It’s time to experiment with crowdfunding civic projects in Northfield

crowdfundingIt’s cool to see crowdfunding happening in Northfield (eg, Red Barn Farm pizza oven via Kickstarter; Loonshine via Indiegogo).

It’s time to consider how to best use crowdfunding for civic projects.

Among the new crowdfunding platforms for civic projects are two which focus on raising money for projects submitted by citizens and municipalities: Neighbor.ly and Citizinvestor. See these two recent articles in Government Technology magazine on the two platforms:

Being Neighbor.ly in Kansas City: Kickstarter for Local Government? (Aug 15, 2012)

… invites visitors to “Invest in places and civic projects you care about.” Neighbor.ly features public projects… and asks not only individual investors, but also private businesses to pledge financial support.

Citizinvestor: The New Frontier of Government Funding?  (Oct 25, 2012)

Similar to Kickstarter and other crowdfunding websites, Citizinvestor invites citizens to donate money online to local civic projects that city governments may not have the budget to complete themselves. Projects launched on the platform are given a time frame on when they are to be completed.

My idea of putting game tables in downtown Northfield would be a perfect small project for crowdfunding.  I might think it’s a terrific idea but it might not be high on the priority list for the City.  Getting one table funded might convince the City to back it in a bigger way.  And if it can’t generate enough public financial support, then maybe it’s an idea whose time has not come and therefore I should shut up about it.

Might the next installment of the downtown sidewalk poetry project be better done via crowdfunding?

How about crowdfunding a bigger and better skatepark, now that its location is about to be decided?

Moving up the ladder in size of civic projects, what about the Save the Northfield Depot? Are hundreds of Northfielders kicking in small amounts? Are there ‘perks’ for donors, big and small?

Bigger yet: the Northfield Library expansion. Lest you think that a crowdfunding a multi-million dollar project like a library expansion is ridiculous, consider that the idea is not to get the project funded by crowdsourcing, but rather to demonstrate actual support (not just verbal support) for it by citizens, organizations, businesses, foundations, etc.

Crowdfunding a civic project has policy implications, of course.  A city council needs to carefully weigh to what extent a project proposed and funded by a well-connected private group is best for the community as a whole.  See this GovLoop article and podcast: Crowdfunding Civic Projects — Interest Groups Playground or a Cost Cutting Solution?

City of Northfield dipping its toe in crowdsourcing: Mitch wants you to submit your photos for its new website

Michele 'Mitch' Merxbauer City of Northfield photo uploader

I coaxed Northfield Interim Community Development Director Michele ‘Mitch’ Merxbauer to stop by my corner office at GBM last Friday so I could take her photo to go along with her email request for photos:

The City of Northfield is undergoing a major website overhaul and we need your help! The City’s website is representative of our community and we are in need of pictures to showcase all the great places, people and events that make Northfield a fabulous place to live, work, shop and play!

Please submit any photos you feel represent Northfield. All seasons are needed! The website committee will review all submitted photos and choose several to frame the main pages of the new website. All photos used will be credited to the submitter. By submitting your photo, you are giving the City of Northfield permission, without compensation, to use the photo on the website and in any other media to represent Northfield.

Photos not chosen for the main page frames *may* still be used in other spots throughout the new website. Photos should be submitted to http://nfldmn.net/cpg/login.php by August 20, 2012. Photos should be submitted in JPG format at a maximum width of 300 pixels. For additional photo information, please see the web page listed above.

I think’s a very good sign that the City is engaging the citizenry in a little crowdsourcing at this early stage in the web site development process.

An even better sign? When I first registered for the photo submission site, the disclaimer text stated that the City of Northfield would have exclusive ownership over submitted photos. I explained to Mitch how that would be a big disincentive to many people, especially hobbyists like me and professional photographers, from submitting their favorite Northfield-related photos. We want to share the photos but we also want to retain ownership. Within a couple of hours, the City staff met and had the wording changed.  Cool.

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