Tag Archives: crowdsourcing

Crowdsourcing versus Philanthropy

nextgov-medium New Orleans      In the United States, this is supposedly the season for giving.  Traditionally that has meant that retail establishments go wild trying to seduce all of us into local stores, big malls, mail order deliveries, and, increasingly, online shopping.  On the hope for a generosity “rub off,” the season has also become the time when direct mail appeals outnumber holiday greeting cards for many of us, and, as work slows down and people take vacations for the holidays, our email in-boxes are more stuffed with appeals for support than our stockings ever were.   Many of us do what we can, both every day, when we “give at the office” so to speak through our daily labor, and in trying to throw a few dollars here and there to groups we keep on our personal lists.

            In the spirit of the season, The New York Times ran an op-ed from Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation.  Despite all reports and evidence to the contrary that most of philanthropy has become extremely directed and transactional, Walker went old school, and spoke to the better side of philanthropy’s nature, saying:

We, as foundations and individuals, should fund people, their ideas and organizations that are capable of addressing deep-rooted injustice. We should ensure that the voices of those most affected by injustice — women, racial minorities, the poor, religious and ethnic minorities and L.G.B.T. individuals — help decide where and what philanthropy puts money behind, not in simply receiving whatever philanthropy decides to give them.  

Honestly, I’m not sure how many foundations and philanthropists still walk that walk, including the Ford Foundation, but at least Walker has not forgotten how to talk the right talk, and that’s something to be thankful for anyway!

            Besides the rich and their institutions become increasingly transactional, I also have the feeling that neoliberalism of a sort has also infected “giving” with the explosion of “crowdsourcing.”  Not able to depend on philanthropy or the rich and pretend any longer that they will carry the weight their tax exemptions allow them or that banks make smaller loans anymore, crowdsourcing is essentially a transfer of many funding prospects to friends, family, and fellow travelers, much like our social services safety net as well.  The Wall Street Journal recently trumpeted the fact that the microfinancing and lending service, Kiva, in trying to develop a more effective business model in the USA, has added a crowdsourcing requirement so that prospective borrowers would prove they have “skin in the game” before getting a loan.  They also claim that with friends and family on the hook, the payment rate is 92%.

            This may be the giving season, and as Ford’s Walker says, we need to “fund people, ideas and organizations,” but with the infection of neoliberalism in all facets of modern life and social fabric, part of the message continues to be that it’s not about justice, as Walker argues, but too much about “just us.”

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Citizen Wealth, the Movie

Little Rock   We’ve talked about “crowd sourcing” as a method of using the power of many to come together collectively to make something happen.  Most recently I’ve written about trying a “citizen journalism” project at KABF to put audio-files on-the-air of what people in the listening area believe is community news.  Earlier, I’ve written about Ushahidi in Nariobi which developed a tool using SMS text messages to track post-election violence in Kenya.   The same system has also been used to spread information after disasters like the recent earthquake in Japan.

The notion of “crowd sourcing” is also behind Kickstarter.  Someone proposes a project and people who believe the project is a good idea independently come together to support it with a pledge of donations from as low as $5 to as high as whatever it might be, in the case of Citizen Wealth, the Movie, $10,000.  The trick behind Kickstarter is that unless the stated goal of the project is reached, no one has to pony up their pledge, but if the goal is met, then everyone pitches in, which brings me to the point today.

Over recent years four or five different sets of folks have approached me about their interest in doing a documentary film on ACORN from one angle or another.  It’s hard to make a documentary.  It takes time, skill, money, and great good luck, so I say “yes” to one and all and help in whatever way I am asked in hope that one of them (or more!) will actually succeed.  Two of these efforts led by Nick Taylor from Toronto and Joey Carey from Brooklyn have combined forces over the last year to try, after four years of working independently, to get a film done.  They optioned my book, Citizen Wealth:  Winning the Campaign for Working Families, they managed to get access to all of the video archives on ACORN at the Wisconsin Historical Society and get everything digitized, they’ve raised some money, done a trailer, and it looks like they have a good chance of getting it done.

They are trying to raise $30,000 through Kickstarter.  So far, so good, more than 140 folks have contributed almost $19,000 with 10 days to go to make up the last $11,000 which might be the hardest part of the climb.  Look at the trailer below.  Frankly, I was excited about some of the archival footage and how they have woven the pieces together.  I would love to see them make it, but I’m not sure they can do so without some of you becoming part of their crowd and clicking through the links to pledge whatever you can, $5, $50, of $500.  Give ‘em a shot, so the story can be told. Link to Citizen Wealth, the Movie donation page. 

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