Is it just me or do you also find yourself looking at a lot more crowdfunding projects than you used to? I don’t have the hard numbers to back it up, but I know that online fundraising has become dominated by platforms such as Kickstarter, RocketHub, and many others. They aren’t just for charity drives – in fact, it seems like product design, entertainment and art projects dominate the boards. To provide a platform that focuses on supporting socially innovative projects, Toronto’s Centre for Social Innovation has launched their beta website that will host crowdfunding initiatives*, currently featuring Cultivate Toronto’s proposal to develop edible gardens in Regent Park.
Cultivate Toronto is a non-profit organization that has been working in Toronto for three years, modifying available idle spaces into food-producing gardens. Their mission is to educate and reconnect communities with local food, which they achieve by growing produce in pockets in four neighbourhoods around the city (thus creating a visible change in the landscape) and running various workshops. I encourage you to read more about this admirable organization on their CSI project page or on the Cultivate Toronto website.
This crowdfunding opportunity blends several different types of collaborative consumption. (I have a feeling a lot of the projects on this platform will be similar in that regard, what with the ‘social innovation’ baseline). There are three types that jump out:
- Crowdfunding itself provides a web-based mechanism for a community, physically disparate or not, to support a project by contributing financial amounts that are generally smaller that amounts in traditional investing. The collaborative nature of this type of program rises from the fact that sponsors are effectively collaborating by providing enough funding to bring the project into being.
- Garden-sharing, which forms the basis of Cultivate Toronto’s origins, is based on the availability of landowners who donate their idle spaces to grow food for the community (particularly participants that help in the garden). Garden-sharing is a prime example of collaborative consumption as it makes use of a visible resource in a community (suitable land, food-growing knowledge, and willing workers), adds value to it that may be difficult to quantify in a conventional market, and generates new social networks that have evaporated with modern consumption channels.
- The rewards in the crowdfunding rewards tiers also mimic Community-Shared-Agriculture programs – sponsors (at the $50 tier and above) receive vegetables, herbs, or seedlings that will be grown by Cultivate Toronto during the year. These items are collaboratively-produced goods, grown in the gardens that you can make possible with your contribution.
Upon writing this post, the project is 12 days away from their deadline with nearly 70% of their goal met. They are still $809 short of their $2600 goal. For a project with big community value, these are very humble costs! This money will go towards the initial costs of a project that will continue to pay back to the community over and over in years to come, be it through physical yield, or the knowledge gained by volunteers in the garden, or even by setting an example in raising the bar for mixed-use planning, sustainable densification, or green roofs in the region. Please visit the Cultivate Toronto project page to read more about the project, a model for crowdfunded social innovations to come.
*The Centre for Social Innovation is also running a contest to name their new crowdfunding platform. Yes, there’s a prize. Follow the link to learn how you can participate. The deadline for submissions is this Wednesday, December 12 at 11:59p.m.