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URBAN

INITIATIVE FUNDING INNOVATION ONE PROJECT AT A TIME

SEPTEMBER 2012 // EMILY HACKERSON & DARREN COTTON


TABL E OF CONTENTS

WHAT WE DO

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HOW WE DO IT

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CREATIVE COMPETITION COMPONENT

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HOW WE MAKE DECISIONS

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HOW WE REACH PEOPLE

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WHAT ARE OUR MODELS?

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WHAT IS OUR PLATFORM?

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PROJECT EXAMPLES

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PROJECT WORKFLOW

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Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.

JANE JACOBS


WHAT WE DO:

The Urban Initiative Foundation will seek out and support the creative initiatives of young people in Buffalo because we know our city deserves good ideas and demands better implementation. We welcome innovation and initiative. We believe the young people of Buffalo will sow the seeds of the city’s regeneration, and we want to help them do it. By utilizing a community-driven, crowdsourced funding platform that works from the bottom up, communities and residents can connect with one another to express their hopes, dreams, and desires for their neighborhoods. In this way, community development occurs organically and with the full support of residents before a tree is planted, a brick is lain, or a store is opened.

HOW WE DO IT:

We provide microgrants of up to $5,000 for project ideas submitted to the Urban Initiative Foundation by motivated young people in the city. Project proposals are encouraged from any and all sources, including individuals, community groups, businesses, and institutions, and must detail a feasible idea for improving the city of Buffalo with sensitivity to locale and community. Projects can be submitted under six target areas: • Sustainability / Environment • Cultural Heritage / Community Development • Arts & Education • Health & Food Security • Social Entrepreneurship • [Annual Priority Issue] The first five target areas were developed/ expanded from the four focus areas of the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council’s (WNYREDC) Working Groups (Job Readiness; Smart Growth; Entrepreneur/Business Development; and Agriculture) as well as several key sustainability areas identified by the Western New York Regional Sustainability Planning Consortium working in conjunction with NYSERDA (Transportation, Agriculture and Forestry, Land Use, Water Management, and Waste Management). Connecting these initiatives and their vision for our future ensures that public money is appropriately leveraged to move our region forward. The annual priority issue will be selected by city residents to address a critical issue affecting their quality of life. Voting will be made available electronically and might include such issues as: Vacancy, Demolition, Historic Preservation, etc.

SEPTEMBER 2012

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CREATIVE COMPETITION COMPONENT:

We welcome ideas targeting any part of the city. However, we recognize that some areas have specific needs that could benefit from project innovation. In order to facilitate action in targeted sites/areas, Urban Initiative will periodically host INNOVATION COMPETITIONS, an open call for project proposals in an area (geographical and/or topical) determined by the Foundation, with promised funding for the winner. Through creative competition, the city creates opportunities for community-driven solutions to issues facing particular neighborhoods or geographic areas.

HOW WE MAKE DECISIONS:

Grants are awarded based on viability and effectiveness of the project idea with no limit placed on creativity. We are seeking proposals that provide innovative options for city development and encourage community initiative and neighborhood self improvement. The proposal must have a strong public engagement component and have proven support from the community in which it is to take place. Progress Report Each grant application 2012 will undergo a vetting process by the Foundation, before it is placed online for the community to vote on. While it is important to note that not every application will get an opportunity to be voted on, the communtiy will ultimately decide which projects will be funded and which may need to be refined or strengthened. A strategy for

In choosing what proposals to place up for a vote, the following questions – taken from the WNYREDC Progress Report 2012 – should be applied to any review process:

Is the proposed project…

• Inclusive? • Does it promote smart growth? • Does it build upon strengths? • Does it have a regional impact? • Will it improve the region’s image?

HOW WE REACH PEOPLE:

We want Urban Initiative to be as inclusive as possible, reflecting not the desires of the Foundation but the needs and initiatives of the community. To make the projects as relevant as possible, we recommend using a crowdsourcing program to solicit feedback from the public on neighborhoods they would like to see targeted, issues they would like addressed, as well as deciding which projects will ultimately be funded.

