Build Back Smarter
Plan Spatial is a planning platform and operations consultancy and our software is designed to improve communications and project delivery times. Here, systems integration lead Daniel Perkins takes us on a tour of the company through his eyes.
Our foundations are in the real experience of rebuilding shattered communities and we have a unique and collaborative approach. Individually, our expertise is bomb disposal, construction and data analytics. Consequently, the shared ethos of Plan Spatial is one of collaboration and open communications.
We’ve taken a transparent and collaborative approach to building our platform. And we’ve built it for organisations who want to work with similar transparency and collaboration.
Plan Spatial: where did the idea come from?
I would not have conceived Plan Spatial were it not for my time in the military. In fact, I can summarise the relevant parts of my military career in three acronyms: EOD, RESF and EBO. And these are all relevant to and part of the Plan Spatial story.
Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) refers to the clearance of explosive hazards, also known as bomb disposal or humanitarian mine action. And time spent in Afghanistan sowed the seed for a tool that would enable collaboration.
Many of these improvised explosive devices needed to be disposed of and after a while, I began to consider the risk-benefit of a task. I started to consider what would happen after an area was cleared.
The best results came when concrete benefits for the local population were achieved. And just as airfields were repaired in my early career, the term ‘Restoration of Essential Services and Facilities’ (RESF) came to mind. In a nutshell, this means getting necessary infrastructure up and running so operations could be supported.
It’s also become clear to us that the prolonged use of explosive weapons in urban areas in recent years has caused humanitarian catastrophes. And they need coherent clearance and reconstruction programmes.
We know that repairing the built environment can’t heal the wounds of war. But until a more normal civilian life can resume, and displaced people be returned to their homes, that healing process cannot start.
It’s a strong statement, but it is the foundation upon which we are building Plan Spatial. In the post-conflict environment, humanitarian actors often find it hard to coordinate and agree priorities. The added problem of explosive hazards complicates what is an already difficult task.
Build back smarter
We believe that Plan Spatial addresses this and that our a tool will ease the task of rebuilding. We’ve built a map-based planning system that empowers municipal authorities and humanitarian coordinators working to rebuild.
Just as at military staff college when Effects-Based Operations is taught, it’s about having a standard vocabulary that communicates what the needs to be done. And just as a map enables you to draw what you want to happen, it is a powerful common language. You can quickly understand it and go off and make it happen.
Plan Spatial allows all stakeholders to work together and set priorities. Clearance and construction is prioritised using a map-based effects planning tool, and this is uploaded to project management software. The result is a prioritised project list that can be sequenced and resourced. Everyone who needs to be involved can see the priorities and the plan so every team knows that the result will match the strategy shown on the map.
An innovative, impactful project
Location and mapping company Mapbox offered their support from the early stages of development. Mapbox Community program manager Marena Brinkhurst, who has a background in land use planning, immediately saw the potential of the Plan Spatial tool.
“Maps are a natural aid for decision-making and prioritisation, and an accessible way to engage more stakeholders in planning. It’s exciting to see Mapbox tools be applied to the issue of explosives clearance. Working with Plan Spatial is a great opportunity for our volunteer engineers to contribute to an innovative and impactful project,” she says.
Mapbox’s configurability and the speed of rendering of its vector mapping are brilliant. And we’ve been able to put the map at the middle of the planning process and use it to show a lot of information without overloading the decision makers.
Our role in rebuilding infrastructure is “decision supporters”. We want to help organisations to make decisions based on good data. When that data is big and spatial, the map-and-effects-based planning approach is a powerful one for enabling positive change.
Also look out for our sister company Plan Spatial. Plan Spatial is also applicable to public health projects. So, we’re seeing opportunities to help prevention programmes get appropriately resourced using our software tool.