Public Spaces, Community Places crowdgranting program

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This case was submitted as part of the Call for Innovations, an annual partnership initiative between OPSI and the UAE Mohammed Bin Rashid Center for Government Innovation (MBRCGI)

The Michigan Economic Development Corp (MEDC) teamed up with private partner Patronicity to launch a first of its kind crowd-granting program to help create vibrant communities throughout Michigan. The crowdgranting model streamlines the granting process, increases community engagement and results in more sustainable projects that better serve and impact the communities they are within.

Of the 170 completed projects, 165 of them exceeded their crowdfunding goal at a ratio of total private investment per public grant dollars spent of 7:1 , with a revitalizing impact on 774,284 square meters of public space.

Innovation Summary

Innovation Overview

We believe thriving places help define a community’s economic vitality. From bike trails to pocket parks to public art projects, they contribute to a strong quality of life, help attract and retain talent, and grow stronger local economies. In 2014, as Michigan was facing declining public revenues and local budgetary concerns in communities across the State, the MEDC saw a need to empower them to continue these types of improvements during a time of economic distress. Communities tend to stray away from innovative, place-making improvements when limited budgets are focused on hard infrastructure such as water lines and crumbling roadways. With that in mind, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) partnered with the civic & community based crowdfunding platform, Patronicity to create the “Public Spaces, Community Places” (PSCP) crowdfunding matching grant program.

The program focuses on creating new or activating distressed public spaces for community use; such as pocket parks, trails, outdoor plazas, public art, farmers markets, art centers, and more. The practice of crowdfunding aims to fund projects by raising small amounts of money from a large number of people that invites residents to engage in the process from start to finish and beyond. The goal is to have an inclusive platform that allows local residents and stakeholders to play a role in projects that will transform their communities into places where talent wants to live, businesses want to locate, and entrepreneurs want to invest.
Due to the innovative crowdfunding component of the program where qualifying and approved applicants only receive matching funds if they are able to raise their target crowdfunding goal, the program has enabled the following outcomes:
a.) Democratizing the access to capital where non-profits and municipalities apply by submitting qualifying projects that fall within the grant parameters and receive funding through community demand, establishing the community as the final review committee.
b.) A deeper sense of civic engagement where the program enables community members, residents, businesses and local organizations to vote with their dollars on projects they find valuable within their community.
c.) Increased public awareness and press towards community projects, which enables greater support for public initiatives.
d.) Freed up organizational resources while expanding the number of projects and overall granting budget. This program builds off of matching grant programs, however enabling the crowd to be involved through crowdfunding revolutionizes the mechanism in which the match is leveraged.

This program was an award-winning finalist in Harvard's 2017 Innovation in American Government awards and won the the 2015 Gold Award for Public Private Partnerships from the International Economic Development Council. The success of the program has led this innovative model to be replicated with other state organizations (MassDevelopment & the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority) as well has foundations and even a corporate firm looking to engage the community through crowdgranting. The success has shown that this model not only works with government entities but other granting giving organizations to further drive exposure and community engagement. All organizations have partnered with Patronicity to model the programs success.

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Year: 2014
Level of government: Regional/State government


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