twitter, and email. Temple University uses email alerts to give students information about criminal activity in their area. It is important to remember to continue to engage residents- not just blast them with emails. Social media can be used to report criminal activity and provide additional resources for residents that prefer other means of communication.

It is crucial to engage residents to get feedback about using social media to raise awareness about crime issues, help prevent crime, and gather feedback about how your CBO is using social media. The broad and intellectually diverse subset of the population that you are serving is unique and should be treated as such. There is not a single best approach to establishing social media as a means to reach out to residents about crime in their community. The feedback loop is essential in developing effective social media programs.

Social media can also be used to gather information from the community. In regards to crime, anonymous or confidential reporting methods could be set up to quickly and safely report criminal activity. Protecting residents from any form of retaliation when it comes to reporting criminal activity is extremely important in some parts of the city.  It is important that continue to develop more creative ways to actually engage citizens in preventing crime. Using multiple approaches to encourage public participation will help increase the sense of engagement among residents in the community.

In conclusion, your organization using social media platforms and other digital technologies to raise awareness about crime in the area and instantly relay vital information to the community could have a major impact on crime in your community. Social media is becoming an extremely effective way to rapidly communicate with residents and alerts them about potential dangers in the community. Community based organizations should start exploring the capabilities of social media and other digital technologies to reach out to the residents of their community in a fast and convenient manner for residents.

Habitat Home Dedication

We had a great turnout for the home dedication!Kim Mathis, a Habitat board member and homeowner, was instrumental in the process of aquiring and developing this propertyAnother Partner-family, Tasha Underwood and her daughter, came out to celebrate the occasionThe house before renovationProud AmeriCorps members, George Buckman III and Aster Myer, posing at the Wallace-Bassett Home Dedication on 7/13/12 in Germantown

Habitat home renovation and dedication, a set on Flickr.


This home was dedicated to Michael Wallace and Bilqis Basset on July 13, 2012. You can see the rest of the album on Flickr at 

Mike and Bilqis have been in our home ownership program for almost two years and served over 350 hours of “sweat equity” to make their dreams a reality. The hours served with Habitat for Humanity Philadelphia are in lieu of a down payment and interest on their home. Mike was in disbelief throughout the entire process, he simply could not believe that such an organization exists. He had to work and could not make the dedication, but sent many thanks to everyone that made this day possible.

I consider myself very lucky to be part of an organization that gives wonderful people a hand up (not a hand out) and really helps change lives. Mike and Bilqis have four children that will benefit greatly from living in a safe and affordable home. There are tons of statistics that explain how much more likely it is that kids get good grades and  finish school etc. Working for families and such a great cause doesn’t really feel like working at all.

This was the first home dedication that I went to for a partner family that I work with for a significant amount of time. I became very close with Bilqis working alongside her on Saturdays for about 3 months. She is a good worker with a great sense of humor. She has been a great addition to the Habitat family. I am looking forward to keeping in touch her with her and seeing how this house becomes a home.

Congratulations Mike and Bilqis! Good luck to you and your family in Germantown.

*As requested, no photos were taken of the family for religious reasons.

Mini-Blog #2

Justin B. Hollander’s Intelligent participation: engaging citizens through a framework of multiple intelligences (2012) makes a case for using different methods, or multiple intelligences, to enhance public participation and elicit input from more diverse subsets of the population. Numerous other professions are exploring using multiple intelligences to convey and process information. In this article, Hollander seeks to determine if these processes will successfully translate into the public participation process. Public participation can be classified in four ways: public hearings, in-person computer-assisted workshops, in-person charettes, and correspondence participation.  Public hearings continue to be the most simple and popular means of public participation in my experiences in community planning activities. I never really considered that some people might not want/be able engage in this type of community involvement.

The government began to realize the importance of public participation in the 1950s. The government then started to require public participation in to federal and state laws. Sherry Arnstein soon noticed these laws and the public hearing they required lacked any real meaningful participation from citizens. Conventional participation processes did not meet the needs of the diverse learning styles of citizens. Public hearings do not provide the public with an opportunity to explore other dimensions of intelligence that might create a more effective public participation process. As Holland points out, we tend to treat the public a homogenous group of people instead a diverse group people with different learning styles.

It is important that continue to develop more creative ways to actually engage citizens in the planning process. Using multiple approaches to public participation will help increase the sense of engagement among citizens in the planning process. Intelligence participation recognizes that everyone learns differently and that planning should be focused on developing the best methods to enhance public participation methods for the people. This article made me realize that we cannot take a “one size fits all” approach view public participation if we want to really want public participation to mean something.

Mini-Blog #1

Stephen Wheeler’s Technology and Planning: A Note of Caution (2001) is a cautionary tale about the negative side-effects associated with technological advances in the planning profession. Wheeler argues that the biggest challenge facing the planning profession is actually trying to understand the way technology is shaping our profession.  I agree that technology plays a major part in the way we view and practice planning today, but I do not believe we do not need to “step back” from technology. We need simply need to be willing to step outside the box sometimes and not to rely too heavily on technology moving forward. Technology is not going anywhere and I think it is important to embrace what technology has to offer. Having said that, I believe it is also paramount that we continue to teach critical thinking and problem solving skills to planners moving forward.

Wheeler makes an excellent point about how technology allows “armchair” planners think they can solve all of the world’s problems from a GIS lab. Planners are becoming less active as members of the community in which they are serving. In my opinion, this is becoming a serious issue in many urban areas where technology actually making it harder for disadvantaged communities and citizens to be more involved in the planning process. Wheeler makes another fantastic point when he argues that planners have an “ethical responsibility” to address urban problems and protect citizens from being steamrolled by complex technology they do not understand. This is why advocacy planning is so important in urban areas. Many developers and wealthy organizations have used technology to their advantage in disadvantaged communities that lack technological skills.  I believe it is absolutely critical that planners still engage members of the community in the planning process and make every attempt bridge the gap of the digital divide, especially in urban areas where citizens tend not to be as tech-savvy.

Wheeler really drives home his note of caution about a healthy balance of technology and other methods during the conclusion of his article. Technology is certainly not a silver bullet for all the troubles that planners face, but it does make life a lot easier. I completely agree with Wheeler in that we as planners need to do a better job of “stepping out of our technocractic roles as planners to take leadership in addressing urban problems.” I do not believe we need to limit the scope of technology in the planning profession – we simply need to be more conscious of the way technology shapes our mindset as planners.


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