Example: Kickstarter, a funding platform for creative projects.

in Western New York

WNY Regional Economic Development Strategic Plan

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September

URBAN INITIATIVE FUNDING PROPOSAL

To promote the Urban Initiative project and inspire people to submit ideas, we would reach out to key communities in the city with large populations of young people, including but not limited to: • Local Universities and Colleges • Arts and Theater Community • Non-profits that support target areas • Community Centers • Neighborhood Libraries • High Schools Print, digital, and social media will be extensively used to reach those populations that can benefit most from community and economic development.


WHAT ARE OUR MODELS?

In creating the outline for Urban Initiative, we looked to a pioneering new initiative called the Awesome Foundation [www.awesomefoundation.org], providing monthly grants of $1000 to fund “awesome” ideas. A number of chapters of the Foundation have proliferated in cities across the country, confirming its success as a model for promoting citizen action at a local level. Included below are several other foundations, organizations and creative projects doing similar work that could serve as inspiration for our own work and help inform how we make Urban Initiative as effective as possible. • Ashoka [www.ashoka.org] • Echoing Green [www.echoinggreen.org] • Civic Center [www.civiccenter.cc]

WHAT IS OUR PLATFORM?

With grassroots community development being one of the core tenets of the Urban Initiative Foundation’s mission, a platform that allows easy and transparent crowdsourcing of one’s idea is a necessity. Aside from using a Kickstarter type funding mechanism, the Foundation will also create an interactive forum similar to the Neighborland website [www. neighborland.org]. Taken from their website:

“Neighborland is a new way to make your city a better place.We are providing residents, neighborhood organizations, economic development groups, and municipalities with a powerfully simple platform to connect and make good things happen. A healthy neighborhood is a connected neighborhood. No idea is too big or too small to share on Neighborland. If it matters to you, then it matters.”

By posting ideas for grant applications online, not only can a community coalesce around a specific issue or area, there is also the ability to leverage several different ideas into one larger multi-faceted project. The use of “tags” for each application such as urban farming, rain garden, public art, etc. will allow residents to sort through projects based on their passions and interests and will create an “ecosystem” of community-driven projects. Simply by connecting people through an easy to use website and smartphone app, the capacity of one individual to change their neighborhood is magnified exponentially, and communities built around causes can flourish SEPTEMBER 2012

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PROJECT EXAMPLES:

By building on best practices for funding mechanisms from exisiting foundations, nonprofits, NGOs, and public agencies, the Urban Initiative Foundation hopes to replicate and improve on some of the most compelling social innovation projects from cities across the country. Many of these already fall within one or more of the target areas. • Sustainability / Environment • Health & Food Security • Cultural Heritage / Community Development • Social Entrepreneurship • Arts & Education • [Annual Priority Issue]

popuphood “We are passionate urbanists creating partnerships to solve epic problems. We incubate our retail partners with the goal of signing longterm leases that will result in positive and lasting economic impact. Through marketing we reposition the neighborhood to highlight new retail and existing business to drive foot traffic for both. This increases visibility, vibrancy, and safety, block by block. Our pilot location has serves as a successful case study rethinking retail and the role it plays in revitalizing our cities. ” [www.popuphood.com]

conflict kitchen “Conflict Kitchen is a take-out restaurant that only serves cuisine from countries with which the United States is in conflict. The food is served out of a take-out style storefront that rotates identities every six months to highlight another country. Each iteration of the project is augmented by events, performances, and discussions that seek to expand the engagement the public has with the culture, politics, and issues at stake within the focus country.” [www.conflictkitchen.org]

PROJECT WORKFLOW:

Outlined below is the simplified workflow an applicant would experience from originating an idea to following it through to implementation.

PROJECT GENESIS

SUBMIT APPLICATION

APPLICATION VETTED

FUNDING AWARDED

PROJECT VOTED ON

PROJECT PUT ON WEBSITE

PROJECT IMPLEMENTED

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URBAN INITIATIVE FUNDING PROPOSAL

Urban Initiative  
Urban Initiative  

An innovative platform for funding grassroots initiatives.

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