Ever used Kickstarter? If you read our shout-out to the Logan Parklet – which now EXISTS, by the way – then you’re likely familiar. As you can see from the link, this project received slightly more than it asked for through Kickstarter, which allows individuals to post projects which then receive crowd-sourced funding through the generosity of people like you.
Citizinvestor is a similar concept, except it’s the municipality (Philly is currently one of three participating) that submit the projects, and then it’s the citizens that indicate their enthusiasm for the project by committing funds. In other words, the projects are identified by various departments as priorities, ones that have likely been deferred or back-burner’ed due to lack of funding. If there’s enough consensus in a given neighborhood that this neglected project is a good idea, then maybe, just maybe, an aggregation of modest donations from individuals can add up to getting shovels in the ground, paint on the road, whatever it might be. What kinds of projects might fit in this category of having the official city stamp of approval? What process can we think of that pulls agencies together to discuss site-specific implementation wishlists? DISTRICT PLANS!
Every District Plan makes recommendations. Some address policy, and some are quite large, but there are many – an extra crosswalk here, a parklet there, better signage down there, acquiring a small lot around the corner – that are doable with enough collective will (in the form of individual contributions). The Logan Parklet is a great example. What happened for that project on Kickstarter could happen to any number of similar projects that we come up with in each District Plan. We aren’t proud or happy that Philadelphia lacks the resources to make everyone’s dreams come true, but we are thrilled that there’s a now a civic-minded crowd-sourcing tool that enables PCPC and other agencies to put the priorities that we identify with you through planning into a space where they might actually happen faster.
So when can we start? What’s the next step? For now, the city has piloted its participation in Citizinvestor with a single project, that being to plant 15,000 more trees across Philadelphia by the end of this year. Sounds crazy, but think about it: we need only $12,875 to complete this project. This means that if everyone in Philadelphia participated equally, we would need LESS THAN A PENNY from each of you. Or maybe just $1 from 12,875 of you. Or 12 bucks and change from 1,000 of you. See how easy this is?
Ok, so what if trees aren’t your thing (and believe us, we know people who’d really rather live without…)? Well, Citizinvestor also allows anyone to start petitions for new projects! And then of course, the city can identify additional projects as we wrap up the first one.
We admit in our eagerness to tell you about this that we haven’t all sat down to work out exactly what the process will be, but we can tell you this: Philadelphia2035 is an established and standardized process through which we are constantly working in neighborhoods to identify priority improvements, and PCPC will coordinate with other agencies to take our great ideas from the recommendations page and closer to reality. We already do this in other ways – applying for grants, helping to write RFPs – but Citizinvestor gives us one more way to get it done.