Attracting a Crowd, Blogging Regional Planning

If you thought wonky regional planners were more concerned with watershed management than social media management, think again. Local planning and policy folks are a growing and powerful voice on Twitter, where they discuss everything from the latest federal transportation bill to what their own communities are doing about the foreclosure crisis.

We’ve had lots of fun over the past eight months or so injecting research into these online conversations through our work with the MacArthur Foundation’s Research Network on Building Resilient Regions (BRR).

Housed at the Institute for Government Studies at UC Berkeley, the “BRRistas” as they’re affectionately known, are a group of scholars from around the country who study metro-arearegionalism—the intersection of city and suburb that is now home to two-thirds of the U.S. population.

Their work examining the impact of poverty on foreclosures, for example, or on immigration or infrastructure is increasingly relevant to the policy discussions of the moment. And it can be of great help to local policy leaders in figuring out how to better respond to demographic, social, and economic changes happening at the regional level. While in the past, scholarship like this may have taken months or even years to reach local-level decision makers, through the magic of the internet and online communities— and with our help— we’re watching researchers share this work much more quickly, and effectively.

We began working with BRR on their social media outreach and web presence last year after they decided they wanted to make a broader effort to get their work out to the local policymakers who need it most.

We redesigned their website (within some constraints) to highlight new and applied research and began a daily blog and Twitter feed (@BRRNetwork) designed to tie their research to the day’s news and increase their audience. And having just completed our quarterly reporting, we know just how well it’s working.

We’re pleased to report a sharp increase in traffic since the site redesign.  People are digging deeper into the site and visiting many more pages as they browse. Page views have jumped from 625 per month prior to our redesign to 2900 per month in the 6 months after. Especially considering the small scholarly nature of our niche audience, we’re very pleased.

We have a growing following on Twitter and have blogged on everything from cluster development, to case studies on the foreclosure crisis, to how development policies shape opportunity and social mobility. We’ve got a list of stories in the queue and are exploring collaborative posting with the Metropolitan Planning Council and the Woodstock Institute. And the Network’s research was just highlighted by the Department of Housing and Urban Development in their winter issue of Evidence Matters.

Stay tuned for what’s next at brr.berkeley.edu. Do you have a website that needs help? Have research you feel is worth blogging about? Get in touch here.

Ready to learn more? Get in touch.