PULSE: A SYSTEM WHICH MAPS CITIZEN ASPIRATIONS IN REAL TIME FOR URBAN DEVELOPMENT

Context

Urban India started its bottom-up planning renaissance in 1992 when the 74th Amendment provided for the constitution of ward committees in all municipalities with a population of 3 lakhs or more. In addition, newly drafted urban policies such as the Draft National Urban Policy Framework 2018 (NUPF, India) encourages the use of bottom-up planning to ensure more dynamic city planning (MoHUA, 2018). However, the INR 1 Lakh Crores Smart Cities Mission has eclipsed most other urban missions of similar nature in sheer scale, to signal the country’s intent of citizen centric development. It is an opportunity to usher in a revolution to replace the way cities have been traditionally planned in India. However, local governments need to upgrade project delivery processes to deepen citizen involvement. Project Pulse is a system of digital and physical components that helps local governments improve project delivery by increasing citizen satisfaction. A McKinsey Report mapping service delivery satisfaction rating of different industries in the United States of America found that public sector services are lagging behind in service-delivery satisfaction ratings compared to the private sector. Other studies have found that lower satisfaction ratings of citizens lead to a public institution’s inability to achieve its stated mission, underperform in meeting budget goals, and generating a lack of motivation within employees to develop a superior culture of citizen service. Project Pulse is engaging, scalable, cost-effective and relevant to decision-makers would enhance traditional forms of feedback. It relies on a bedrock of concepts such as game theory, behavioral economics, territoriality and incentive theory for its development and operations. 

Problem Statement

Governments often face severe backlash for promising. For instance, the SMART Pedestrian Street Project in Pune which discourages vehicular use by improving Non Motorized Transport facilities is a noble vision, the project also follows policies such as the Urban Street Design Guidelines and the Trenching Policy considering the holistic utility of the road. Yet, daily commuters were unable to understand the overall intent and complained about the smaller road-widths and reduced parking spaces, reducing citizen satisfaction and affecting the purpose of the initiative (Bari, 2019). It seems as though local governments could benefit the most from a rigorous citizen engagement exercise. However, since Project Pulse was intended to be deployed in a real-world setting, it was not sufficient to rely on purely anecdotal experiences – assumptions had to be tested, context of deployment to be understood and the substitutes of the Pulse System to be analysed. It was important to know if… …the problems that were assumed to exist, actually exist. …the envisioned solution could solve the problem.The formulated secondary research methodology aided in testing the initial hypothesis developed out of Team’s knowledge and experiences through relevant literature on theories, case studies and evidence. New, detailed, and rooted problem and solution statements were generated post this process. Throughout, several academic and technical experts along with Commissioners and Chief Executive Officers of Urban Local Bodies were consulted by the Team to test the assumptions and theoretical research. The resulting problem statement was stated as - Lack of involvement at scale in city planning processes makes citizens not consider themselves integral to their city’s development; leading to lesser communication between governments and citizens and lowered acceptance of well-intentioned projects.

Objective

The research conducted above of current systems helped define and position Project Pulse along with its features and its objectives. A solution statement rooted in reality-backed by theory was developed. It was decided that over the course of a year, the team will work to execute the project while staying true to the tenets of the following statement as much as possible.Project Pulse is an interactive system that acquires quantifiable, localised feedback and aspiration data from citizens to help local governments align their decisions with the population and simultaneously uses co-creation techniques and forward-backward linkages to retain participants.  Based on the solution statement, the following objectives of Project Pulse were decided upon to benefit different city stakeholders.

  • Cost-effective and scalable
  • Dynamic
  • Quantifiable data for decision-making
  • Engages citizens constructively
  • Nudge techniques for increased citizen participation
  • Localized engagement 
  • An interactive platform
  • Forward and backward linkage of information
Project Developement

 

  1. Pilot City Identification: 

To find the right ground to test the pilot, a basic list of parameters was developed to guide the selection process of the Pilot City as listed below:

  1. Willingness of Commissioner and Corporation
  2. Strengths of the Team (Language, familiarity with the City)
  3. Past projects of a similar nature executed by the Corporation
  4. Access to resources in cities
  5. Performance at the Smart Cities Apex Conference Awards Event in 2019 
  6. Technical maturity of the Corporation (as evidenced by Smart City Proposals)

