This is the output of the Edgecamp session on Funding. I’ve formatted it as a letter to funders from our community.
Please feel free to make suggestions and add ideas, one paragraph only per idea please, about possible funding/support mechanisms that you would like to share with funders (any funders, charities, governments or companies) - then add your name at the bottom. Remember it’s a real letter, and a real invitation to a discussion, so please phrase your contributions in that context.d
If you’d rather edit the live version, it’s an open Googledoc available here.
I’ll tidy it up in a few days, and anyone who wants to can blog about it. Thanks for all the ideas in the session, and apologies for any omissions or misrepresentations. - Anthony]
It’s just not working out.
The way that you provide support for innovation isn’t working for you, or for us. We don’t like the bureaucratic processes, high organisational requirements and over-specified funding calls - and we are sure that you don’t like administering them either. The financial and social crisis is making reform and agile innovation even more important, but processes are still slow.
We’d like to find a better way to get support and resources to innovators who can make change happen, a way that’s less bureaucratic but weeds out bad ideas by letting them fail quickly and cheaply.
We know it’s a bit self-interested, because most of the people who signed this letter are innovators themselves - we’re writing it at the Edgecamp/Edgeryders unconference in Strasbourg#. But we think it’s in your interests too, because you have complex social goals you want to meet, but you aren’t working in ways that create complex solutions.
So, we want to have a proper conversation with you about resourcing innovation differently, but here are some ideas to start with:
Resource networks, not people
None of the social problems that we face can be solved by single solutions, so we should start to focus on building up networks of ideas and initiatives (old and new). The sorts of successful innovation network we should emulate include: [ideas welcome here].
Look for ideas that have already got community support
We think crowdfunding has potential to be expanded. Crowdfunding demonstrates that an idea has community support before it even starts. We could work on a matched crowdfunding platform for innovation. Like the Unlimited programme in the UK, innovators could propose an idea and get pledges of cash or in-kind support from the community that it’s intended to benefit, and then those contributions could be matched or increased by your resources.
Give people time to think, not money to spend
Lots of innovators have to take temporary work to fund their lives while they develop their ideas, but finding temporary work is time-consuming. Rather than providing cash for spending, funders could support people’s living expenses for a certain period of time - like a bursary or a sabbatical from a university. This is already happening with one project in Strasbourg [detail?], and is also the logic behind the successful Ashoka.org programmes on “social entrepreneurship”.
Tell us what you need, and support us as you see solutions evolve
Challenge-driven funding models can encourage the creation of solutions that actually work. Small grants could be given to a number of applicants to enable them to develop advanced prototypes, and following waves of funding would only be available for the most promising ones. This kind of ‘create-then-fund’ mechanism makes money follow results, not the opposite, crowding away the ‘experts in proposal-writing’ and attracting the innovative ‘doers’.
Support places where innovation and connection can happen
We’d like to see funding for a network of simple, cheap spaces where innovation can happen, and then we’ll put regular meetups and events in them. We don’t mean shiny well-staffed co-working spaces, just a simple space with good wifi that can be used for regular events. Kultwerk West in Hamburg is a good example of the space we mean, and Third Thursday in Brighton the sort of event. If there were a Kultwerk in every big city, we’d know where to make connections into local innovators
We’re also working on some things that we can do for ourselves, such as:
We don’t (always) want your money. We’re looking for ways to match resources across different ideas and projects, and bring in-kind support from communities that benefit from our innovations. Examples of work in this area are: [examples welcome]
Interoperability for innovation
[Nadia, this was a point from you - could you expand?]
Equity crowd funding
[James, this was a point from you - could you expand? And is this properly in the “we can do it for ourselves” section or should be in the top section?]
We think you will want to have a conversation about resourcing differently as well. We’re ready, online and in person, when you are.
We hope to hear from you soon.
The Edgeryders and Edgecampers
Anthony Zacharzewski - The Democratic Society (UK)
Pedro Prieto-Martín - Asociación Ciudades Kyosei (ES)
[YOUR NAME HERE!]