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Call for Ideas: Innovative ways to fund small-scale community projects?

Kiva Detroit
Kiva Detroit
By Tunde Wey
April 11, 2012

Detroit has very active foundations and corporations that invest millions of dollars in our community. Usually these funds are directed toward larger, established civic institutions and non-profit organizations with a demonstrated record of impact and success. But what if you have a new, untested idea to address a neighborhood need? How can we create more funding opportunities for smaller-scale but potentially transformative community projects?
Recently, we’ve seen many new micro-funding options sprout in Detroit to seed early-stage impact projects. Programs like Detroit Soup and The Awesome Foundation offer no-strings-attached micro-grants. Contests like Hatch Detroit and the Get Funded Challenge and platforms like Kiva Detroit have helped entrepreneurs get started or scale up.
These new funding initiatives are encouraging, filling a gap in the philanthropic marketplace to support grassroots ideas and innovation. We must continue to expand this network to create a more comprehensive citywide micro-granting system. The innovative solutions that succeed today will become the basis of Detroit’s future.

Our city is only as strong as the current pipeline of projects we nurture. If we cannot find a sustainable way to fund this future, we might be stuck propping up a past that is growing obsolete.
One Idea:
The most consistent and frequent activity people engage in is commerce. We buy things – gas, food, groceries. On most days, we each make some kind of purchase. Commercial activity cuts across all socio-economic strata. Poor or rich, young or old, we all engage in some form of commerce.
So here is a big (or maybe small) idea: What if 1% of the total cost of all local purchases we made was somehow pooled into a fund to be distributed to worthy community projects? Every time you bought a $3 cup of coffee at your local café, $0.03 was tucked away into a community pot, until eventually we accumulated (thanks to the magic of mass consumption and caffeine) enough money to disburse to smaller projects that benefit the city.
This is the high-level idea; obviously, there are many details to consider. Who decides what is a worthy project? How we do we decide how much each project should receive? How do we define project success?
These are just some of the many questions that would need to be answered. But let’s start with the first: Is this a good idea? Could it work?
Share your feedback and your own ideas here.
Photo: Kiva Detroit
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