 Based on the above parameters, five cities were listed - Pimpri-Chinchwad, Nagpur, Thane, Post Blair and Vishakhapatnam. The Smart City CEO of every city was presented with the position paper, pitch deck and an interactive version of the prototype that was developedA digital version of the intervention project would not be contextual for the cities of Port Blair and Vishakhapatnam, as mentioned by their respective CEOs. Thane was withdrawn from the list since it has already executed a platform similar to Pulse and an effective value addition would not have been possible. PCMC & Nagpur CEOs showed willingness to implement the idea. The pilot was thus, initiated in Pimpri Chinchwad with a plan to scale up in Nagpur. However, due to the time constrains of the Fellowship Program, the pilot was conducted in only one city. The project began in Pimpri Chinchwad in May 2019 with a reconnaissance visit to understand the context of the corporation, city and the civic society. It was decided with the Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation that the scope of the Pulse System would include the use of the system to reduce the number of Garbage Vulnerable Points (GVPs) in the City. The System had to aid,

  • Identification of the source of the problem
  • Behavioral transformation of citizens to minimize improper disposal of waste
  • Collect aspirations of citizens to convert the GVPs into usable space once cleaned

 

  1. Project Development and Implementation: 

The following graphic shows the project development and implementation via a 3-stage maturity approach: Pre-Pilot | Pilot | Post-Pilot.  

Expected Outcomes

Through the course of the pilot the Pulse team observed that citizen aspirations are ever changing – for instance if a neighbourhood gets the footpath that it has wanted for year, the aspiration of the neighbourhood could change to wanting bicycle tracks. If the Pulse Web Interface is used by citizens of Pimpri Chinchwad, decision makers in Pimpri Chinchwad will be able to map how citizen aspirations change at a hyperlocal level, aiding Corporations in the preparation of municipal budgets to accommodate for changing needs of citizens.The ‘Co-Creation Truck’ could act as a great catalyst for urban transformation in the City It is an ideal medium to replicate the single co-creation exercise that Team Pulse piloted across the City. An additional feature in the Web Interface could be added in which the co-creation truck will go to an area to conduct a co-creation exercise when a certain number of citizens collectively ask for it.  Thus, RWAs or ordinary citizens could engage with the Municipal Corporation at a granular level to develop their neighborhoods collectively.  

Actual Result

A workshop was conducted which brought together several components developed through the year. The Pulse team set up a partnership with a team from TU Dresden (U_CODE) to also pilot a unique co-creation software called ‘ShapeTable’ along with its own interface. The workshop witnessed high levels of engagement with 110 participants, gathering 58 feedbacks in Pulse Interface and 17 citizen designs in ShapeTable interface.A kiosk was set up for the Digital Screen on which the U_CODE Initiative’s Co-Creation Software was running while the Pulse Web Interface was used to gather inputs on the Questionnaire on a Tablet. Additionally, citizens comfortable using pen paper could sketch their aspirations by hand and stable those to a “Wishing string”. This was to involve children and those not comfortable with digital interfaces. Once the citizen comes to the kiosk, he/she would answer the questionnaire on the Pulse Interface, sketch on the ShapeTable and may sketch his innovative ideas on the wishing string. After the sketches were compiled, another question was added on the Pulse Interface to take a feedback from the other citizens on the repository. The figure below illustrates the process followed.  It was also observed that the digitally mature age group of 15-45 years was more inclined towards sketching on the ShapeTable and an older age group was more facile using the questionnaire displayed on the Pulse Web Interface. The Citizen Design Patterns were analysed which led to a common design proposal incorporating all the sketched elements. A Sketch Rating Matrix as shown in the figure below was also developed for this purpose to give a comparative score and find the ‘all- encompassing’ design.  

Conclusion

Project Pulse was successful in changing the behaviour of an area with ~2000 people towards a 10-year-old garbage dumpsite. As reported by the Sanitary Inspector there has a been a decrease of 90% in improper garbage disposal at the GVP in a short span of six months, creating a sense of ownership among citizens. The GVP was not only cleaned and levelled, but the nuisance creators as well as change makers were identified. A vast repository of detailed sketches for the transformation of GVP along with 58 feedback data points together yielded a proposal for a public space that has benches, swings and open gym and encouraged the residents who had resisted the change earlier. The co-creation curriculum can be adopted by any city to engage citizens effectively. The tool was piloted to solve the problem of GVPs in Pimpri Chinchwad, but can be easily applied for other urban problems such as traffic congestion, water depletion, unused public spaces etc. The tool currently has English, Hindi and Marathi as language and any other language can be easily added if the tool is further developed.  The existing web interface can be integrated with City Website or Mobile Application or City Grievance Redressal Platforms.   

Mentor
City
Pimpri Chinchwad