Rallying for the City

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Rallying for the City

Aaron Perlut remembers how reluctant he was to move to St. Louis. But upon arriving, the public relations and digital marketing strategist quickly realized there was plenty to be excited about. The city, however, had to let people know that.

So Perlut launched the “St. Louis Doesn’t Suck” campaign, which highlights the city’s employment opportunities, affordability, and educational and cultural resources. The buzz started by the campaign got Perlut thinking about ways to expand the project. After some brainstorming, he and his business partner Brian Cross arrived at a solution: Rally St. Louis, an online platform that allows residents to voice concerns about the city and fund the changes needed to address them.

The idea behind Rally St. Louis is that a city’s residents must be the ones who restore its image. The platform lets citizens generate ideas, have discussions and vote for projects that they think will sell the positive sides of St. Louis. With the help of Fund Saint Louis, a web-based crowdsourcing and crowdfunding non-profit, Rally Saint Louis is helping residents become actively involved in urban planning and development. Think a combination of Neighborland, Kickstarter and a more traditional discussion forum.

“In the past singular organizations defined what a region does or what a region is,” said Perlut, “that determination is left to a small body of people and does not represent the diversity of a region.” His site, therefore, is about “democratizing the process of creating a broader definition of what comprises greater St. Louis.”

Each month, ideas covering topics that range from marketing, beautification, the arts, sustainability, non-profits, sports and education are submitted to the website. (Anyone age 13 and older, whether they’re from the region or not, can submit.) A group of board members — who hail from various local business, social or political groups — then posts those ideas that it decides could benefit St. Louis.

The ideas are put to a vote, and at the end of the month the top five ideas that generate 50 votes or more enter a funding phase, determined by a group of members that draws up a budget that reflects how much the project will cost. If a project does not receive sufficient funding after 90 days, it gets removed from the website and the money is refunded. If a project does reach its target funding, Rally St. Louis starts looking for agencies who can bring it into the planning phase.

“The tool is especially powerful for people who are not in positions of leadership or authority,” said Perlut. “It gives the regular Joe[s] an opportunity they never had before.”

Tags: technologycivic techst. louiscrowdfundingcrowdsourcing

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