Prime Minister David Cameron has praised an organisation harnessing a new trend that allows local people, businesses and councils to spontaneously fund popular neighbourhood improvement projects online. Spacehive, the world’s first crowdfunding platform for civic projects, is the latest winner of the Big Society Award.
Crowd funding is increasingly used to raise money for start-ups and product ideas in the UK. Spacehive.com spotted the enormous potential of harnessing the model to improve the fabric of local communities – from playgrounds and community centres, to free public wi-fi, rooftop gardens, and – in one case – a giant waterslide running down the high street.
Spacehive’s platform enables anyone to post a project online and anyone to fund it. The aim is to tap the widest possible source of ideas and funding, democratising the way we shape our civic environment.
A total of 58 civic projects worth £1.8 million have been funded via Spacehive since March 2012. For instance:
- in Liverpool, 347 backers pledged nearly £45,000 for the first phase of an ambitious project led by a local businesswoman to convert a city centre flyover into a ‘park in the sky’, mimicking the famous High Line in New York
- in Bristol more than £5,500 was raised by 537 funders to create a giant water slide running down the city’s main shopping street
- in Tottenham, north London, 96 funders raised £11,000 for a project to turn the grounds of an abandoned school into urban farmland
- in Mansfield, near Nottingham, 27 funders pledged £37,000 to create a free public wi-fi network to support local businesses and attract people back to the high street
Those who pledge funding are only charged if a project hits its target. Projects are all independently verified by Locality, the community development network, to ensure necessary permissions are in place.
Celebrity backers have so far included comedian Stephen Fry, filmmaker Danny Boyle, singer Suggs, architect Lord Rogers and the Welsh rugby team. The innovation is now being adopted by communities and local authorities across the UK.
Spacehive has also won awards from Nesta, Deloitte and the Big Venture Challenge.
Prime Minister David Cameron said:
Spacehive is a simple idea that is having a huge impact in communities across the UK. As the world’s first crowd funding platform for civic projects, it is putting local people and businesses in the driving seat.
From creating green spaces to refreshing sports facilities, Spacehive is letting people make the changes they want to see in their neighbourhoods. I want to recognise their innovation and success with this Big Society Award.
Chris Gourlay, founder of Spacehive, said:
We’re thrilled that the Prime Minister and leading community and business figures are as excited about the potential of civic crowdfunding as we are.
The first part of our journey – to prove the model works – is complete. Up and down the country everyone from local people to councils and corporates have used Spacehive to create 58 wonderful, projects in the last 2 years.
But we’ve only taken the first step towards a more democratic way of shaping our towns and cities that harnesses the latent creativity and wealth of local people and businesses.
From high street water slides to free public wi-fi networks, sports facilities and major new parks, the possibilities afforded by civic crowdfunding are enormous.
Spacehive was launched in March 2012. The platform works in partnership with local authorities like Bristol, Manchester, London and Cardiff as well as the community network Locality, which verifies the viability of projects.
The platform is a social business funded partly by private investors and partly by the Big Lottery Fund. Spacehive’s contractual framework, which protects the various actors involved in funding and delivering projects, was co-designed by Deloitte.
Match-funding schemes have been set up with companies like Experian, which has successfully funded 20 projects aimed at improving town centres, and the Department for Communities and Local Government, which has match-funded 14 projects to create community festivals.
58 projects have been funded to date worth £1.8 million in England, Wales and Scotland. Communities where projects are funded have an average ranking of 3 out of 10 on the Index of Multiple Deprivation (with 1 being most deprived and 10 being most affluent).
Projects have a 50% success rate. 70% of projects that raise more than 10% of their target are successful.
Sir Ian Botham, former England cricket captain and supporter of Spacehive project Cage Cricket, said:
Spacehive is a powerful delivery mechanism that allows people to really grow support for projects at a grass roots level and get all of the community involved in making things happen.
