ImagineMyNEO is a fun and entertaining web-based tool designed to put the user in the role of regional planner, making critical policy decisions and weighing priorities for the future of Northeast Ohio and struggling with the tough choices that must be made. You can play today at vibrantneo.org/imagine.
Our goal with ImagineMyNEO is to ask residents ‘What would this region look like in the future if you are in charge?’” said Hunter Morrison, NEOSCC’s Executive Director. “Users can share their priorities for the future and make the kinds of policy choices necessary to help create that future, and all in an engaging way.”
In ImagineMyNEO, the user is first asked to finish the sentence “I want to live in a Northeast Ohio where…” by rating the relative importance of 15 statements such as “…My community has an urban character” or “…My taxes are low” or “I can get to places without a car.” Dynamic imaging in the tool changes the size and emphasis of a set of priority icons depending on the choices the user makes.
Next, the user learns about the ways that different policy choices can impact a variety of priorities, in positive and negative ways. For example, one Project option in the tool is “Invest in pedestrian, bicycling and public transit services.” This project positively supports the priority of having a community where kids can walk to school, or having a community with an urban character. However, it negatively impacts the priority of keeping taxes low.
Lastly, users are asked to “put your money where you ‘mouse’ is!” by allotting limited resources (in this case, 15 coins) to different projects, all of which have differing resource costs and differing impacts on priorities. Users can revise and rethink their choices to find the actions that most positively support their preferred priorities.
“The issues we are wrestling with are extremely important,” added Mr. Morrison. “They can sometimes seem technical or staid to a lay person, but we really want to hear from the broadest range of residents possible, so we designed ImagineMyNEO to make the issues of regional sustainability, and the trade-offs and choices that we face, easy to understand and relevant.”
ImagineMyNEO is the second component to NEOSCC’s Vibrant NEO 2040 scenario planning process. First, a round of community workshops was held in late April/early May, attracting nearly 600 participants to six events across Northeast Ohio. Those workshops focused on looking into a scenario referred to as “Business as Usual,” which used current and recent data to create projected scenarios about what Northeast Ohio will be like in 2040 – if we keep doing what we have been doing. (The “Business-as-Usual” presentation, along with a video developed to provide an overview of Vibrant NEO, can be viewed at http://vibrantneo.org/.)
Input from attendees will be used to create additional projections for a series of public open houses in late July/early August concentrating on “Alternative Scenarios.” During these open houses, the data collected through ImagineMyNEO will be presented to attendees. Like the “Business as Usual” scenario, the “Alternative Scenarios” will be projections of Northeast Ohio’s future, but, informed with resident feedback and priorities, they will look at that would happen if we do things differently and make different choices.
Lastly, a round of public workshops in mid-September will build off of all previous efforts and, factoring in Northeast Ohio’s stated priorities and values, will develop the region’s Preferred Scenario that can serve as a roadmap to a more vibrant, resilient and sustainable Northeast Ohio.