Crowdfunding: A new instrument to bring cultural and development projects to life
More than two billion people worldwide currently use the internet – and not just as passive consumers. The term 'crowdsourcing' refers to users actively working toward economic or social goals at special websites. Whether as testers, activists or donors as in 'crowdfunding', the internet community becomes active and contributes to the design of products and projects even outside of virtual space.
In 2012, 2.4 billion people (approx. 30% of the world's population) were using the internet – and the number is increasing. This 'crowd' is increasingly being activated in the internet for business, cultural, charitable or public-benefit purposes. The key words are crowdsourcing, crowdfunding and crowdtesting.
The term 'crowdsourcing' covers all of these new instruments. It refers to outsourcing work processes to a large group of volunteer users, the 'crowd'. This usually refers to business processes that are intended to benefit an enterprise such as usability tests or quality assurance.
Every contribution counts: crowdfunding in culture and development
One form of crowdsourcing that has proven to be of particular value for cultural or development cooperation projects is crowdfunding. Crowdfunding is financing a project with the help of many supporters found on the internet, and it has been growing in popularity among users since the year 2006. Projects are introduced on one of the many crowdfunding websites and internet users are free to decide which projects they want to support with what amount of money. Some organisations offer their donors small incentives such as free samples of their products or special conditions at events. There are websites that are dedicated primarily to financing the arts and culture such as kickstarter.com or sellaband.com. Other crowdfunding websites, such as 2aid.org, support primarily or only development cooperation projects.
Skateboard and documentary – only two among thousands of examples of crowdfunding
Germany's largest online donation website is betterplace.org. Charitable or public-benefit projects that need financial support are introduced on this website. Internet users who wish to donate money or time can find the right opportunities here. One quite well-known example in Germany is the non-profit organisation Skateistan that has established skateboard schools for young people in Kabul and Phnom Penh. It works with boys and girls (which is not self-evident, especially in Afghanistan) who come from all people groups and also with young people with disabilities. Eighty Skateistan projects have been completely financed using crowdfunding on betterplace.org.
The crowdfunding website indiegogo.com is divided into two areas: 'creative' and 'charitable', but sometimes the areas overlap. In mid 2013, the project 'Rooting for Roona', an Indian documentary about a small girl with hydrocephalus was financed. This project received the highest amount of financing (US$ 32,000) ever achieved for a documentary from India using the instrument of crowdfunding.
Opportunities and risks of crowdfunding
As with all services offered on the internet, every user should be aware of the pitfalls and risks involved in crowdfunding. Who is behind the call for donations? How transparently are the funds used? How useful is this initiative really? On the other hand, crowdfunding can provide artists, projects and initiatives with access to advertising and funds of which they may not otherwise have heard. So it is a real opportunity for everyone involved.
In Alumniportal's community, questions regarding the focus topic 'Digital Society' are discussed. Crowdsourcing and crowdfunding are interesting topics about which our members most certainly have something to say. Have you had experience with crowdsourcing? Have you made a donation on a crowdfunding website or even placed a project there yourself? Are these instruments really a good solution for financing needs in culture and society?