Involving your crowd: reflections from the PledgeMe office on Collett’s Corner

The Collett’s Corner launch party! Copyright: Erica Austin

Have you heard about that community in Christchurch who are creating their own building? I think it’s called…Camia’s Corner.”

With a proud smile, at least a dozen times over the past couple of weeks, I’ve replied, “Oh yeah, I’m involved with that crowd.”

It might just be that New Zealand is a tightly-knit tapestry, or that I find myself twirling in certain circles, but without prodding, Collett’s Corner is on the tip of many folks’ tongues. My name’s Barry, and over the past six months I’ve been helping the Collett’s team cultivate their PledgeMe campaign. I’d like to share some of my insights on a growing passion I’m seeing for compassionate capitalism and building buildings differently. I believe involvement is the not-so-secret-word. How can the people that live, work, play and care for their local area be given a voice in how their surroundings are shaped and owned?

Our first successful equity crowdfunders in Australia last year, social enterprise Food Connect Shed believe deeply in creating space for people to connect through food. They involved their crowd, because they believe the public needs to own the infrastructure in the food system. So they went out to their crowd who contributed over AUD$2.1 mil to buy their warehouse to collectively create Australia’s first community owned local food hub. Putting heart back into the way we consume food and keep one another nourished. Food Connect Shed became our largest ever equity crowdfunding campaign thanks to their enthusiastic and supportive crowd.

In the spirit of George Bernard Shaw, Camia Young and her orchestra of Collett’s Corner contributors have looked at their local Lyttelton surroundings and asked “why not?” Why not build a building that serves the community? Why not let the community decide the purpose of that building? Why not open source the design of the building? Why not allow the Kiwi public to collectively own the building?

Why bother, some may ask? The simple answer is the power of involvement. How does our sense of community, our togetherness and our local pride amplify when we’re given the opportunity to shape our surroundings and to literally own the buildings around us? What happens when the money generated from the success of those buildings can be used by each the co-owners to benefit ourselves, those who care for our wider communities? And frankly, how can the risky business of building property be overcome through the willing insights, ideas, skills and support of many people? They involved their crowd, because they believe property development should be community led.

What excites us is how these pioneers from both sides of the Tasman can inspire others to create spaces that bring extra depth to local communities. Reviving neighbourhoods, connecting people, doing things differently for the benefit of the many through collective ownership.

Equity crowdfunding is only one of many special tools that gives involvement and ownership to the people that matter: we’re seeing a wave of cohousing communities (be it Nightingale Housing in Melbourne, High Street in Dunedin, Earthsong in Ranui, West Auckland or Closer 1 in Tauranga), collective budgeting and decision-making tools (Cobudget and Loomio) and new decentralised ways of gathering people to share and learn (like our recent Unconference inspired by Kiwifoo), generating and exchanging power (Perth’s PowerLedger) and paying with impact (our friends at Choice).

The today and the tomorrow that we want to see is one where the people that are affected and the people that care about any cause can be involved.

Collett’s Corner have blasted through their minimum target and are charging towards their $2 million goal. You can get involved in their campaign here. The campaign will close 21 March or when the maximum goal is met.