Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Chelan council workshop considers AI network to improve community engagement

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CHELAN – The city is on the cusp of joining the artificial intelligence (AI) revolution by upgrading its ability to interface with its citizens through a new research platform called Thought Exchange. The high-tech tool was the opening topic of the city council’s regular monthly workshop held on June 4.

“One of the priorities for the city this year is to get more engagement from our community on the things that we do,” said Mayor Erin McCardle.

Up to this point a program called Survey Monkey, an online tool used to create surveys, polls, and quizzes, has been the city’s principal platform to do that.

“It is basic and time consuming unless you are doing just straight multiple-choice questions,” said McCardle. “It does not open up the doors to allow any conversations to happen.”

The city learned of Thought Exchange from the school district that used the program to share its levy and bond information with the public and get useful responses in return.

“In this day and age, we have a lot of tools available with AI to make it easier for us to go out to the community and get their feedback in a meaningful way,” McCardle said. “This is important because we have a major comp plan update coming up that is the foundation of our planning effort.”

McCardle used early data from the very beginning of the Imagine Downtown project to allow Thought Exchange to demonstrate what it can do with information familiar to council members.

The platform emphasized its ability to capture the voice of people by utilizing three modes of listening: 

  • Qualitative data collection.
  • Digital one-to-one interviews with interactive two-way conversations.
  • Create, monitor, and benchmark a strategic plan.

A Thought Exchange representative imported 1,100 responses provided by McCardle and showed how a first level word cloud analysis filtered and refined responses on topics such as parking, traffic, safety, accessibility, outdoor dining, public amenities, and more. Further filtering transformed a “collective mess” of data into increasingly specific detail according to the user’s needs. Following further demonstrations showing the variety of options available to granulate and interact with the survey responses McCardle said Thought Exchange will be included for consideration on the upcoming council agenda.

Mike Maltais: 360-333-8483 or michael@ward.media

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