Published May 11th, 2020

Crowdfunding the City

Crowdfunding für die Stadt

Podcast in German: Jan Gartner, April 8 2020

In the first edition of our series on Digital Citymakers, we learn about a crowdfunding platform for urban initiatives from Vienna. Even in times of a physical lockdown, citizens find creative ways to organise cultural events and advocate spatial fairness.

In der ersten Ausgabe unserer Serie zu digitalen Stadtmachern hören wir von einer Crowdfunding-Plattform für urbane Initiativen in Wien. Selbst unter physischem Lockdown finden Bürger*innen kreative Wege, kulturelle Veranstaltungen zu organisieren und sich für eine faire Aufteilung des Raumes einzusetzen.

Sketches from the interview with Jan Gartner, designed by Martin Bangratz for What/Next 2020

Jan Gartner describes the current lockdown in his city as orderly, but he notices and overload of information that leads to general uncertainty. It did not take long for civil society to get organised in citymaking endeavours: soon after the lockdown came into place, the first digital citizens initiative was started to petition the opening of federal parks to the public. Many large parks in Vienna belong to the federal government, so when it was decided to keep them closed, Vienna’s population was left without green spaces for walks. The petition garnered enough attention that the government decided to reopen the gardens within a week.

Now is the time to provide funding to a creative, interdisciplinary group to develop lasting solutions and real innovation. If not now, when?

Jan Gartner 04/2020

The crowdfunding platform has always been run not-for-profit; in response to the lockdown it has even waived the usual percentage share for cost recovery, so 100% of the proceeds go directly to the initiatives. Many citymakers and other projects are in pressing need of financial support. The largest campaign funded was for Augustin, a city newspaper by the homeless. Another campaign, aimed at giving artists an opportunity for income, organised an online festival within ten days. Despite these inspiring examples, Gartner wonders how long citizens’ willingness to donate will last.

Jan Gartners own efforts include increased communication with mayors and local administrations across Austria to find out their current issues and offer advice. As it turns out that digital transformation has not progressed much in Austria’s municipalities, he encounters a lot of inaction. Some come up with good ideas, but no one knows how to program them. The crisis not only reveals gaps in our digitisation strategies, but also the risks to urban resilience following decades of outsourcing. Vorarlberg, the westernmost state of Austria, is one of the last European centres of textile production, and was able to quickly switch to the manufacturing of high-quality masks.

Jan Gartner is founder and CEO at Raumpionere – Agency for Citymakers, the first Austrian platform for crowdfunding, crowdsourcing, and crowdengaging of urban projects. Gartner previously worked at TU Vienna and Impact Hub Vienna, and has co-founded a co-working space.