The Economist: Detroit should harness crowd-funding for civic needs

DETROIT, MI – A community center in Wales. A free Wi-Fi network in England. A pedestrian bridge in the Netherlands. And here in the U.S., a bike-share program in Kansas City.

Even closer to home: A Robocop statue in Detroit.

These are examples provided by The Economist business magazine as successful crowd-funding ventures. Crowd-funding involves asking for small donations for a specific project with an overall funding goal. If the funding goal is met, the project moves forward and the donations are cashed in. If it doesn’t meet the funding goal by a set deadline, none of the donors are billed.

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The Economist suggested Tuesday that if the above crowd-funding efforts have worked, why not apply them to civic needs in Detroit?

Detroiters have both cheered and jeered the crowd-funded Robocop statue, but regardless of whether one sees it as a good-humored homage or an inappropriate embarrassment, it seems impossible to not marvel at how easily the project was able to raise thousands of dollars in a city where about 35 percent of the populace lives below the poverty line.

From The Economist:

While one might debate the pros and cons of a statue commemorating a1980s action hero, the idea of harnessing civic crowdfunding to benefit Detroit is very compelling. Imagine a crowdfunded downtown training centre helping get youths out of gangs and into employment, a programme to provide laptops to inner city schools, or even a renovation of Michigan Central Station. And part of the attractiveness of the idea is that anyone can donate: new residents, old residents, or people around the world that have simply fallen in love with the city’s story.

Such efforts, The Economist argues, would be made all the easier by the rise of several crow-funding platforms such as and Spacehive, which were designed exactly for this purpose. That is in addition to general crowd-funding sites such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo.

The effort to build the Robocop statue, which is currently being cast in bronze at Detorit-based Venus Bronze Works, began with a Kickstarter fundraising campaign.

The campaign raised $67,436 through 2,718 backers about two years ago. So far, that funding has been enough to cover the cost of the monument’s construction, though organizers have not ruled out the need for an additional round of fundraising or a corporate partnership as the project moves further along.

The idea to build the 10-feet-tall monument was spawned in 2011 when a Massachusetts resident posted a Twitter message to Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, saying that “Philadelphia has a statue of Rocky & Robocop would kick Rocky’s butt. He’s a GREAT ambassador for Detroit.”

Mayor Bing responded to the Tweet by saying, “There are not any plans to erect a statue to Robocop. Thank you for the suggestion.”

It did not take long for the off-the-cuff exchange to snowball actual plans to erect a statue to Robocop.

Source: Michigan