What are the benefits of the new Civic Dollars scheme?

An app that ‘pays’ you for going to the park? The Liberty hears about the social-credit programme being piloted in Dublin 8. 

A new pilot scheme, Civic Dollars, aims to reward park-goers in a unique way, by giving them social credits to earn prizes and discounts – or to donate to community organisations – through a smartphone app that keeps track of when they are in a park. 

Civic Dollars is part of a Smart Dublin project for Dublin 8, with the purpose of investigating how innovative approaches can be used to improve people’s health and well-being. 

St. Patrick’s Park. Image Credit: The Liberties Dublin Twitter page.  

But what exactly are the benefits of ‘Civic Dollars’, and how can local people ‘earn’ them? 

“The overall aim of Civic Dollars is to get people out and into the parks and be a bit more active,” says Stephen McPeake, founder and chief executive of the company behind Civic Dollars.  

“We had a great response in Belfast, which was the very first pilot that we ran in June after winning a Smart Belfast project. The aim was to get more people out into parks and open spaces, and to reduce the barriers people had while visiting them. 

“The Civic Dollars pilot project has strong potential to not only improve the health and wellbeing of Dublin 8 residents by encouraging outdoor exercise, but also to support a range of community groups who operate in the area.”


“We got the community groups involved from the start to see what would attract them, how their members would get involved and what parks they’d like as part of the project. By using that side of it, the community could get tech or marketing support, which they could get for free by having civic dollars donated to them.” 

Over 600 people registered on the smartphone app in the first four days of the launch in Dublin at the end of November. Users can currently earn Civic Dollars by visiting five parks in Dublin 8, checking in on the app:  St Audoen’s Park, St Patrick’s Park, Weaver Park and Oscar Square in The Liberties, and Grattan Park in Inchicore. 

“The next stage is to speak to Dublin Bus or the LUAS for integration of getting rewards for people using public transport. We do plan to add more rewards too, of course, because obviously it would become stagnant if we don’t,” says McPeake.

“We’d like to add more ways to earn and spend Civic Dollars by increasing the number of parks that we have on the list. We would increase the number of rewards and increase the number of groups you can donate to. 

“I’d like to see it go out to Fairview and to the areas near some of Dublin North’s universities. Fairview, in particular, would be great – the parks there are of great quality and are huge,” McPeake says. “It would be great to expand, not only to more areas in Dublin, but also to more towns in Ireland as well.” 

Users of the smartphone app earn credits by just being in the park, without the need to walk, cycle, jog or run.  

“The Civic Dollars pilot project has strong potential to not only improve the health and well-being of Dublin 8 residents by encouraging outdoor exercise, but also to support a range of community groups who operate in the area,” says Fiach Mac Conghail, CEO of The Digital Hub.  

The Digital Hub is supporting the pilot scheme through Smart D8. Park-goers can earn rewards to spend at the Digital Hub on the likes of beanie hats and USB memory pens.  

Other rewards payable with Civic Dollars include discounts for The Irish Emigration MuseumLittle Bird Yoga and on Alternatively, the Civic Dollars earned can be donated to nine different organisations in Dublin, including The Iveagh TrustFocus Ireland, Fatima Groups United and The Bike Hub in Dun Laoghaire.  

“The technology used for Civic Dollars is non-invasive and privacy-friendly, by only using GPS data and allowing users to opt in once they enter a park,” according to the official press release. “Data is anonymised, and a user’s session will end automatically once they walk out of the park’s geo-fence. Data gathered will be used by Dublin City Council to analyse park usage and allow for future planning and infrastructure improvements.” 

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