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Product, Service & Design Innovation
New Social Network Helps Community Projects Find 'neighbourly' Corporate Sponsors

Each week leading up to our SB London conference, where the winner of the SB London Innovation Open (SBIOL) will be announced on November 18, we will get to know each of our four finalists. This week, meet

Each week leading up to our SB London conference, where the winner of the SB London Innovation Open (SBIOL) will be announced on November 18, we will get to know each of our four finalists. This week, meet

At first glance, neighbourly might seem like just the latest in a seemingly endless line of social networks. However, this digital marketplace is worth a second look, as it is truly a social network, encouraging members to form and join new communities and connecting them to businesses interested in funding community projects.

Founded by Nick Davies, former managing director of communications agency EMO, neighbourly is designed to help communities “get stuff done” with the help of companies that support their goals. Davies’s previous work frequently highlighted the need for a scalable grassroots engagement platform. This sparked the idea for a new venture as he realized that companies would put their money toward more good if it were easier to do so. The concept is similar to crowdfunding, but rather than providing an alternative mechanism for local giving, neighbourly is bringing new money to community projects. The platform rewards projects that demonstrate deep community engagement and is designed for sharing — so the more people care about a project, the more successful it will be.

In March 2013, Davies teamed up with Zoe Colosimo, whose expertise is in community engagement, to create a place where local projects can easily connect with companies that are looking to support community causes.

The community was opened to the public in mid-September of this year and roughly 50 projects seeking sponsorship for a variety of needs have been posted. For example, Penkridge & District Community First Responders, a charity consisting of volunteers who provide emergency help immediately after heart attacks or other life-threatening situations in rural areas, is looking for support with program costs; Catch22 Cheshire, which helps young people and families with complex needs to achieve their full potential, are seeking staff and prizes for an upcoming fundraising dinner; and the k9 project — a non-profit that uses ex-shelter dogs in a range of personal development programs — is looking to set up a community drop-in café to provide support for adults with mental health issues.

In December, neighbourly will announce a group of “founder brands” — a cluster of early corporate adopters and backers. Then in January, the site will go fully live, at which point companies will have the ability to choose projects to back. A mobile app is planned for the summer of 2014.

neighbourly aims to provide small, local charities, many of which struggle to secure donations, a direct line through which to reach corporate sponsors for the first time. Disadvantaged communities will be particularly well-supported, as UK government and other bodies will offer match-funding to projects. As of now, neighbourly can only legally accept projects in the UK, but the company has plans to expand within a year.

The neighbourly model is free for users and projects have no close-dates. Revenue comes in the form of an annual membership for participating businesses; since the service includes project search tools, a ranking algorithm, adoption functionality, company homepages and adopted projects timelines, employee engagement tools, reputation management destinations, and data and analytics dashboards, corporate giving can actually cost companies less than average with neighbourly. Based on a survey of 136 members, companies usually spend an average of £728k annually on management costs of company giving due to labor-intensive sourcing, matching, managing and reporting on projects.

Thus far, a number of prominent UK brands have expressed interest in the new program.

"It's well reported that consumers feel brands have lost their way,” Davies says. “But I believe brands are ready to become the greatest force for good the world has ever known. They just new tools to help them, and is part of that reinvention."

Join us November 18 at the SB London Conference —to see which of our four fabulous finalists — neighbourly, GravityLight, O2E Technologies or PulpWorks — is announced the winner of the SB London Innovation Open.


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