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Projexity aims to build a better city one local project at a time

If you, like many Torontonians who love their city and want to get more involved in it, have an idea for a neat new neighbourhood initiative or community project, but aren't quite sure how to go about implementing it, there's a new online platform that might be able to help.

It's called Projexity, and while it offers some familiar tools--notably, it serves as a crowd-funding platform--it also includes some distinctive elements such as design assistance and advice navigating the sometimes tangled webs of red tape at City Hall.

Projexity is the brainchild of a couple of urban designers, explains co-founder Marisa Bernstein. She saw, "a lot of the pitfalls in how urban design is carried out...due to many things like lack of resources, lack of guidance, and we think lack of transparency in the process--we think a lot of people don't know what is going on in the community."

Projexity is currently supporting projects in Toronto and Philadelphia, and hopes to expand to other major cities such as New York, Vancouver, Montreal, and San Francisco shortly.

Another way that Projexity differs from larger-scale crowd-funding platforms: there's an approval process potential projects needs to go through. You don't get to automatically put your project online.

The Projexity team reviews applications from prospective participants, which Bernstein says is important "because we want to make sure the project has all the ducks in a row to ensure success."

In order to be accepted projects, "need to enhance the city in a definite way," she says. There must be a specific plan with a clear scope (so it isn't suitable for ongoing projects), and that plan must "improve the community." Bernstein concedes that can be hard to define more concretely--especially in urban contexts where not everyone agrees about how a community should develop or how a particular bit of public space should be used--but points out that the crowd-funding element also helps ensure there is strong support for a project. Even if approved, a proposal won't get off the ground unless there is sufficient local support for the fundraising effort.

For projects that are approved and which are successful in their fundraising, Projexity offers additional kinds of support. "One of the main ways that we differentiate ourselves is that we enable people to not only gather the funding but gather the design work and the volunteer work," Bernstein says.

Projexity is trying to give young designers exposure by helping connect them with "people who may have an idea in mind for a project they might want to spearhead, but don't know how it would look."

Writer: Hamutal Dotan
Source: Marisa Bernstein, Co-founder, Projexity
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