Mayor Boris Johnson has launched a crowdfunding initiative to boost London’s high streets and urban centres by backing innovative projects.
A partnership with Spacehive, a website dedicated to supporting civic projects, will see the mayor’s office pledge up to £20,000 to individual projects as part of the crowdfunding campaign. Ideas need to be submitted to the Spacehive site by the beginning of May, to be considered for a mayoral pledge – alongside any other financial support they may garner from other sources.
To help pull ideas together and get them into a presentable form, a series of workshops around London are being planned during this month.
The initiative is claimed to be the first for a mayor of a major European city. And this is not the first time the mayor has dabbled in crowdfunding. A previous second round campaign linked to his High Street Fund saw the mayor back 20 schemes with £285,000, with crowdfunders adding a further £430,000; while a total of over £575,000 has been pledged to various projects so far.
“This is a unique opportunity to empower Londoners to come together and make a huge difference in their community by pitching great ideas that matter to them,” said Johnson. “I look forward to seeing a whole raft of innovative solutions to local issues that will help to make the city an even better place to live, visit and work in.”
Other schemes have already run through Spacehive successfully, linked with the mayor. The Peckham Coal Line – south London’s answer to New York’s Highline – has £10,000 of mayoral backing towards its £66,000 target to reuse former railway sidings as an elevated green space, and has now been fully funded.
The mayor has put £14,000 towards a community grocery store initiative, in Lewisham, now also fully funded. Previous projects delivered via the Spacehive site inlcude the greening of Trafalgar Road, Greenwich, a pop-up market in Tulse Hill, and a creative hub in Walthamstow.
“Civic crowdfunding has the power to transform the way City Hall and Londoners come together to shape the places in which we all live, work and play,” said Daniel Moylan, chairman of the mayor’s Design Advisory Group and member of the LEP SME Working Group. “Using Spacehive for this pilot, has allowed us to combine our grants with funds from individuals, businesses and organisations, meaning we can make more great projects happen faster, tapping into the wealth of creativity and enthusiasm within communities across the city.”
And Spacehive founder Chris Gourlay added: “A community coming together around a successful campaign is incredibly powerful. You will meet new people, build new relationships and find the skills to get things done that you never thought possible. A pledge from the mayor will really help you on your way, and there are many more people and companies who will want to be a part of a great idea.”
LPA Perspective: Local government is shrinking, and with it go the finances to undertake or support a lot of the small, but clearly beneficial, initiatives this scheme is designed to address.
Crowdfunding provides great transparency for the public to vote with their wallets over projects they are asked to support, and the mayor’s support gives a seal of official approval, as well as a financial leg-up. It also frees the parties from any complications over matching funds.
While some of the projects are clearly the sorts of things that local boroughs would have supported financially, in years gone by, there are other community-led initiatives that would never have made it through the maze of officialdom to seek grant or formal funding support. The beauty of the Spacehive initiative, is that these can seek support and funding, without the need for that degree of official approval. What’s not to like?