local communities

People in local geographic areas may need help communicating with each other in order to collaborate in building and sustaining healthy communities. Grassroots action at any level - neighborhoods, towns, or cities - can help improve local services, welcome newcomers, and develop cultural, economic and political capital.

Civic Crowdfunding – Four Things We Know, Two Things We Don't

Today I'm capping two years of studying the emergence of civic crowdfunding by submitting my master's thesis to the MIT archives. Great thanks are due to the wonderful collaborators I've had the privilege of working with. I won't name everyone here, but all of you folks will find your names in the Acknowledgments section.

The Digital Pollada, or What I Learned About Crowdfunding from Peruvian Chicken

There’s a tradition in Peru called the pollada – literally, a chicken party. These parties perform a very important social function. Say I’m about to have a child and I’m worried about how I’m going to pay education or healthcare bills. I hold a pollada to raise money by inviting friends and family around for chicken and beers, and selling tickets to the event. The tickets are usually priced fairly highly. The friends who come to my party are willing to pay more than they would normally, because they know they’re contributing to my family's welfare. Together, we fund the future of my family’s education. And we eat. And we bond.

Making Events Better

Most meetings and events suck.  I'm lucky enough to know lots of folks trying to make this better.  Recently Civic Media hosted Gunner from Aspiration Tech for a training on how to create and facilitate  participatory events. Afterwards I was inspired to reflect more on my own approach to facilitating the workshops and events I run. A key reflection for me was that I put a strong emphasis on the process of collaboratively making of things. Our Data Therapy workshops and events are "think with your hands" events.  Almost every topic is tied to a hands-on activity where you make something with your peers.  This is how we invite participants to engage in the material - through the process of making things.
 

Is Crowdfunding Participatory Citizenship or a Sign of Institutions in Decline?

Civic crowdfunding is the beginning of a new type of participatory democracy for communities."
"Civic crowdfunding is a triumph of individualism over the collective good."
"Civic crowdfunding is the result of a crisis in government."

These three divergent intepretations are among the most common responses to civic crowdfunding. I hear them in one form or another almost every time I give a talk on the topic. Despite their differences, these interpretations are also, for the moment, coexisting quite happily. Platforms and the people who use them don't show much need to agree on what civic crowdfunding is for, or what kind of future its rise might foreshadow.

Trip Report: Connecting with Belo Horizonte, Brazil

I just returned from a fascinating week in Belo Horizonte (Brazil)!  The trip was organized by the Office of Strategic Priorities (@escritorio_gov) of the State of Minas Gerais (they are members of the MIT Media Lab).  The Escritorio joined the Media Lab to think harder about fostering innovation and empowering their citizens.  Following those themes, we worked together and planned an agenda that focused on four main activities:

Will it happen? A makerspace for the homeless

During my last trip to San Francisco, I heard about Marc Roth’s unconventional but sensible use of assistance money when he was homeless: He bought a membership to an SF makerspace. Marc learned the ins and outs of digital fabrication, started a successful laser cutting business, and now he’s ready to pilot The Learning Shelter, a 90-day residency program for SF homeless to build marketable making skills.

I’m enthralled. I’ve been exploring the future of work at MIT. This has looked mostly like peer economy research, but I have also been thinking about how other workforce development models may not fit today’s circumstances. Cities have traditionally approached workforce development from one of two perspectives:

Civic Lunch: Jon Rubin on Conflict Kitchen

Today's guest is Jon Rubin, who teaches contextual practice for socially and contextually engaged art at Carnegie Mellon. This is a live blog by Rahul Bhargava, Catherine D'Ignazio, and others - don't be surprised by typos or inconsistent tone!

Conflict Kitchen came out of what they don't have in Pittsburgh. They've never sent out a press release, but coverage has never stopped (AP, A Jazeera). Jon shows us an al Jazeera clip about Conflict Kitchen to introduce the project:

Quantity & Quality of Our Parks in Somerville & Cambridge

The following is a guest post by Namasha Shelling, who works as a Project Coordinator at the Harvard School of Public Health.  Namasha and I have collaborated to build on The Public Land Trust's (TPL) metrics around parks and communities. TPL published their methodology and results openly, and this post is built on that valuable contribution they have made!

Park Quality: Why we should care, not only about the quantity of parks, but QUALITY of parks in our neighborhoods

According to the Trust for Public Land (TPL), a non-profit that works on land conservation in the US, parks are known to reduce crime, revitalize local economies, increase physical activity, and in turn bring communities together. How many times have we heard this sort of phrase before? Not that it isn’t true… but it doesn’t matter how many parks your neighborhood has, if people don’t want to use the parks. 

Scaling the unicorns: Diverse perspectives that serve the public good

In a room of urban planners, architects, engineers, data viz experts, designers, programmers, and media professionals, we asked, “how do we scale the unicorns?”

Unicorns are those perspectives we need, the ones we easily demand but are hard to find. Women coders, technologists in local government, architects in humanitarian aid, geographers in newsrooms.


Unicorns, by rahuldlucca on Flickr

Crowdfunding as a Community Development Tool

It's been a pleasure to spend the past few weeks in Kansas City learning more about how non-profit organizations are using crowdfunding in their work, and are shaping how communities understand what crowdfunding represents and what goals it can help them achieve.

On January 30th I was delighted to be asked to give the keynote at Kansas City Community Capital Fund's Annual Community Development Workshop, at the Kaufman Center.

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