The city of Ghent developed a crowdfunding platform that allows citizens to share their ideas and raise the necessary funds to realize them. Ideas can vary and include the increase of the city’s adaptation capacity. The person submitting an idea becomes a ‘project initiator’. This person needs to provide a short description and a funding goal for the project. People who provide financial backing to a project are known as ‘supporters’. Their minimum donation is €5. The donated amount per idea is viewed as an indicator of community support; only the projects with sufficient community support will become financially viable. The focus of crowdfunding.gent is on projects with a societal benefit, which sets the platform apart from other crowdfunding platforms. The platform was launched on March 16th in 2015.
Projects can be published on the platform through a straightforward process. Each citizen of Gent or person with an idea located in Ghent can submit a project by completing the crowdfunding.gent application form. The project becomes visible on the platform once it is approved by the platform manager, who is appointed by the city. He checks whether the project proposal meets a set of pre-defined requirements. Examples are “The project makes a positive contribution to the city or one of its neighbourhoods” and “The project must transcend individual interests”. The platform manager can provide feedback to applicants on how to enhance their project’s chance of success. The project is published once the applicant has made the necessary modifications. From this moment supporters can donate to the projects during a pre-defined period of time. Projects receive their collected donations within one month after the funding deadline as long as the amount is higher than €20. It is not a requirement to meet the pre-funding goal as past experience has demonstrated these projects can still be successfully implemented with a few amendments. In case of any modifications, the applicant is required to communicate to the supporters how their money will be spent.
Crowdfunding.gent additionally offers initiators the opportunity to apply for a municipal subsidy of the project. The city has provided a fund of €55.000 per year specifically assigned to the crowdfunding platform. The request for municipal funding needs to be indicated in the original application form. Initiators can choose to apply for 25, 50 or 75% of municipal funding. To be eligible for funding, the pre-defined amount of co-funding needs to be raised. For example, a project that has applied for 50% of municipal funding with a funding goal of €1000 needs to raise at least €500 in donations by supporters. This condition is a means for the city to ensure that the project has sufficient community support. Whether or not a request is honoured is decided by an independent jury consisting of local experts. Per project the maximum amount of municipal subsidy that can be obtained is €5.000. The amount of municipal funding is at all times based on the pre-defined funding goal.
So far two initiatives that have been submitted through the crowdfunding platform can be considered contributions to the city’s climate adaptation goals. These projects focus on sustainable food production and enhancing green areas. The first project “Lekker dichtbij!” establishes mini-gardens on balconies of social housing. Through urban farming more green areas are created contributing to mitigate extreme temperatures in urban areas. In addition, local food production reduces the need for long-distance transportation and therefore prevents an exhaust of carbon dioxide emissions. Urban farming also often requires less intensive agriculture as the farming is carried out on a smaller scale. In addition, Lekker dichtbij! enhanced social integration by stimulating cooperation between the residents from various cultural backgrounds. The project was successful in raising the pre-defined funding goal.
Another project, “the Edible Street”, set-out to transform the traditional stone facades into vertical gardens to create additional green areas while stimulating local food production. Similar to the “Lekker dichtbij!” project, it contributes to the enhancement of green areas and the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions. Although this project was not successful in raising the complete pre-defined funding goal, it was successfully implemented by scaling down the project. Instead of placing 100 planters in 5 streets, 88 planters were placed in 3 streets.
The small scale of the crowdfunding projects evidently only has limited impact in the context of addressing climate change adaptation. Indeed, these types of projects can mainly be seen as successes for the city’s ambition to realise more co-creation with citizens. Certainly, the crowdfunding platform seems an excellent way to realise small ‘drops’ in the context of climate adaptation that can generate larger ripple effects.