How Fictional Characters Can Give Real Perspective to Planners

Eric Jaffe reports on a simulation method used by the Regional Plan Association to bridge gaps in community engagement while developing the Fourth Regional Plan.

"RPA has created 10 profiles meant to represent — in a statistically true sense — the people who live in the region. The personas will serve as a sort of fictional oversight panel tasked with holding the [Regional Plan Association's Fourth Regional Plan] accountable to its true mission," reports Eric Jaffe.

Jaffe explains just how the RPA generated the "avatars": "RPA derived the profiles (or avatars, as they're called in-house) from the latest Census data. Geography was the overarching metric, followed by 13 separate statistics chosen to align the profiles with actual metro area demographics as closely as possible. Since only 8 percent of the region lives in Manhattan, for instance, only one avatar calls it home; and since Manhattan also has one of the area's largest white populations, that avatar also is white. And on down the list."

"Once the plan is more fleshed out, the avatars could function as a kind of jury to evaluate the strength of a particular plan element." 

Full Story: Meet the 10 People Who Will Plan New York's Future

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