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:
… 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?