What do the following projects have in common?: A construction of a pool in New York City, the creation of a park for children with disabilities in New Jersey, the edification of a pedestrian bridge in The Netherlands, the construction of Colombia’s tallest skyscraper at 66 stories, and an urban art display. The answer is that all of these projects are private initiatives that are using crowd funding, which is a method for individuals to collectively pool economic resources to support efforts of organizations or people. If crowd funding is used to develop goods, then why not use it to build properties or other urban constructions?
Today, crowd funding is commonly used in urban settings for a variety of projects, such as the beautification of urban areas with a new installation, or as a way to repurpose a degraded space. Crowd funding isn’t a new idea for the United States or Latin America as there are examples from the end of the 1800s to the beginning of the 1900s of recreational installations, such as parks and museums, and other examples of constructions of essential and basic necessities, such as hospitals, which were financed with similar schemes. Unfortunately, this community effort in urban development has been lost over time. Many of these new crowd sourcing initiatives not only revive a sense of community spirit, but they also can open new sources of innovation in urban development.
Many supporters of crowd funding projects feel empowered to voice their opinion through a monetary donation. This accessibility and participation breaks the barriers of bureaucracy that are involved with planning at the local level. Despite these benefits, a skeptical city planner might point out that crowd funding might interrupt the established process of urban planning, which takes into consideration aspects related to the general well-being, and might be ignored with a community-only based project. For example, what would happen if a crowd funded project was in direct opposition to the long-term strategic vision of the city? It may be a risk, but I feel that the potential benefits outweigh the risks. The increase of public participation in the design of the city should be an objective for any municipality. I know that this type of financing can seem like a radical extreme of public participation, but I like the idea. The challenge is not only to expand this method of financing and participation, but to possibly use it with other interventions where the focus is social justice.