TOPIC (Thematic Orientation on Project definition in an Interactive Context) enables users to record and structure information on a particular planning problem thematically. Originally it has been developed to support Integrated Coastal Zone management, but is explicitly generic in nature, hence can be applied in other domains (transportation, urban planning, integrated watershed management) equally well.

TOPIC provides support in the initial phases of the policy preparation process: the generation of a well-founded problem definition, the definition of a clear set of goals and criteria, and the outline of an appropriate plan of action. Examples of typical projects are: development of plans of action for integrated coastal zone management projects, identification missions in project areas, design and assessment of planning options and policy measures.

Next to these, TOPIC can be used to support interactive and participative planning projects, for example in the context of transportation infrastructure planning and the development of master and zoning plans. Finally, and possibly beyond the planning and policy context, TOPIC can be extremely useful as a (personalised) tool for information management: inventory and structuring of available information relative to (a) particular subject(s).

The functions offered by TOPIC include among others:

  • Inventory of relevant information based on an actor-oriented, system-oriented, and problem-oriented view;
  • A structured way of organising information in a thematic, hierarchical (items within themes), and causal manner (cause and effect loops);
  • The graphical representation of the information gathered by means of a Concept Mapping Tool. The same tool enables to enter new items and new information and to link it with information already stored;
  • The evaluation of the relative importance of information on a per actor and per item basis;
  • The availability of a dedicated built-in Geographical Information System enabling to enter cartographic information and to save and manipulate it as GIS layers;
  • The interactive generation of custom designed reports ready for further editing in word processors;

TOPIC is a product developed for the PC. It runs on any state of the art machine. The built-in GIS is developed by means of MapObjects. Hence, in order to take advantage of this functionality a MapObjects run-time license is required. TOPIC is a stand-alone application. It is equipped with a fully graphical interface and does not require any particular PC skills to use it. When used in participative planning sessions the use of the Concept Mapping Tool in TOPIC is greatly enhanced if the PC is connected to a SMART Board or a similar display device.

TOPIC has been developed in collaboration with WL|Delft Hydraulics and TNO Inro in a number of projects in the context of LWI. The project COHESIE has been built upon TOPIC.