Three months ago, I watched the inspiring documentary ‘Capital C‘, which followed a handful of projects, large and small, through their crowdfunding journey, and shared it with CommonsTransition’s open discussion group on Loomio.org. One of the responses I got was from Bob Haugen, who said:

>> My problem with both crowdfunding and grant-seeking is that they become arenas for competition between projects, when I think we need to be collaborating and connecting and creating something bigger together. <<

The first thing I want to say about this is that what I find exciting about crowdfunding is *not* that it offers an alternative to traditional ways of doing charitable fundraising like bucket collections (although it does), but that it offers an alternative to traditional ways of doing *investment*. This is a point a lot of people seem to miss, as you can see in the responses when I republished ‘Crowdsourcing vs. Outsourcing: Who Benefits?’ on theDailyBlog.

I agree with Bob about the problems with grant-seeking, although as I said when I replied to him on Loomio, I think this has a lot to do with the behind-closed-doors ways funding decisions are made. I really don’t agree that it’s a problem with crowdfunding though, for two reasons.

Firstly, the money available for giving out grants is a finite pool to be fought over, and it can be suddenly shrunk by government cost-cutting turning the whole exercise into a zero-sum game of musical chairs. With crowdfunding, how much money a project group can raise depends on how well they can communicate the importance or usefulness of their project, and how much they can inspire people to contribute. Obviously it helps, especially with high targets, if they can also inspire them to encourage the people in their social networks to do the same, and to pass on the call to their networks, and so on.

Secondly, crowdfunding promotes collaboration more than competition because of the very public, transparent way the process works. If someone launches a crowdfunding campaign to reinvent the wheel, someone will inevitably point out - maybe even as a comment on the campaign’s page - that the wheel already exists. Either the group convinces enough people their wheel would be suitably new and different and they get funded, or they don’t. If there are a number of groups crowdfunding for essentially the same thing, chances are only one will get funded, and the other groups can either pool their efforts with the group that got funded, or move on to a different project. If more than one gets funded, no doubt they will hear about each other, maybe even make contact, and make sure the way they develop their project has points of difference.

Whatever happens, because the groups have crowdfunded, there is a much greater chance they will get to know about each other, which opens up new possibilities for working together. This is especially so if the people who give to crowdfunding campaigns give priority to projects who release their work under libre licenses. So it’s important for people who support commons-based peer production to support crowdfunding platforms like Goteo, which only host campaigns for groups who intend to share the fruits of their project under libre licenses.

Filed January 18th, 2016 under Makers, documentary

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