Chicago to Crowdfund Community Growth Initiative

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April 10, 2013; The Atlantic Cities

Kickstarter has proven to be a very popular and quite wonderful tool for entrepreneurs to get funding. This crowdfunding platform generally works for cool ideas that someone is inventing, and investors get to offer support for a project they think is exciting.

The question now is if investors will consider it exciting enough to invest in small, neighborhood development projects in Chicago. An initiative out of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office plans to group several projects together and offer them to investors through Kickstarter. These projects range from a hair-braiding training program, to the expansion of a dance studio, to creating an urban farm.

By grouping these projects into a single class, the hope is that they will create higher visibility, and thereby attract more investors. The concept promotes communities investing in their own neighborhoods, helping establish local businesses to provide jobs for area residents and, so, boost the economy.

But therein lies the concern. If the neighborhoods where the businesses are located are economically challenged, will residents there be able to invest through Kickstarter at sufficient levels? Or would this idea only work for more affluent neighborhoods? Will investors from areas surrounding Chicago have an interest in investing in the central city, a place they are unlikely to visit or spend much time? As is reported in the article, this is a concern, but the only way to find out is to test it.—Rob Meiksins

  • Natasha

    Hey! Crowdfunding could definitely be used to support community development. In fact, I’ve seen plenty of campaigns do just that! I’m from – the crowdfunding platform for social change. Some of the reasons you’ve mentioned in your article are exactly why was created! Our cofounders (Tom Dawkins & Alex Budak) felt that the existing crowdfunding platforms, such as Kickstarter, were fantastic for creative and industrial projects but didn’t adequately cater to community based social change projects. .

    With community based social change projects in particular, we understand that it is not offering cool rewards that will draw people to support your campaign. Rather it is through telling your story and mobilizing your community (social, cultural, geographic etc) that your campaign will be successful. This is why we provide you with the tools to do this on our website (video, social media sharing, venture page etc.)

    Also, Kickstarter’s ‘all or nothing’ funding model may be risky for community based social change ventures. This is why we developed our unique ‘tipping point’ model which allows ventures to select two goals. The final goal is the ideal amount they would need to launch the project with ALL the resources they require to complete the project as imagined. The ‘tipping point’ is the minimum they would need to launch their project in a modified or scaled back version.

    Over the past 3 years we’ve seen this model work really well for community based projects! Here are some great examples

    Green Fox – A Greek community based recycling project who are crowdfunding to replace their broken down truck

    Coffee Cycling and Communtiy – Kinyei responsible tourism and community development through social enterprise in Battambang, Cambodia.

    Would love to see crowdfunding for community development continue to expand!

    Natasha –