In our Spotlight series, we cover innovations in regeneration, community engagement, ways of working and more being undertaken by Future of London members. This Spotlight is focused on the Mayor’s Crowdfunding Programme, an initiative managed through the GLA to provide funding to community projects.
Established in early 2015, the Mayor’s Crowdfunding Programme is aimed at grassroots groups seeking capital funding for innovative community projects with local economic and social benefits. Crowdfunding allows individuals or groups to fund projects by raising small funding pledges from a large number of supporters, usually through a dedicated crowdfunding website. In the Mayor’s Crowdfunding Programme, groups are invited to submit project proposals using Spacehive, which is focused on crowdfunding for community-oriented projects.
Each group sets a funding target and supporters — including individuals, local businesses, and other organisations — pledge to back their project. In addition to these pledges, each project is eligible for up to £20,000 from the mayor. The GLA uses a wide range of criteria to assess project proposals and determine how to allocate funding, including the local economic impact, benefits to the wider community, value for money, local support and deliverability.
In Rounds One and Two of the Crowdfunding Programme, the mayor put £600,000 towards 37 projects. Round Three is currently underway with 48 projects across 21 boroughs seeking funding. Mayoral pledges will be announced on 29 June.
James Parkinson, Senior Regeneration Officer at the GLA, suggests that participating in the Crowdfunding Programme can offer communities a new route for dialogue with stakeholders and decision makers around urban development. The programme can also bring together people within the community as groups seek out local skills and resources to support their campaign.
These sentiments ring true for Louise Armstrong, a co-ordinator with Peckham Coal Line, a project seeking to create an elevated park between Queens Road and Rye Lane by adapting disused coal sidings. It received £10,000 of mayoral funding as well as £10,000 from Southwark Council in Round Two to undertake a feasibility study. The project is managed by a small core group with a wide range of skills and buoyed by a fleet of volunteers.
Furthermore, each Spacehive project page shows the number of people who have pledged funding — over 900 in the case of Peckham Coal Line — providing visibility for the community and an indication of grassroots enthusiasm for a project. This exposure is key to securing additional support and maintaining momentum.
Along with backing from the community, support from boroughs and funding from the mayor add significant legitimacy and credibility to a project. Louise considers this invaluable when liaising with stakeholders and landowners and sees the Crowdfunding Programme as a new democratic space for community groups as well as an opportunity for local people to take ownership over development. As an indication of the impact of Peckham Coal Line, LB Southwark supports the project in its draft New Southwark Plan.
Both James and Louise believe boroughs have an important role to play in the Crowdfunding Programme by connecting groups to stakeholders, landowners, organisations and other community groups which can provide resources or funding. The return on this networking support can be substantial: in addition to the benefits for the community noted above, successfully crowdfunded projects can allow boroughs to see urban improvement projects tested or implemented with little to no capital cost to them.
Additionally, supporting new community groups widens the pool of skills and resources boroughs and other organisations can tap into. For example, the organisers of Peckham Coal Line have offered advice to the groups behind Peckham Lido and Old Kent Road studios, which are seeking funding in the current round of the programme.
Strategically, the Crowdfunding Programme can provide an opportunity to align borough goals with bottom-up initiatives. For example, Queens Park Community Council received £20,000 of mayoral funding to improve its high street. They opened a community centre and carried out an assessment of the high street, which fed into a neighbourhood plan for Queens Park and aligned with wider Westminster strategic aims.
QPCC was able to deliver these outcomes relatively quickly through its participation in the crowdfunding programme, allowing a short-term project to inform the longer-term growth of the local area and borough. Louise agrees that the Crowdfunding Programme can stimulate momentum for a project, estimating that Peckham Coal Line’s progress accelerated by at least a couple years because of it.
Future of crowdfunding programme
James is optimistic about the opportunity the Crowdfunding Programme presents to redefine the relationship between City Hall and London residents. It is unclear at this time how the programme will evolve under Sadiq Khan, but the new mayor’s support for the programme will be important for maintaining the legitimacy of crowdfunding as well as for unlocking access to different groups and skillsets throughout London.
In the longer term, having a wide range of crowdfunded campaigns implemented across the city will mean London has numerous local groups with experience delivering civic projects. This could give boroughs and the GLA an extensive, experienced network to help inform local policies and strategies as well as facilitate new projects, in turn giving communities greater influence over development and ownership of local spaces.
As part of the London Architecture Festival, the GLA is hosting a series of events about the Mayor’s Crowdfunding Programme — click here for a listing. For more information about the Crowdfunding Programme, contact James Parkinson at firstname.lastname@example.org.