Crowdfunding Civic Spaces

Although crowdfunding initially developed to support artists and entrepreneurs, crowdfunding sites are funding a growing number of public space projects.

2 minute read

November 22, 2014, 1:00 PM PST

By Maayan Dembo @DJ_Mayjahn

According to Brady Dale of Next City, since Kickstarter's unveiling in 2009, similar websites for crowdfunding have popped up that specifically focus on civic projects.

Civic technologist and Stanford University doctoral researcher Rodrigo Davies "published the first study of the use of crowdfunding for civic projects. One question he set out to answer was how crowdfunding could be a positive force in community development for communities at all income levels... His research found that 81 percent of civic projects initiated on Kickstarter reached their goals, making these projects more likely to succeed than projects that don’t serve some kind of public purpose. One in five crowdfunding projects across all platforms included in the study explicitly reference benefits for underserved communities."

Indeed, the most common civic project on such crowdfunding websites are open spaces and parks. Dale writes how former New York City Parks Commissioner and current senior vice president at the Trust for Public Land Adrian Benepe often saw, "large, multi-million-dollar projects sit unstarted for want of only thousands of dollars," which these crowdfunding methods can help remedy as either the first or last piece of the funding puzzle.

Benepe added that in his eyes, crowdfunding is a net positive, since "[r]ather than exacerbating inequality, private money enables a city to take public money and allocate it to neighborhoods that have no chance to do private fundraising."

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