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Citizinvestor Reframes its Civic Crowdfunding Strategy

BY Sam Roudman | Thursday, September 5 2013

Citizinvestor's reframed attempt to gather public ideas

Civic engagement isn’t just about soliciting responses from citizens, it’s about framing them: the better the frame, the greater the response. It can be a subtle lesson, but it is one that recently led civic crowdfunding platform Citizinvestor to alter the way in which it solicits potential projects from the public. Apparently, people are more apt to say they like an idea than to sign their names to a petition.

“We did some AB testing on the site to test the language,” says Jordan Raynor, one of Citizinvestor’s co-founders, “we found ‘like this idea’ performs significantly better than ‘sign this petition.”’

So this week the Citizinvestor Petitions page became Citizinvestor Ideas. The basic purpose of the page for Citizinvestor remains the same: to solicit ideas for community projects from citizens. If a project idea receives enough support (now measured in likes rather than signatures), Citizinvestor will get in contact with city hall in the city where the idea comes from to see if they’ll get on board. If the city supports the project, it can then move to Citizinvestor’s project page, where funds can be raised from the public, and where eventually, the company hopes to make a profit.

Citizinvestor is not the first civic engagement platform to propel projects along with a post-it like interface for posting ideas. ACTion Alexandria based in Alexandria, Virginia, and Change by Us, based in a number of cities including New York and Philadelphia, have both used a similar interface. But the tale of those two platforms indicates that merely collecting “ideas” isn’t enough to turn them into a reality. While ACTion Alexandria has thrived as a result of strong connections with local organizations and city hall officials, Change by Us has not gained much traction due to its lack of those same relationships. All this is to say that framing engagement in the best way possible won’t matter much if there aren’t people working behind the scenes to encourage activity and connect citizens to cities.

Raynor is well aware that fine tuning the Citizinvestor site won’t guarantee buy-in from citizens or communities. To that end his company has worked with near 100 municipalities to help push citizen projects. Nearing the end of their first year in operation, Raynor says 70 percent of Citizinvestor projects have been funded.

“We don’t just want citizens investing their dollars,” says Raynor, “we also want citizens investing their ideas.”

The original version of this article incorrectly listed Jordan Raynor as CEO of Citizinvestor. He is a co-founder. We regret the error.