Kevin McCloud, presenter of Grand Designs and backer of Spacehive project Loop De Loop, a community café made from a converted toilet block in Frome, Somerset, said:
It’s great to see creative ideas to improve our civic environment finding a forum through Spacehive for funding and exposure where the public can vote directly with its wallet. Public space is incredibly important and our ability to harness vibrant ideas, and use the web to crowdfund ideas to life is something every town across the UK should make the most of.
David Barnes, Managing Partner for Public Policy and Corporate Responsibility at Deloitte (whose firm co-designed Spacehive’s contractual model on a pro-bono basis), said:
Deloitte is proud to have played a role in designing the world’s first crowdfunding platform for civic projects – a model that is already unlocking new sources of investment and creativity for our cities.
The skills and capabilities of some of our best people helped shape Spacehive’s ground-breaking contractual framework under our Social Innovation Pioneers programme, which aims to scale socially innovative businesses. Deloitte’s work with Spacehive shows just how powerful focused collaboration between big business and social innovators can be.
I’m delighted that Spacehive’s achievements have been recognised by the Prime Minister and look forward to watching them create a growing impact in communities across the UK.
Tony Armstrong, Chief Executive of Locality, the national network of community enterprises which verifies the viability of Spacehive projects, said:
Civic crowdfunding is a fantastic innovation and can make a huge impact on community-led projects. We’re delighted to work in partnership with Spacehive which provides an inclusive and democratic way to get people connected to their local community and it’s fantastic their hard work is being recognised in this way.
A number of Locality members have benefitted from crowdfunding with Spacehive and we look forward to continuing our work with them to help give exciting community projects the backing they deserve.
George Ferguson, the Mayor of Bristol (where Spacehive was recently used to crowdfund a giant waterslide on the high street which created a social media sensation around the world) said:
Luke Jerram’s superb water slide project had a tremendously positive impact both locally and globally. Spacehive was vital in enabling this to happen, giving people the choice to support this amazing one-off project. The response was excellent, helping make sure that the project went ahead without relying on public funding.
Geoff Mulgan, Chief Executive of Nesta (which recently named Spacehive as one of Britain’s New Radicals) said:
Spacehive do excellent work combining private and public sector money to back the civic projects that local people most want to develop; that’s why we were delighted to highlight their work as one of Britain’s New Radicals.
Kate Stewart, co-creator of the Liverpool Flyover – a project to convert a motorway in central Liverpool into ‘hanging gardens’ said:
Using Spacehive to crowdfund for our feasibility study was so important as it was also about promoting the project and gathering public support which demonstrated to our partners including the council, our Mayor and his team, that the project was owned by Liverpool’s citizens. We are in a time when partnerships are vital to deliver public space projects and Spacehive facilitates the democratisation of this process.
Luke Jerram, project creator for Park & Slide (a giant waterslide in Bristol crowdfunded on Spacehive that nearly 100,000 people applied to use in 1 day), said:
I used Spacehive to help fund ‘Park and Slide’, a giant 300 foot long water slide in Bristol that packed the streets and was seen by over 1 billion people around the world. A huge part of what made it special was the feeling that ordinary people had spontaneously rallied together to make something extraordinary happen in their city.
Chris Clark, Managing Director, Experian UK&I (whose company is a partner of Spacehive offering £200,000 of match-funding for projects) said:
At Experian we’re dedicated to supporting local communities all around the UK, as part of our wider commitment to people and society. We’re delighted to be working with Spacehive to support important local projects, giving us a great opportunity to invest in ideas that can play an active part in the regeneration of our neighbourhoods. For example, one project we have supported is Flyover Liverpool which will see a concrete flyover turned into an amazing urban park reconnecting residential communities with the city.
Jules Pipe, the Mayor of Hackney (where 5 Spacehive projects have already been completed) said:
Spacehive fosters meaningful and successful collaboration between different groups and sectors, which has a multitude of benefits for everyone involved. The local community group gets the funding it needs, businesses get the opportunity to realise their corporate social responsibility and the local community benefits from a newly-improved amenity. It’s the start of a truly exciting adventure.