Jessica Reeder has published an excellent article looking at lessons that can be taken from Burning Man, and applied to community living in the default world.
Our real-world cities, meanwhile, are struggling to provide the services citizens need, limited by declining tax income, record debt, and increasingly complex social issues. Cities have no choice but find ways to do more with less. Many seek to harness the creative energies of citizens to fill the gaps, asking them to take a more active role in governance, service provision, and even in creating new services.
I won’t reproduce all 7 suggestions she has for cities, but here’s my favorite:
Crowdsource The Budget
Almost none of the hundreds of art projects exhibited at Burning Man are fully funded by the festival. Many of them are crowdfunded through Kickstarter or otherwise paid for by participants. This requires active community participation, and it also automatically vets projects, ensuring that the best ideas are more likely to be funded.
The city of Vallejo, California is taking this idea for a spin, testing out a participatory budgeting model for 30 percent of its funds. Community members decide which projects to fund, and must work together to get the funding approved.
“If you live in northern Vallejo and you want a bus shelter, then you know what, you’ve got to partner with people in other parts of the city who want bus shelters too,” Councilmember Marti Brown told The Atlantic Cities. “People are going to have to learn how to think like that. It encourages people to work with groups they’ve never worked with before.”
Vallejo is the first to try participatory budgeting city-wide, though it’s now being considered in San Francisco. Want to see participatory budgeting in your city? Get involved.