New AI tool promises to speed along community planning

A new AI tool from CitizenLab streamlines the process of synthesizing input from thousands of residents during community planning.
community meeting in Brooklyn
Local politicians and city officials hold an over-packed community meeting March 4, 2024, in the Gowanus section of Brooklyn, New York, to address growing concerns about a plan for a new emergency shelter to house more than 400 recently arrived migrants. (Andrew Lichtenstein / Corbis via Getty Images)

CitizenLab, a tech startup that offers local governments software to interact with their communities, launched a new AI-powered tool on Wednesday that helps synthesize input from thousands of residents during community planning processes.

The new tool, called the AI Sensemaking Assistant, can scan, organize and report on thousands of resident responses to community planning proposals — such as transportation projects and how to use federal funding — quickly and accurately, according to a news release from CitizenLab. The artificial intelligence assistant is meant to address problems sometimes caused by the volume of community input, which can add to the workload of public administrators and slow down the process of decision-making.

While primarily built to improve efficiency, the AI assistant also has controls that ensure every AI-generated statement is traceable to an original community input, according to the company.

CitizenLab claims the tool has been tested in the United Kingdom, where the City of Cambridge reported it saved about 10 hours, or 50% of the time needed during an analysis phase of a community feedback process.


“This tool exemplifies our dedication to innovation, offering local governments a way to effectively cut through the noise and connect with their communities like never before,” CitizenLab CEO Wietse Van Ransbeeck said in the news release. “It marks a significant leap towards making public decision-making not only more efficient but also profoundly more meaningful.”

Keely Quinlan

Written by Keely Quinlan

Keely Quinlan reports on privacy and digital government for StateScoop. She was an investigative news reporter with Clarksville Now in Tennessee, where she resides, and her coverage included local crimes, courts, public education and public health. Her work has appeared in Teen Vogue, Stereogum and other outlets. She earned her bachelor’s in journalism and master’s in social and cultural analysis from New York University.

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