Civic Crowdfunding: Participatory Communities, Entrepreneurs and the Political Economy of Place

Crowdfunding, the raising of capital from a large and diverse pool of donors via online platforms, has grown exponentially in the past five years, spurred by the rise of Kickstarter and IndieGoGo. While legislative attention in the US has turned to the potential to use crowdfunding as a means of raising capital for companies, less attention has been paid to the use of crowdfunding for civic projects – projects involving either directly or indirectly, the use of government funds, assets or sponsorship, which may include the development of public assets. This project analyzes the subgenre of civic crowdfunding from three perspectives. First, it provides a comprehensive quantitative overview of the subgenre of civic crowdfunding, its most common project types and its geographic distribution. Second, it describes three edge cases, projects that, while uncommon, demonstrate the current limits, aspirations and potential future path of the subgenre. Third, it analyzes the historical and intellectual paradigms within which civic crowdfunding projects and platforms are operating: whether they are best located within the historical context of community fundraising, participatory planning, entrepreneurial culture or a combination of the three. In addressing these questions, the thesis will explore the potential benefits and challenges of using crowdfunding as a means of executing community-oriented projects in the built environment, and offer proposals for how public and non-profit institutions can engage with crowdfunding to realize civic outcomes.

The full text is downloadable from the Social Science Research Network.

Rodrigo Davies

About Rodrigo Davies

Rodrigo builds products that empower communities and reconnect people to the places they love. He is product manager for Strava Metro, which makes running, riding and walking in cities better by empowering cities, transit agencies and planning groups with data and insights. Rodrigo co-founded and now advises Build Up, an award-winning social enterprise working on technology-supported methods for resolving conflict, and published the first large-scale study of civic crowdfunding, the use of crowdfunding to produce public goods. Previously he led the product team at Neighborly from launch to its first $100 million in investments. He has served as an adviser and product manager to the Mayoral offices of San Francisco and Boston, the United Nations Development Program and the UK-based crowdfunding platform Spacehive. Rodrigo has been invited to speak about civic technology by venues including SXSW Interactive (Austin, TX), Personal Democracy Forum (NYC), the Library of Congress, Code for America, Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society, the Oxford Internet Institute, the Association of Internet Researchers (AoIR) and the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM). Thesis: Civic Crowdfunding: Participatory Communities, Entrepreneurs and the Political Economy of Place


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