Transparent Civic Improvement With Crowdfunding Platform

Sunlight Foundation | | April 11, 2014

There are two processes in the public sphere that we all depend on but that few of us really understand. And what's worse is that both are in trouble.

The first is the process of funding public projects. Public financing often involves a mix of taxation and the issuance of bonds or federal grantmaking to municipalities, counties and regions. Politicians so often pass it off to their constituents as a simple process: vote Yes on A, sales tax will rise a bit, this project will come. But without fail, there's a complicated interworking of unreadable legislation, complex court decisions, backroom deals that no ordinary citizen could possibly follow. It's a necessary process - but one that needs work (enter, Sunlight Foundation!).

The second process is "placemaking." Simply put, placemaking is a multi-faceted approach to the planning, design and management of public spaces. It's how we shape our new parks, stadia and bike lanes and how we stitch them together into cohesive, quality places. In our hometown of Kansas City, it's how we got the beautiful Country Club Plaza district. In D.C., it's how the National Mall developed. Placemaking processes today usually (hopefully) involve participation and input from the public, perhaps moderated by an urban planner at a public meeting. A vision, plan or project design usually results from that public meeting. But key to an effective placemaking process is that social and political capital is created: It's the "buy-in" from the public and politicians that, first, brings the allocation of financial capital by the public-funding process described above and that later sees out a vision's successful implementation and healthy success.