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Effort Underway to Spark Civil Participation in Community Design and Planning

Design Allies is an education and advocacy initiative funded by the Heinz Endowments, with the goal of increasing citizens' engagement and advocacy for their neighborhoods, as well as their city and region. It's one of three core programs of the Design Center and intended to be a place on the web for people to have conversations about design, planning, and public policy.

"And to be a go-to website and Facebook page that will allow people to be continually getting cutting edge information and share their opinions about all the various design issues so that we can increase design literacy," said Stephen Glassman, CEO of the Design Center.

The initiative gained more than 1,500 fans in just more than one week from its launch. Glassman said it's important for people to be engaged in planning and development because it helps them get the most out of their neighborhoods and cities, and he said projects such as Design Allies bring people together.

"We all are enriched by one another's life experiences, and as you get more engaged in understanding the ways in which design and planning are involved in your daily life, you understand that the synergy of bringing people together in a community and understanding how they can function better is part and parcel of what good designing and planning are all about," he said.

Design Allies has developed a Facebook app that will help it survey residents and track their interests on topics such as blight, preservation, transportation, and green spaces, among others. City residents can also sign up to receive email or text alerts about public meetings and other events. Though the group has a strong online presence, Glassman said it will also sponsor a series of public meetings, beginning in August.

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