Education / 2013
Civic Crowdfunding Platform for Local Government and Schools
Since the financial crash of 2008 and the following recession of 2009, the budgets of our local schools have been tremendously impacted. Public administrators and teachers have lost their jobs, existing services have been cut and new projects have been abandoned. The needs of our educational institutions to provide services, however, still remain. Communities and parents are looking for new ways to fund projects that are important to them, and they are willing to open their pocket books to help out.
In the last year Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and others have pioneered raising money through crowdfunding. Through crowdfunding, prospective buyers can donate to various projects and products they find interesting, be it an inventors new hi-tech watch or a filmmaker’s new movie. This method of raising money has seen incredible success in the consumer product and entertainment space, but has even more potential at raising money for educational projects. Looking at the current services available, none are suited for civic engagement. Most crowdfunding tools in the marketplace lack the oversight and transparency necessary for educational projects.
CitySourced has created ZenFunder, a complete civic crowdfunding platform that combines the best of existing crowdfunding applications while at the same time offering new tools that better match the needs of local government, schools and community groups. When a parent, teacher, or administrator creates a project, the school can set requirements that must be met for initial review. Requirements can be anything the school needs to move the project forward while ensuring guidelines are followed. An example of these would be documentation, a minimum threshold of funds raised, or even a review by the district board. Once the requirements are met the school will review the project. If the project turns out to be unfeasible and the school rejects the project, the initial funds are returned. But, if the project is approved, then the community can continue to raise funds secure in knowing that once the goals are met, the project will be implemented and completed.
This approval workflow is what truly differentiates our crowdfunding application from every other one on the market today. From the start of when a project is submitted to the very end of its completion, all activity is tracked and recorded for public record. The community can ask questions about the project (to which either the author or the school can answer), they can comment on the project before and after funding, and the school can post updates on progress such as photos or videos of the project’s implementation. Everything is on record. Information such as which administrator or board member approved the project, key dates such as board votes, and even reasons a project does not get approved are all public knowledge for full transparency and accountability.
CitySourced has designed, developed and built out version one of the application and is already piloting a similar program in San Jose. We would like to expand the pilot program to include the Los Angeles Unified School District. We are also looking for ways to extend the application to enhance the community engagement capabilities and make an impact locally. To create a successful pilot program, CitySourced needs to accomplish three goals:
1. Through community and school input, identify 20 projects in the LAUSD suitable for crowdfunding
2. Work directly with the community, district and the schools to get the approvals needed for the projects
3. Engage the community in raising funds for the various projects
Once the pilot program is completed, CitySourced will compile a case study documenting the best practices of educational crowdfunding for the entire process. This case study will include everything from strategies and outcomes for identifying projects, school and community collaboration and even ways to optimize the fundraising process. Deploying a successful pilot and documenting the process will allow this incredible and much needed technology to be successful around the nation. With the help of the Good and the Goldhirsh Foundation, we can make this a reality for everyone. We all want to help and pitch in, we just need the tools to do it.
What are some of your organization’s most important achievements to date?
As a leader in the civic engagement space, CitySourced has received numerous awards. Below are just a few:
2009 TechCrunch50 Conference: 3rd Place (of 700 entries)
2009 OnDC Winner
2010 San Francisco Magazine's "Best Urban-Action App"
2011 e.Republic Center for Digital Government's "Best of the Web"
2011 GovFresh's "Best Civic Startup" and "App of the Year"
2012 e.Republic Center for Digital Government's "Best of California award for Best Application Serving the Public"
2012 California Helen Putnam Award for Excellence
2013 IBM's Beacon Award Finalist for Smarter Cities
We also have some great reference customers. CitySourced is the official civic engagement platform for cities such as San Jose, San Diego, Honolulu, Omaha and the LAUSD. Our solution directly benefits over 13.2 million citizens worldwide, and we're deployed in six countries spread out across the globe.
Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.
Esri (GIS Software Provider) - Marketing & Technical Microsoft - Marketing & Technical
Please explain how you will evaluate your project. How will you measure success?
Our campaign will be evaluated by a few different metrics: 1) the number of projects created and approved; 2) the number of projects funded; 3) the amount of total engagement by each project's community, and 4) the total amount raised by all projects combined.
We will measure our success by the metrics above. We will deem the campaign a success if we can: 1) create and approve at least 15 projects; 2) fund at least 10 projects -or- raise at least $250K in aggregate; and 3) analyze the individual projects for positive engagement using # of contributors, # of comments and # of questions as an overall indicator.
How will your project benefit Los Angeles?
Our project will directly benefit Los Angeles through a couple ways. First, monies will be directly contributed to the education system in the City of Los Angeles having the effect of providing relief to the strained resources the City’s schools are currently operating under. Second, the communities surrounding the schools will benefit from improved services and program enhancements provided by the funds raised through ZenFunder. Finally, the Los Angeles community itself will become increasingly engaged. Our exhaustive research has show that communities are willing to fund project and become more engaged, they simply haven’t had the vehicle or tools to do so.
What would success look like in the year 2050 regarding your indicator?
Success for us in the education indicator would be very simple. It would include: 1) improved test scores for all students in Los Angeles; 2) improved graduation rates for all students, especially those in underprivileged areas; 3) better allocation of taxpayer resources in the education system; and 4) an improved overall sense of community between the Los Angelenos and the students, teachers and administration of the LAUSD.