Civic crowdfunding: a collective option for urban sustainable development

                                                              

Civic crowdfunding: a collective option for urban sustainable development

Co-City
Solution proposed by: 
CO-CITY and NewCITYzens which are both associate partners of the World Urban Campaign
In a Nutshell: 
Civic crowdfunding is the practice of raising monetary contributions for public interest projects from a large pool of donors through crowdfunding platforms. Civic crowdfunding contributes to citizens’ empowerment since it allows them to collectively increase their well-being and solve societal issues. This practice has already helped to finance a wide range of civic initiatives, from social innovation to urban commons.
Where and When: 
The main civic crowdfunding platforms are located in the US and in Europe. They have been launched in the last decade: Ioby (US) implemented in 2009 Citizinvestor (US) implemented in 2012 Spacehive (UK) implemented in 2012 Voor je buurt (NL) implemented in 2013 Co-city (FR) implemented in September 2015
Challenges: 
There has been a trend towards greater citizens’ participation in the last decade. Complementary to participatory budget, civic crowdfunding shifts citizens’ role from deliberation’s participation to financing and empowerment. Civic crowdfunding induces new opportunities for innovative win-win collaborations with municipalities. On one hand, it allows any citizen or civil society organization to be an actor in the revitalization of its own local environment. On the other hand, it generates territorial development in times of fiscal constraint for sub-national governments. Some civic crowdfunding platform have already implemented partnerships with municipalities but it is still an emerging practice.
Innovation: 
The new era of “sharing economy” relying on numeric platforms and peer to peer relationships clearly induces new opportunities in terms of citizens’ empowerment. Civic crowdfunding is one of these opportunities. This practice allows any citizens to propose and finance local sustainable changes in its neighborhoods thanks to web based technology. Crowdfunding platform plays a role of intermediary and catalyst among people who have a common stake in the civic crowdfunded project. Finally, one important specificity of civic crowdfunding is its ‘place-based’ characteristic, that is to say, while general crowdfunding relies on web based technologies and online communities, civic crowdfunding mainly relies on “offline” communities and allows for concrete local changes.
Concept: 
Most of the civic crowdfunded projects belong to a specific category of public goods called ‘urban commons’ which generate specific challenges in terms of production, governance and sustainability. Civic crowdfunding allows citizens and civil society to rethink their neighbourhood and potentially produce or renew urban commons. However, this practice could induce concerns and challenges in terms of participative democracy since civic crowdfunding campaigns are driven by civil society and/or citizens instead of elected public authorities. The platforms’ flexibility represents a significant opportunity to reduce both coordination and financial costs and therefore create a new model co-production. In this innovative bottom up co-production’s model, sub-national governments have a key role to play by enabling this practice and facilitating citizens’ initiatives (need for planning permission, technical expertise, co-financing etc….).
Description: 
Crowdfunding, the practice of funding a project by raising monetary contributions from a large pool of donors, typically via Internet platforms, has grown rapidly during the last decade. According to the World Bank (2013) this model emerged in the developed world as a direct response to the difficulties for entrepreneurs to raise funding as a result of the 2008 financial crisis. Civic crowdfunding, the crowdfunding practice applied to civic project, is an emerging field that has already helped to achieve a wide range of public interest projects, from social and environmental innovation to urban commons. To date, crowdfunding for urban commons has produced a number of territory mutations and communities' projects such as distressed areas turned into public parks, local facilities, community centers... Civic crowdfunding is still an emerging field but it already represents a significant opportunity to create new collaborations between citizens, civil society organizations and sub-national governments in order to promote sustainable and inclusive local development.
Impacts: 
Very few studies have already been done with regards to civic crowdfunding among which Davies (2014) provides quantitative empirical evidences. It appears that civic crowdfunding’s projects mostly tackle neighbourhood issues and the emerging typical project tend to be “a small-scale garden or park project in a large city that produces a public good for an underserved community”.