Crowdfunding the little person

Three years ago, I was attending an educational programme through Action Aid in Kenya. I was learning and engaging in the diffuse practice of global citizenship with other Danish students and students from Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and South Africa. One of my Kenyan friends from the course was eager to come to Action Aid in Denmark to pursue his dream of creating awareness of young Kenyans’ conditions. But this was not financially possible for him. Together, we created a funding page to crowdfund his plane ticket and Action Aid education programme in Denmark. We all shared the page with friends and family, and we managed to raise enough money for him to make his dream a reality – and maybe later on, to create awareness in Denmark about young Kenyans’ conditions.

Embedded tweet by Anne Bro, May 2017

Earlier this week, I tweeted some crowdfunding pages to inspire and discuss the concept. The spread of digital media offers countless of opportunities for new structures to be formed. Structures that can either be beneficial or hazardous for society – or both. Crowdfunding is one of the recent structures that digital media is facilitating. My personal experience with crowdfunding is surely helping on a micro level, and this is firstly what crowdfunding is about. And secondly, it is about the ability to change soci-economic structures on a macro level. It is about providing opportunities for the little person, which later structurally might privilege the little person in society.

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Together by JD Hancock (CC BY 2.0)

The researchers Patryk Galuszka and the Victor Bystrov explain crowdfunding:

Crowdfunding is an online collective action initiated by people or institutions to gather funds from a large number of contributors, usually using mediation of crowdfunding platforms to facilitate contact and flow of resources between parties (Galuszka & Bystrov 2014).

Galuszka and Bystrov explain the core idea of crowdfunding as an online collective action. The collectiveness within crowdfunding is interesting because it offers an alternative way of considering the hierarchical market structures when starting a new business. If considering this aspect of crowdfunding, then democratic and collective constructions are valued rather than neoliberal flows. Crowdfunding puts forward a new business strategy (Galuszka & Bystrov 2014) that calls out some of the traditional strategies. The accessibility that digital media provides, is mirrored in the process of crowdfunding.

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Edited photography by Anne Bro, May 2017

The concept of crowdfunding does not come without limitations. The accessibility that digital media offers results in an enormous amount of business ideas. How do you stand out in a cyberspace of great ideas? And how do you choose which great idea to support? Furthermore, some crowdfund pages do not have regulations to ensure that the businesses in fact are using their money on the stated ideas.

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Risk Key by Jake Rustenhoven (CC BY 2.0)

Even though crowdfunding has elements of risks for both the business and the crowd, the idea that the little person has voice and agency to start a business is hard not to glorify. Not only for the little person, who is less depended on his or her social capital, but also for the society that can make use of several aspects of its potential.

References

Caldwell, K 2013, ’Which are the best ‘crowdfunding’ websites?’, The Telegraph, 11 November, retrieved 18 May 2017, <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/personalfinance/investing/10435276/Which-are-the-best-crowdfunding-websites.html>.

Galuszka, P and Bystrov, V 2014, ‘The rise of fanvestors: a study of a crowdfunding community’, First Monday: Peer-Reviewed Journal on the Internet, vol. 19, no. 5, retrieved 18 May 2017, <http://firstmonday.org/article/view/4117/4072>.

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