PROVING YOU CAN TAKE THE WIRE OUT OF BALTIMORE
The Come Home Baltimore Fund Modestly Announces a Crowfunding Contest That Will Revolutionize How Disadvantaged Urban Communities Access Funding.
The irony! Oliver, the East Baltimore community whose manifest blight attracted film crews from David Simon’s celebrated HBO series The Wire for years, is now attracting market rate homebuyers from Rochester, New York and Norfolk, Virginia. Oliver, once a real life counterpart to the forbidding, despairing violence that The Wire seemingly forever linked to Baltimore, has yielded to the crime reducing stratagems of a madcap homebuilder and a tough, cool headed cadre of post 9-11 military veterans.
The homebuilder, Come Home Baltimore, has put money, heart and guts into rebuilding a community one home, and one resident, at a time. And it has partnered with returning young veterans to bring thousands of volunteers to the community, to attract market rate homebuyers, and to prove to the existing residents that the community’s rebirth need not come at their expense. They are succeeding where experts backed by billions have failed; property values are up, crime is down and the community welcomes new houses and new residents seemingly every week. And the world is taking notice. Goings on in Oliver have attracted national and international press coverage.
In keeping with the heedless, madcap ways that have yielded impossibly good results in Oliver, the big hearts at Come Home Baltimore have come up with a fundraising strategy that will take their community building efforts to a higher level. The strategy is to use a contest – an online, crowdsourced fundraising contest — to ferret out and reward a few genius programmers, innovative fundraisers, or just ‘big idea’ people looking to test their ‘do-good’ strategy.
Attempting to match the sophistication of companies such as Google or Facebook is a provocative undertaking. How, many ask, might this be accomplished by a homebuilder and some ex-soldiers?
Contest participants will be asked to deploy their own cutting edge social media and data mining skills to raise money for modest community projects in Oliver, such as playground equipment, healthcare coordination and incidental costs of tutoring children.
And with rewards that are not small, including a $15,000 grand prize, two $5,000 runner up prizes and more.
The contest will be rooted in digital activation channels (for the uninitiated, that’s social media). Prizewinners will be judged more for the inventiveness of their fundraising and the quality of their data than for the amount raised or the speed in raising it. More than anything, Come Home Baltimore wants to learn during this contest. Learn what did and did not work, and who has the chops to create a tool for low-income communities to attract funds over the long run.
“The contest format is intended as the foundation for a durable, independent system for funding community needs long term,” explains David Borinsky, Come Home Baltimore’s CEO. “The contest is not for Come Home Baltimore; our intention is to empower Oliver.”
Borinsky, a lawyer and entrepreneur/green activist, is one-half of the mastermind behind the Come Home Baltimore initiative. The other half is Earl Johnson, a Special Ops veteran recently returned from combat deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Johnson describes the challenge that led to the contest idea: “Oliver, like other parts of the city where we may eventually expand, needs financial support to help sustain community building over a long period of time – beyond what a homebuilder or a single volunteer organization can handle.”
Officially launched as the Come Home Crowdfunding Challenge – www.comehomecrowdfunding.com
Borinsky would say his organization (not just this contest) is a glowing example of defining the term “win-win”. As a founding partner of Come Home Baltimore, David has always believed the success of this business would be dependant upon the ‘everyone wins’ principle. “We are creating economically integrated neighborhoods, that is, we attract new residents, but without displacement of existing residents. We have no interest in a gentrification effort. That is the kind of one-sided win that neither I nor my partners will be a part of; especially since we are Baltimore City residents ourselves”
Borinsky and Johnson are furthering their “do-good” efforts by connecting military veterans with work, homes, or volunteer opportunities in Oliver.. Earl knows the challenges returning vets face better than anyone, “I have many people to serve in this effort,” says Johnson, “my military ‘brothers and sisters’, my immediate and extended family and the neighbors of my great Baltimore community”.