For many, crowdfunding is old hat. It’s been around for 20 years in its modern form although I’ve found examples from the 1850s and even a reference to the base of the Statue of Liberty being funded through crowdfunding.

We already have some examples of crowdfunding at YSJ. The SU is raising funds for cheerleaders and for rugby kit (and charitable giving related to the rugby). However, I was interested to see what we are doing as a university. My interest was sparked by a specific query from Helen Attwood, one of the recipients of the Social Enterprise Grants who is seeking further funding for her autism ‘toolkit’ (an innovative web-based approach to the issues that autistic job applicants face from the point of view of both students and employers). Our University Fundraising Committee are following up on this query but I was interested to see what other universities are doing.

I looked at a dozen universities and unearthed some interesting approaches that are worth looking at. York University has the most sophisticated with its own platform . Essex University is also very good. Goldsmiths do a practical course on crowdfunding and all other universities have some reference to crowdfunding whether generated by the universities or the providers.

My research led me to some useful TED talks. If you have time, John Tregonis is good value particularly the last few minutes. He moves on from his original mantra of ‘pitch, perks and promotion’ to what he calls ‘3 ‘I’s’: invitation, incentives and interaction. He rejects what he sees as the growing impersonality of the former and the strength of the latter.  Salford University hosted the following talk by Kate Russell on the creative industries which is where it all began. Perhaps the most interesting talk was that of Simon Dixon, a reformed banker (my term not his) who, in his talk about ‘Crowd funding: economics for the greater good’, gives an interesting commentary on the workings of the banking industry. His talk echoes others that I have heard about the problems with banking and the dominance of the banking sector. If you are interested, follow Richard Werner who is the real deal in terms of economics scholarship and the boom bust impact of banks. His persuasive argument is that ‘banks do not lend money but instead newly create credit and money’.

Essentially, crowdfunding is mainstream and is constantly being developed. A glance at any of the main providers such as, suggests that this might well be an important tool for us to use and a staple fuel for innovation.

Dr Mike Calvert 11 Feb 2017

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