Yes, in my backyard! Meet Brickstarter, the kickstarter for neighborhood projects


This slogan of the 60s “Think globally, act locally” has never been more timely. These days, you can’t throw a cat without hitting a community garden, pop-up shop, or some other act of urban activism. But projects like rehabilitate parks and addition of street furniture aren’t as easy as putting on overalls and knocking on a few doors.

Anyone who has ever tried to make changes in their neighborhood knows the pain of fighting against a bureaucracy that tends to dampen even the most enthusiastic minds. “This activism often occurs on the periphery, in legal gray areas where there is nothing to impose a definitive ‘no’, but also no clear process for how to get an initiative started,” says designer Bryan Boyer.

In collaboration with a team of designers, Boyer and his partner Dan Hill, those responsible for the strategic design of Sitra, the Finnish Innovation Fund, are working to solve this problem with a service they call Bricklayer.

Like its namesake Kickstarter, Brickstarter is a platform to make it easier to get started with DIY projects. People can come up with projects, with all the usual attributes of video presentations, text updates, fundraising goals, and deadlines. The big difference is that it focuses on projects carried out at the neighborhood level, to be carried out in public and in connection with public services and bureaucracy.

This means that projects are also more explicitly tied to a specific location, and that there are opportunities to donate your time or enthusiasm, instead of just money. It also has room for events, like planning meetings, and involves a more explicit approval schedule – all of the things a Kickstarter project should take care of on its own.

When it comes to improving a neighborhood, money is just one way to get involved.

These differences should help militants to link up effectively with city services. In turn, the information gathered by the project can help shape the way a city’s services are managed. “This is a learning platform for the city administration as much as for its residents,” says Hill. It is meant to be nothing less than a new way for cities and community groups to collaborate on the future of the urban fabric.

“Western cities in particular are full of ‘holes’ of unfulfilled potential: vacant lots, disused buildings, urban ruins and properties unoccupied by market forces,” says Boyer, “Brickstarter suggests that a healthy city of the 21st century must have a way for citizens to move ideas from activism to activity. “

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