Crowdfunding is a fascinating financial innovation through which individuals or groups can use an online platform to raise funds from a diverse range of supporters. It comes in a wide range of types, and increasingly platforms are specialised for hosting particular kinds of projects, distinguishing start-ups from community or charitable causes. In the USA there is now even a specialist platform for raising funds for research projects.
I’m interested in crowdfunding as a social innovation, based on some work I did for my masters project 10 years ago. When interviewing self-employed entrepreneurs, the contributors to that project all agreed that they hadn’t become entrepreneurs for the earning potential, or even for better work-life balance. Instead they talked about how being an entrepreneur felt; the self-satisfaction of their achievements, being part of a local business community, and being respected by others, feelings they had found absent from waged employment. Independence was key to these individuals, but they also admitted a need for a community of support. These factors (and others) closely matched research on the search for dignity and meaning in work, often hindered by ‘management’ practices or individuals in conventional wage relations.
With the advent of crowdfunding, I began to wonder if the mechanics of the financial innovation could also support this search for dignity. Meaningful work is not only to be found in employment, but also in voluntary work, and either type of project can build a community of supporters through a crowdfunding platform. One successful project near me has been the transformation of Star and Shadow, a project to develop a cinema and community space which relies on crowd sourced funds and work. Individual photography projects and innovative technological start ups successfully obtaining crowdfunding also seem to follow the same path to build a community for whom the project is meaningful – and often as more than an investment.
I, too, am using crowdfunding. As an attempt to fund further research into this phenomenon. Because if crowdfunding is a route to dignity and meaningful work, that’s a message which needs to spread. If you are interested in following or donating to the project you can find it on Kickstarter here.