Community crowdfunder Spacehive is aiming for growth in Scotland

SpacehiveA crowdfunding site which boosts campaigns with contributions from business, foundations and local authorities, is launching a drive to grow in Scotland. Spacehive, whose platform has raised £7m over the past five years, is dedicated to supporting people shape their local communities.

“It’s an old idea,” said Amelie Deschenes, senior partnerships executive at Spacehive. “It used to be called public subscription. The pedestal on which the Statue of Liberty stands was funded by an appeal to readers of the New York World newspaper by publisher Joseph Pulitzer.

“It wasn’t quite enough so he went to his black book and brought in some big funders. But we’ve brought it into the 21st century, and democratised it. The model is simple; people and organisations with ideas for improving their local area come to our platform to gather support from the community through crowdfunding campaigns.

“Then our partners – councils, businesses, grant bodies, property developers – make them happen with a contribution. This collaborative approach has resulted in hundreds of projects delivered across the UK, thousands of people involved in making them happen, and millions in investment.”

Projects have included an artist who wanted to create a slide in Bristol’s high street; he raised £5,000 to buy the length of plastic, straw bales and soapy water. But, noted Deschenes, on the day the installa- tion raised £120,000 for the local economy from footfall generated by the event.

Another, in Liverpool, saw a residents’ group raise £40,000 for a feasibility study to turn a disused flyover into an elevated park, along the lines of New York’s High Line. The council had been planning to demolish the flyover, at a cost of between £3m and £4m.  Significantly it was one of the final organisations to pledge to the Spacehive-based campaign.

One of the platform’s first campaigns was in Scotland; the ‘Porty Lightbox’, a disused phonebox in Portobello, has been turned into an art installation with LED displays and designs supplied by local schoolchildren.

Recently, residents of a new housing development, at Glenmill near Giffnock, raised more than £5,000 to upgrade an Openreach cabinet so they can have access to fibre broadband, with the company matching their contribution.

But Spacehive, which was established as a social enterprise, wants to significantly increase the size and impact of its campaigns north of the border. In London, the Mayor has given £1.1m to projects around the city and committed to a further £3.5m for future campaigns.. “We want to see more projects at scale,” said Deschenes.

Spacehive was a supporter of the Digital Cities series of events last month, hosted by FutureScot in association with The Sunday Times Scotland.

“Places and spaces matter to people and shaping them should be collaborative. We create a market place of ideas and funding. We get innovative ideas and we unlock new sources of funding. In turn, we create more resilient communities because they have responsibility for making change happen, and more cohesive, because people are going out into their communities and making connections.”