Through Crowdfund London, City Hall is learning how many small projects, delivered by local people, can have a big social impact; and how city government can catalyze a powerful mix of public, private and local collaboration.
London is a city full of small surprises. Its market stalls, pocket parks, street artworks, food festivals, cultural carnivals and community spaces make it an extraordinary place to live and visit.
This richness of experience makes a significant contribution to the public life of the city and reflects the diversity of our communities. That’s why the Mayor of London is committed to supporting all Londoners to actively participate in shaping their city.
Through his recent strategies, from housing and economic development, to the draft London Plan, the Mayor has begun to implement his vision for ‘A City for All Londoners’ – supporting ‘good growth’, with strong communities and active citizenship at the heart of public life.
Regeneration is something that more Londoners should feel that they are part of. Everyone should have opportunities to contribute to making and to remaking the place where they live by coming together to develop common spaces and shared resources.
We know that community and civil society groups are full of great ideas and are well placed to propose sustainable solutions to local challenges or opportunities. Through our regeneration programs, including Crowdfund London, we want to support innovative community or citizen-led projects that build local resilience and empower Londoners to bring about the positive change that they want to see in their neighborhoods.
Used in the right way, new technology such as crowdfunding platforms can support this ambition by facilitating new kinds of democratic participation and debate. It can enable more communities to propose, share, design, fund and deliver projects themselves.
This is why the Mayor is showing leadership in civic crowdfunding, encouraging the enterprise of local communities, whilst exploring how this activity can maximize social outcomes.
At City Hall, we’re working to understand what is required by a city government to ensure a fair and broad impact through this activity; for instance, how do we ensure everyone has an opportunity to put forward projects, not just those with the time and skills to put together a proposal? And how can we make sure these projects really work in the interest of their wider communities, and are sustainable over the long term?
The Crowdfund London experience to date has been inspiring. We’ve supported 77 successful local campaigns, pledging over £1m which was matched by over £1.5m from a crowd of more than 9,000 backers across the city. The campaigns have allowed local groups, often lacking in experience or resource, to access an interesting mix of funds and funders, who bring more than just cash to enhance a project. Our pledges have proved a crucial catalyst to encourage others to get involved and the City Hall Regeneration Team has been supporting delivery, to ensure projects reach their potential.
These projects are helping people into work, improving health and wellbeing, breaking down cultural barriers and bringing communities together around a common purpose.
The crowdfunding process is much more than just fundraising. We’ve been able to source new ideas and innovative thinking from the grass roots, whilst using the campaign process to involve the wider community. This has enabled more people to easily pledge their commitment, with the community then owning and celebrating the outcomes together.
We’ve also seen that the process helps to build skills, capacity and knowledge within local communities. It enables groups to go on to do more ambitious things for their places in the future, often working with local authorities or other key public and private sector stakeholders.
Fostering this link between grassroots enthusiasm and strategic regeneration is our biggest and most ambitious goal. We think this is where the real potential of civic crowdfunding lies, as a new and exciting tool for cities, to help democratize the process of city-making.
If this is done as part of a continuous conversation between local people and the city authorities that represent them, this technology can help ensure that regeneration is happening ‘with’ and ‘by’ communities, not ‘to’ them. It can help to build trust between communities and decision-makers when it comes to urban development and growth.
Cities around the world are increasingly embracing crowdsourcing and crowdfunding as ways to enable civic improvement. The key to success will be in maintaining a clear focus on the wider social impact of projects, the democracy of campaigns and the need for all parts of society to be supported to contribute. This will require further innovation in the digital tools available, but also a commitment from authorities and communities to acknowledge the potential and collaborate now, whilst activity is in its infancy, in order to set a positive and ambitious framework for success at scale in the future.