Designing neighbourhoods together

April 17, 2013

What do the cities of Toronto and Philadelphia have in common besides crazed hockey fans?

Most recently, it’s their tie to a new collaborative website that aims to empower people to engage with one another in the planning of their communities.

Projexity, a Toronto-based company and one of OCE’s Experiential Learning Program (ELP) start-ups, has just launched a new crowdsourcing/crowdfunding website that calls on everyone from “moms to mayors” to help improve the urban environment. The site uses crowdsourcing to gather design ideas from constituents and follows up with crowdfunding to raise the necessary funds to implement those ideas.  

The first project to come on board was Market 707, Toronto’s quirky international street food and retail market, housed entirely in retrofitted shipping containers. The food is delicious but there’s nowhere to comfortably plant yourself while you eat it. The market wants to raise funds to create permanent seating and a portable stage. Once the target funding goal of $14,500 is reached, the money will go towards spurring another round of community input. “Then we’ll work together to take Market 707 to the next level with integrated, thoughtfully planned street furniture designed by you through a design competition,” says the Market 707 posting.
Only a few days later, the site had another posting, this time from some folks in Philadelphia who wanted to make use of Projexity’s unique platform to raise funds to transform the heavily concrete setting of one of the city’s high schools into an inspiring green space. The project needs money to develop a Greening Master Plan and employ a garden coordinator. The community-driven project promises to “demonstrate sustainable campus design strategies that address storm water management, fresh food access, healthy eating and outdoor education.”

Projexity was also one of 10 finalists in Ontario Centres of Excellence’s recent Social Enterprise Student Competition. Innovative enterprises formed by current students and recent graduates of universities and colleges were selected from 40 entries, representing a wide range of socially innovative products and services. 

The brainchild of a University of Waterloo-based team led by Jonathan Koff, Projexity is also run by Marisa Bernstein, a landscape and urban designer and Nicolas Koff, an architect. The three founders twigged to the idea after watching their own neighbourhood park undergo bulldozer redevelopment without any input from the community. “The results were not great and the park still isn’t being used,” Marisa says. 

Projexity solicits “micro donations” normally in the range of $10 to $25 but up to $500. A for profit organization, it takes a five per cent fee from each transaction if a project reaches its funding goal within a specified timeframe. An additional 2.9% + $.30 per transaction (or 2.2% + $.30 per transaction for non-profits) goes to PayPal for payment processing.