Last Friday, 4th November, I organised and spoke at an event at City Hall, on a subject close to my heart. Crowdfunding could be an amazing opportunity for communities to work together to create the local area they want through raising funds in conjunction with local funding bodies. The event, ‘Crowdfunding in Public Finance – Direct Democracy in Action’, was founded on the notion if enough people got together, worked together, we could make a difference and change the way public finance is used.
I was introduced by Keith Prince, Assembly Member for Havering and Redbridge. I talked about crowdfunding which actually could be claimed to have started back in the 1850’s with the Great Exhibition; funds dried up due a lack of funds and they turned to external backers – the public – and it was this funding which enabled the project to be finished. The internet has transformed everything and although we are still in the early days of this new internet based crowdfunding era, we can see the concept works and has worked for a long time.
Funding for public projects in the present day are getting harder. The reality is, all councils are having to deal with small budgets and that limits what can be done. I firmly believe crowdfunding could not only see projects which may be abandoned happen afterall but also help to make public finance more democratic again.
There are many models out there like Kickstarter and Kiva who have raised billions of dollars between them, financing projects and small loans to help entrepreneurs get their businesses off the ground. What if we could take that model and place it in the public sector? Citizens and local government working together to fund and prioritise projects in their local area.
To understand the workings of crowdfunding I helped Purley Youth Project raise funds for their projects in 2017. We created promotional videos and a page on the CrowdPatch website allowing anyone to view and donate if the project appeals to them. It taught me a lot and much of it cemented in my mind that this is something that could work.
So far, there are no platforms which exist to help improve local infrastructure which needs to be the starting point. Local projects need an area where ideas can be suggested, discussed and ultimately funded.
Imagine the potential. It has worked already for the Friends of Grange Park in Old Coulsdon. They needed to update an out of date playground, making it more inclusive in the process. They raised £100,000 through funding and local support. This is achievable.
There are a lot of questions and issues which we need to address but I believe the movement has started and we need to explore this option further.
If you would like to find out more about Purley Youth Project and their Crowdfunding, click here to take a look at their CrowdPatch page.
You can watch my opening speech and the experts views about the evening here.