Kate Gasparro, Ashby Monk | Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space
Infrastructure assets are networked, urban products that can only be understood through their social, economic, and physical geographies. Because of this, they remain difficult to value and monitor. Recently, financialization of infrastructure assets has codified this information for larger capital markets. But the local knowledge needed to understand local infrastructure assets (LIAs), smaller urban products that are closely intertwined in a community’s economic trends and social fabric, is prohibitive to increased investment. At a time when there is a need for renewed investment in LIAs, a new intermediary, capable of translating “localness,” has emerged. LIA crowdfunding platforms connect capital-seeking agents (asset owners) with capital-giving agents (crowdfunders) to channel resources into LIAs. Through close dialogue and review of nearly 70 LIA crowdfunding platforms, we find that LIA crowdfunding platforms are creating a new marketplace for investments in LIAs. These platforms (a) select crowdfunding models that reflect specific asset values; (b) accredit LIAs and their capital-seeking agents considering local context; (c) translate local knowledge for nonlocal and novice capital-giving agents; and (d) reflect the demand for LIAs. Together, these strategies reduce information asymmetries and translate implicit asset information to nonlocal capital-giving agents, thereby facilitating investments into LIAs. Because of their modest growth, LIA crowdfunding platforms have yet to realize their full potential. To scale, crowdfunding platforms must understand their power in complementing the current infrastructure investment market and focus on how their unique position can unlock new investments in LIAs.