Edmonton Offers Urban Planning Classes: Opportunities To Take Citizen Engagement To The Next Level

I love the idea of the Edmonton’s Planning Academy, which offers planning courses to anyone in the city.  What a great way to get citizens involved in the complex challenges of city planning!  It made me want to live in Edmonton.  OK, so maybe I’m kind of addicted to school, and taking classes (corporate learning programs, continuing studies programs and even the Red Cross have seen me in their classrooms in recent years).  But really, this one looks so cool I had to write about it. 

The City of Edmonton’s Planning Academy’s goal is to “provide a better understanding of the planning and development process in Edmonton.”  And, it grants a Certificate of Participation following completion of the three core courses and one elective.  These three core courses include:

  • Use Planning: The Big Picture.
  • Getting a Grip on Land Use Planning.  
  • Come Plan with Us: Using Your Voice.

And, the elective course options include:

  • Transportation.
  • Urban Design.
  • Transit Oriented Development.

Cities have always held town hall meeting or open planning sessions.  Similarly, a number of cities have launched initiatives to get citizens involved in the budgetary process – participatory budgeting – and other decision-making processes. 

Where does technology fit into this discussion?  Exactly!  Bringing these input sessions online can vastly extend their participatory reach. The CovJam run by the City of Coventry in the UK with the help of IBM is a great example of soliciting input from citizens.  The “jam” lasted three days and drew over 800 participants offering ideas for projects and reforms in the city.  Not only did citizens get to provide their input but the city also got to leverage analytics tools to better understand that input. 

Yet, imagine the value of actually training citizens to provide this input – or at least helping them better understand the process.  Providing classes to prepare citizens for these types of discussions takes engagement to the next level.  And, making them available online extends them even further.  And, for tech vendors, it's another great opportunity to engage with cities. 

I’ve asked Edmonton if they have online access to the courses.  Maybe I can sign up as a remote student.  I’m tempted.


Top 5 Best Pratices in Technology for improved Governance

Dear Dr. Belissent,

First off, I really enjoy reading your blog and have learned a lot from it. I am not a naturally tech-savvy person, so your straightforward articles, advice and insight are much appreciated.

At the moment, I am working on a small proposal for submission to the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) for improving the use of technology in democratic governance in Central America. And I am writing to ask your advice regarding what you feel are the top 5 best practices/initiatives in the use of technology for improved local governance. In that sense, I would be very curious to know your top 5 practices for municipalities with few resources (i.e. low-cost initiatives), and what are the top 5 big-ticket acquisitions (software platforms/systems) that you think are most useful and most essential for effective, transparent and responsive local government.

I realize that needs vary greatly from city to city and from one country to another, and that there is no substitute for a thorough needs assessment. But in your experience what initiatives have done the most to improve government efficiency and responsiveness?

I look forward to your response,


Thanks for your interest in

Thanks for your interest in my blog. I'm certainly willing to share ideas of what are the best practices in "smart city" governance. With new business models such as shared services and cloud based models, technology costs are falling even for smaller municipalities. Let's set up a time to speak.