As the majority of the world’s capital is tied up in Banks that would rather use it to fund their bonuses than fund the new ideas and institutions that could transform our world, it can sometimes feel like until we eradicate them from the world, we’re stuck in limbo. This is not the case. Crowd Funding is a means of the majority contributing affordable sums to build the alternative in the ashes of the present.
The Curious Case of the Crowd
The advent of crowd funding and crowd sourcing could be the dawn of the next great idea, in terms of how we develop and fund the things that matter to us.
Crowd funding is an online donation system, where if someone has an idea, a need, a project, or anything which requires investment, they share it on a website and people can donate money to their idea. This is a win-win for both the producer and the investor. The producer, be they musician, scientist, campaigner or business is no longer beholden to a small pool of large donors and therefore no longer necessarily influenced. Also, anyone can now be an investor. The playing field for investment is democratised and levelled.
Crowd Sourcing (also known as open sourcing) is where rather than working on a new idea in isolation in order to patent the discoveries oneself to make a profit – people choose to open up development, via the internet, to get the most people to solve the problem in the shortest time.
Recent successes have been made in this area by scientists and artists who have found the old capitalist approach of patent/copyright a barrier rather than a stimulant of progress in their field.
This means that people have, of their own volition, moved from a competitive model of research and development incentivised by profit, to a collaborative approach based on best results. This is something which should thrill the bejesus out of us, and I believe presents a reason to be cheerful.
Asking the Crowd Works
One story which may well blow your mind comes from a lab team at Harvard University. They decided that, rather than follow the normal development model for cancer drugs, they would open source it. This meant, rather than the normal pattern of super high secrecy to develop a drug in house, or attach its development to a large drug company – Jay Bradner and his team simply opened up their labs and their research to any individual lab or research team that wanted to participate. They then created their own spin out companies to roll out the drug into clinical trials and the project has been a massive success.
Now, if we can develop potential cancer cures by crowd sourcing, what else is available? Interestingly enough, the spin out company here Tensha, went through normal Series A funding (venture capital) but it could just as easily have been crowd funded. Imagine then that not only could we cut big money out of the development process, but we could cut them out of the business end aswell.
Perhaps the most lucid argument I have heard in favour of Crowd Funding was put forward by artist and musician Amanda Palmer. Amanda raised $1.2m for a musical project. She chose to crowd fund her musical career because she had got so much from the period of time when her musical career was funded by people throwing coins into her bucket while she busked.
To Amanda, the musician should be unafraid to ask what they are worth, rather than telling people what they are worth and enforcing that worth through copyright laws. She despairs that Hollywood copyright lobbies, the newspapers and other businesses are tying themselves in knots with the question: ‘How do we make people pay for our product?’
Amanda believes that producers should instead ask ‘How do we let people pay for our product?’ and a critical component of that is asking what the product is worth.
A Way Forward
I believe a basic principle is at play here – do we ask people to contribute or do we make them?
Now, imagine we could develop crowd sourcing and crowd funding to such a degree that the majority of us who do not support the current system could circumvent it? What if we achieved better results in science, education, music, campaigning and other things with this method than the state capitalist model? If we had this alternative, could we not simply turn off the tap diverting the efforts and talents of the majority into the bank accounts of the minority?
In recent months crowd funding has seen some huge successes. This year, $6bn will be raised through crowd funding, double last year’s total. Still small, but growing. Not only has a huge amount been raised but across a vast breadth of types of endeavour, and across the globe.
Notable projects include, the Do Good Bus where $100k was raised to a cause to increase volunteering by running monthly bus trips which take wannabe volunteers to different projects. They’ve made volunteering and community building sexy again, by wrapping the whole thing in a sense of adventure. You get on the bus, you don’t know where you will end up, who you will help, or how. The result is awareness raising, an ever growing network of engaged, enthused volunteers and a community getting to know itself.
The Rushmore Group run some of the most well known and well loved independent bars in London, including Milk and Honey,and Danger of Death. They recently broke the record for UK crowd funding when they raised £1m from 143 investors to open a new bar.
Individuals also attain funding or input for more personal reasons. When open source engineer and artist Salvatore Iaconesi was told he had an untreatable form of brain cancer, his response was to hack into his medical records and release them online inviting all comers to crowd source potential cures.
When Donnie Collins was told he could not receive funding by state or insurance company for the medical treatment necessary to complete his female to male gender transition in the US, his college fraternity set up a crowd funding page on IndieGoGo to raise the $8,000 required. Not only did they raise the $8k, but the total has exceeded $18k and the extra funds are being donated to the Jim Collins Foundation which provides financial support to people seeking gender reassignment surgeries.
What these latest innovations have shown is that where our current democracy of state and market fail, digital democracy can win by introducing infinitely more people with ideas to infinitely more people with the ability to fund them.
The Road Ahead – Democracy and Sharing
In crowd sourcing and funding combined, we democratise the act of giving, we level the investor playing field, and we create a worldwide platform for new ideas to be shared, funded and developed into reality. If we were to continue to grow this approach, delivering ever greater personal, community and global successes, we could succeed in doing the unthinkable: creating an alternative model that works.
With a new model tempting us all into it, not through rhetoric but through success in meeting our needs, we could simply say enough is enough and end our dependence on a system which disenfranchises and impoverishes so many.
More than that, we will have proved what many of us (but not enough) already know: that we are actually smart enough, kind enough and team spirited enough to run this show without them.
YOU CAN SUPPORT RIGHT NOW BY PARTICIPATING IN THE SCRIPTONITE DAILY CROWDFUNDING PROJECT!
One thing that isn’t working right now, is our media. A small group of committed journalists are being drowned out by a much larger pool of corporatised media which are failing to inform the public of the scale of assault taking place on their public services, welfare systems or environment. Citizen journalists can do so, unencumbered by fear of losing their job or reputation by taking the system on. But we need your help to remain independent. So, please help.
Feel free to comment here about how this might work, how it might not, how we would increase access to internet to ensure digital democracy was possible and so on..
Check it Out!
Go look at some crowd funding websites and see it in action. Here are a couple:
Got an idea, or a need that is being left unsolved by this system? Go set it up as a crowd sourcing/funding idea and test it out.