Social funding made local

The standard response of government and municipals on a crisis is to tighten expenditure, whereby the projects to which funds are allocated are often done so in an unclear and in-transparent manner, which can undermine the effectiveness and the credibility of the people in office. Trying to change this within the system proves difficult and at times impossible.

I want to propose a different system, a method that gives more transparency and participation for the actual beneficiaries, meaning you and me.

Now what I am describing here is not new, there have been a variety of different names on all the concepts bellow, too many if you ask me and frequently incongruent with one another. What is new is the proposal of a synthesis of these concepts into one coherent designed system or more appropriately website.

These are the concepts, I will explain the terms bellow:

Crowd Sourcing

Design Thinking

Crowd funding

“Crowdsourcing starts with decentralization, by sourcing tasks traditionally performed by specific individuals to a group of people or community (crowd) through an open call. In this way it is different from sites such as Stack Overflow, Twitter or Facebook, which do not have open call for contributions.

Jeff Howe established that the concept of crowd sourcing depends essentially on the fact that because it is an open call to a group of people, it gathers those who are most fit to perform tasks, solve complex problems and contribute with the most relevant and fresh ideas.”

-wikipedia

Crowd sourcing is distinct in that it asks the crowd’s opinion on specific matters, these can be related to technical issues but it can also be used to generate ideas/ problems/complains in specific local communities. A start question could be ”are you happy with the playground facilities in you community?” but also “would you like a community vegetable garden?” or “would you like to invest in alternative energy for your building block?”. The scope and the kind of project can vary but the fundamental methodology does not change, the crowds are the beneficiaries.

“Design Thinking refers to the methods and processes for investigating ill-defined problems, acquiring information, analyzing knowledge, and positing solutions in the design and planning fields. As a style of thinking, it is generally considered the ability to combine empathy for the context of a problem, creativity in the generation of insights and solutions, and rationality to analyze and fit solutions to the context. While design thinking has become part of the popular lexicon in contemporary design and engineering practice, as well as business and management, its broader use in describing a particular style of creative thinking-in-action is having an increasing influence on twenty-first century education across disciplines. In this respect, it is similar to systems thinking in naming a particular approach to understanding and solving problems.”

-Wikipedia

The strength of design thinking or contextual design, lies in it’s tunneling effect. It uses common sense with a dash of creativity to drill down to the core of  numerous ideas/ problems/complains , aggregating when possible and starts  ‘designing’  solutions based on these 7 specific steps, which will produce a different result in different settings: Define; Research; Ideation; Prototype; Objectives; Implement; Learn. always using the responds of the crowd as primary.

Depending on the level of complexity of the project expertise on certain area’s need to consulted, this too will be crowd sourced based and it is the responsibility of the website to make this understandable and transparent via its methodology.

Crowd funding (sometimes called crowd financing) describes the collective cooperation, attention and trust by people who network and pool their money and other resources together, usually via the Internet, to support efforts initiated by other people or organizations.

-wikipedia.

Most will know crowd funding of  Kickstarter.com or Rockethub.com , The principal behind these websites is simple. Pitch your project and state how much you need to finish it and what people get back for investing a certain amount of  money in your project.

The supreme effectiveness of crowd funding lies in its democratic ability to allocate funds to the projects that the crowd really wants. In effect it democratizes supply.

What it does in this proposal is make the beneficiary aware of the cost of the project and what can be achieved with that money or human energy. The crowd funding stage acts like the lion’s den and asked the simple question:” is the investment of labor/money/time worth it?” If yes, the project will go ahead. If no, the project will be shelved.

The social funding method:

Combining these three concepts will give you a system which, for argument sake I will call ‘The social funding method’, the name really isn’t that important.

Now the alternative proposal is this: instead of governments and municipals allocating funds to local or state projects with little to no clear transparency on how they will be spend and even how the funds got to that specific project to begin with.

‘the social funding method’ sets up a platform (website) which integrates the concepts discussed above, making the steps transparent and sets up the budget and timeline and all other structurally important considerations. And let’s inhabitants, participate in the solution of their own problem or ideas and complete it themselves if small or ask for collaborative funding on private level, state level or via local commerce or specific charities or funds.

By providing the possibility to point out, design and help fund specific local social problems or ideas, it can help to get communities to rise out of the  complacency ‘funk’ which seems prevalent and at the same time receive satisfaction from doing something for yourself and your community.

Now what I want from you is input, do you agree / disagree / vehemently hate it or love it. Where do you see its strengths? Where do you see its weakness? What would you like to see added? Etc.

Take you time, write several comments if you’re the kind of person inspiration hits in stages. Or give it to me raw as one structured critique.

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2 thoughts on “Social funding made local

  1. I think this is a great idea! My (idealised) perspective on public government is that they allocate resources to problems that people can’t solve individually but are worth solving. People as a public should generally agree that these problems are indeed worth solving, and that is the level of control you get through your idea.

    It seems very democratic, much more so than our current level of democracy. Could there be a risk though that certain groups are left out (e.g. because they’re not “hooked in”)?

    On a practical level I think there’s going to be a lot of civil servants that wield some influence/budget that would resist this idea vehemently. They won’t accept losing their autonomy in (mis)spending public resources without a fight.

    • Thanks for your remark!,

      I don’t see the issue with people being left out, could you explain? the website itself should have a very low cost threshold making them affordable to all. However, it is possible that the project will not be launched due to a lack of local interest. This is problematic for the once who do want change but this is something that should be tackled in the sphere where it occurred eg. in the local community.

      The distrust of civil servants and people in general is indeed an issue that needs to be addressed. Off the top of my head this could be addressed by keeping the focus on small to mid sized projects that add social value to the beneficiaries but do not threaten the system.

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