Stephen Fry, Martha Lane Fox, Wales??? rugby heroes and firms including Admiral, Asda, Tesco and Deloitte have all helped to pioneer a new online hub allowing communities to fund public developments that have suffered following a halving of council spending.
The ex-mining town of Glyncoch, South Wales, has become the unlikely pioneer of a “crowd-funding” movement that harnesses private funding for community building projects.
After spending seven years chasing state cash for a much-needed ??792,000 community centre, residents turned to Spacehive.com, an award-winning new initiative, to reverse their fortunes.
With tens of thousands still to raise before their grants expired, the town appealed to local families, celebrities and businesses to fill the void. Using Spacehive.com as an online hub for donations, the town was able to garner support from an unlikely array of places.
The site works by allowing anyone with an idea to pitch it online and, once it???s been certified by the Spacehive.com if it achieves the necessary funding, it can go ahead and get built.
Liz Peace, Chief Executive of the British Property Federation, which along with the Royal Institute of British Architects is a supporter of Spacehive, said: ???We support the government???s intention to create a planning system that supports economic growth but the reality is nearly ??300m of funding for capital public space developments has been lost.
“Enabling the public to take direct action through Spacehive.com could help ensure vital improvements go ahead by channelling funding from companies and individuals.”
Their success this week, after Tesco contributed the final ??12,000, raised hopes that Spacehive’s model could help revive hundreds more community building projects hit by the economic downturn.
State spending on such projects, from sports facilities to parks and playgrounds, is estimated to have halved from a pre-recession average of ??500m a year, according to the British Property Federation.
Glyncoch???s campaign was boosted by comedian Stephen Fry who asked his four million Twitter followers to each donate ???the cost of a cucumber sandwich”, Matha Lane-Fox, the government’s “digital champion” and co-founder of Lastminute.com, and Welsh comic Griff Rhys Jones, who urged supporters to: ???help Glyncoch win.”
Fresh from their Six Nations triumph, the Welsh rugby team also encouraged people to dig deep. Yesterday Captain Sam Warburton said: “We think what Glyncoch has done is amazing and an inspiration to us all. We’re right behind the community. The regeneration of this town – which has produced so much rugby talent over the years – is another victory for team Wales!”
Corporates including Deloitte, Asda, and Wales and West Utilities quickly added to the pot, alongside local businesses from the coach firm to the golf club. Henry Engelhardt, founder of Admiral Insurance gave ??10,000 and Tesco finished the campaign off with a ??12,000 donation.
Lucy Neville-Rolfe, from the Tesco Charity Trust, the retailer’s charitable arm, said: “This unique project shows just how much communities can achieve when they work together. We’re delighted to help the people of Glyncoch reach their target.”
Residents themselves dug deep, raising thousands through street collections, bingo nights and even a sponsored silence by the town chatterbox. Pledges came as far afield as Newfoundland, where a Welsh descendant pledged ??100.
As the community celebrated yesterday Deputy Mayor Doug Williams said: ???We???re absolutely ecstatic that by summer we???ll see a state-of-the-art centre offering the types of training and education that will kick-start people’s ambitions.
???Glyncoch is a deprived area; people are used to being let down. Now people are thinking ???we can get out of this rut.??????
Spacehive aims to shake up neighbourhood planning by allowing anyone to pitch proposals for community building projects and anyone to pledge funding through Spacehive.com. Funders are only charged if the project goes ahead.
Efforts to regenerate Glyncoch were kicked-off by social action network Your Square Mile a year ago. The model, co-designed by Deloitte, means the cost of popular projects can be split between hundreds of individuals, businesses, and councils.
Projects in Spacehive’s pipeline range from new playgrounds to the transformation of a derelict East London dock into a creative hub and marina.
Founder Chris Gourlay said: ???Success in Glyncoch, one of the UK’s most deprived towns, really shows the potential power of Spacehive’s model in helping communities to transform where they live.
???This isn’t about privatising planning. The state mustn’t shrink from its responsibilities. It’s just an approach that allows communities cut through the inertia and make popular projects happen. We think town planning should be faster, more people-powered, and more fun.”
The Glyncoch pilot was supported by Nexters, an initiative to boost online giving in the UK, which helped the local community reach corporate backers.