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Social Crowdfunding – An Integrated Framework for Local Government

Crowdfunding has become a very in-demand concept here in Canada, following the hyper-growth of the trend in the USA

Crowdfunding has become a very in-demand concept here in Canada, following the hyper-growth of the trend in the USA.

In Canada it’s viewed as especially important because of the dreaded Innovation Gap, as this features a lack of Venture Capital for new projects. Sourcing it via the crowd is therefore a possible answer to this bottleneck.

Social Crowdfunding

I agree, and suggest it can go a step further to a broader dimension.

It’s not limited to commercial start-up businesses, it could be used for collaborative funding of any and all projects, including those to help benefit the local community, aka “Social Crowdfunding”.

Indeed Crowdfunding is a model that is tapping Internet-level scalability, making it ideal for this because while there are thousands of wannabe Richard Bransons, there is a much larger pool of tens of millions of small community needs that are also unfunded.

With this in mind the really key question is how does Government fit in?

With social projects in mind their involvement is crucial, and so how these projects might integrate with existing government programs at the Municipal and other levels is where the trend is really going to find meaningful and repeatable traction.

Sustainable Development

Our focus in this area is headlined by our Social Impact Cloud Computing innovation program. The goal is to identify the role that these new technology capabilities can play in helping implement these types of new social innovations.

This work is supported by iFOSSF, a non-profit specializing in these new open innovation trends can be harnessed and combined with traditional social help best practices most notably Sustainable Development.

One of the critical best practices of Sustainable Development is called ABCDAsset Based Community Development, referring to the community ownership of assets as the foundation for local entrepreneurial development, and it’s how this principle can be united with Crowdfunding models, new technologies and open collaboration that offers the explosive combination.

As this story highlights, one of the challenges that cities face, which is really a blessing in disguise, is that they end up owning considerable banks of property and other assets.

Their root issue is what to do with them. They lack the innovation framework needed to supply a continual stream of new ideas to reinvigorate and exploit them, and so they simply lie unused.

The painful irony that can be resolved through these new models is that of course society as a whole does have this flow of ideas, there is no shortage of local community needs that could benefit, especially when they provide the Asset part of the ABCD formula described above.

Social Community Workflow

All that is missing is a controlled process for matching them together, and so enter Crowdfunding and social media. What’s most important about this new technology trend is how it can act to empower these new models.

Traditional software applications, like those used to run cities and towns, were originally conceived to run on a computer in an office where staff feed in and report on data in a very transactional manner, i.e. it’s just line items of text that only a few people ever see.

This means they don’t tell any kind of a human story, whereas in contract social media enables blogs, wikis, pictures, multimedia and most importantly open community collaboration.

Within a context of Crowdfunding this starts to bring together the pieces to enable this match-making, i.e. social entrepreneurs can identify local government owned assets that could underpin new social project ideas they have, and this could then be shuffled through the required internal approval procedures as well to facilitate ownership transfer and the like.

Submit a Citizen Proposal – Transformational Government

This technology architecture and the transformation it can enable is described in detail in the Microsoft white paper, Connected Government Framework (83-page PDF). This describes an overall strategy framework for planning this kind of evolution, and also how their technology can make it possible.

On page 37 they touch on the concept central to all of this, where they highlight how one action that could be taken by a web site visitor is they can ‘Submit a Citizen Proposal‘.

This could be a cell phone picture of a building that could be used for a community project idea, which is then uploaded, enabling other community members to then add their own ideas and comments to further flesh out the business plan.

Microsoft describe how their overall platform of different apps could then facilitate the full lifecycle of this workflow, transferring it into internal decision review processes via case management systems, and ultimately resulting in a new social project being launched, collaboratively originated, developed and funded.

This trend is also being described via the Shareable Cities concept, where they call it ‘Civic Crowdfunding‘, where they also highlight this process improvement as being a key ingredient:

“There are also complicated processes for approving projects and allocating funding. Crowdfunding tools provide a way to cut through some of the bureaucracy around funding and access new streams of resources to add to what government already provides.”

They also describe how it offers this considerable potential for urban renewal, enabled by the ‘City as a Platform‘, and the UK Government has already identified the need for these types of systems.

In their strategy to ’Grow the Social Investment Market‘, a strategy for starting a `social enterprise marketplace`, they describe:

Creation of a single web portal or gateway.

The portal would help social ventures to connect with the right sources of finance, business capability or investment readiness support. In time, the portal could serve as a broader gateway: facilitating recruitment and internships to social ventures and intermediaries; and connecting social ventures to expertize offered by other social ventures, private sector organizations, universities or the general public. There may also be scope to use the portal as a platform to build social venture consortia to bid for large-scale contracts, or to help develop sector-specific networks.”

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