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The Place Race – Bringing Lean & Agile to Community Plans

This is a good example of:

Bringing lean startup techniques to a local planning effort


Kamo is a small town (population 7,000) in northern New Zealand. While the town supports better placemaking and new zoning, they were not excited about an extended process.  Instead, the town looked to the Lean Start-up movement to build a quicker process.  The Lean Startup, popularized by Eric Reis, proposes an iterative, or agile, approach.  Instead of going after one big project at the end of a long process (e.g. a comprehensive plan), communities start small, integrate improvements and build towards the larger end product along the way.  The shortened process is based on Google Venture’s “design sprints.”

Kamo set three implementation steps: (1) Recruit people who can get things done fast, (2) redefine process to series of events, and (3) set up design sprints for specific geographic areas.   Metrics and performance indicators are a big part of “lean,” and the five indicators for Kamo are:

  1. Customer Satisfaction
  2. Delivery Times
  3. Level of Engagement
  4. Abbreviated Statutory Process
  5. Quality of Decision Making

In planning it Place Race, the town used the Lean Canvas, a method of distilling a business plan to a single page.  The lead image is a screenshot (from this Prezi presentation by Spatial Fusion) shows how Kamo adapted the business plan canvas to a town planning canvas.

Kamo held a five day series of events, shown in this video:

Some of the highlights:

  • The Kamo Place Race continues to use its Facebook page as its main channel of communication.
  • In the lead up, Kamo produced videos and maps of existing conditions.
  • Three weeks out, the Place Race posted a “Question of the Day” for example, “Is traffic working?”
  • The pre-notification process was reduced from five months to five days
  • Post event, the town is tackling walkability and density maps.  Those maps will feed into the zoning code changes.

URL link to Main Resource:

Project Location :

Kamo, New Zealand

Development Context:



Under Construction

1 Comment

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