Crowd Surfing! I Mean, Crowdfunding!
Officials in Kansas City, Mo., are using an exciting new way to fund civic projects that minimizes government’s power in the process. “Crowdfunding” through Neighbor.ly is a game changer for how we choose and pay for civic projects. Through this website, individuals in a community vote with their dollars to support only projects for which they are passionate. Neighbor.ly’s instant popularity sends a loud message to government: “You do not have to tell us what we want!” Private and non-profit organizations are able to list projects, allowing the introduction of projects that community members support, but may be at the bottom of the bureaucrats’ list.
One current Kansas City Neighbor.ly initiative is called “Paint the Town Green.” Contributions help expand the number of neighborhoods eligible for Google’s fiber optic project to provide ultra-high-speed Internet/TV connectivity. This initiative already has collected more than $10,600 to aid communities in need.
Kansas City is using Neighbor.ly for other projects as well. Residents have contributed almost $420,000 toward a new public bike sharing program downtown called Kansas City B-Cycle, and there are more projects on the way.
I just want to go out and hug Neighbor.ly’s creator/CEO Jase Wilson. This system allows people to voluntarily support projects that are important to them, and reduces the burden on the average taxpayer. Neighbor.ly understands that civic projects are about the community’s choices and desires — not the government’s.
Crowdfunding is a unique, innovative solution that enables the community to show government what is important to them. Yes, some folks do not have the financial means to contribute in this way, so the system is not perfect. However, it is a step in the right direction toward reducing the chance that only government officials instead of citizens choose capital projects to pursue.