Land Bank partners with local student for community discussion

Discussion participants’ opinions help shape the direction around controversial land conservation topics in real-time.

Kaj Litch, a Spring Street International School junior, recently approached the San Juan County Land Bank to collaborate with him on an internship project — a new and innovative way to gauge public opinion by using the digital tool Litch is an intern with and has spent the past semester working with CEO and co-founder Colin Megill. Using real-time machine learning, acquires and interprets input from local participants on a large scale, for the purpose of identifying consensus around controversial questions.

Such a tool fits directly into the Land Bank’s next step to improve the organization’s conservation programs for and partnerships with our island communities. According to Lincoln Bormann, the Land Bank’s Director, “The Commission and the Staff are very excited about the possibilities that Kaj’s work can provide.

Director Bormann said, “This spring we completed our Community Conversation Series where we gathered ideas from small groups of residents about the benefits and needs of the Land Bank’s programs. Kaj’s work will help us engage more of the community and expand these conversations about our part in land conservation. We are asking for and hope many residents will join the effort and inform our understanding of what they want for this area, now and for future generations.”

Here’s how it works. The discussion will be open to any local resident through the Islands’ Sounder website. A series of short statements will be presented where a person can select “agree,” “disagree” or “pass/unsure.” Participants will also be able to add their own statement about the topic or policy being discussed, on which other users may comment. As comments accumulate and receive votes, algorithms will sort participants into clusters and reveal areas of strong consensus. The discussion is now open and available through the Island’ Sounder Website and via Facebook. It will run through July. If you have any questions, please email Kaj Litch at