Funding 2.0 Edgecamp session: "Dear Funders" letter

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]

Dear Funders

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 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:

Moneyless funding

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)



This is astonishing work, Anthony. I need to chew upon it a bit, but it could be really important. It could even be the Edgeryders think tank pitching its next client for a task it cares about!

[Wow, this collective intelligence stuff is really getting out of hand. Now we have online communities with their own agenda. What next? Self-organized pedestrian patterns that send visual messages visible from space? :wink: ]

this is crazy, just been thinking of this all day *mindreading

Log in and see this!

My reflection on #actionables is a bit more raw:

To continue with #actionables, and as a step towards creating a real edgeryders cooworking space which we discussed on the 17th I would like to propose to:

Organise series of events focusing on local authorities mingling with local (and global)

change makers - coordinated by edgeryders.


- keep the edgeryders’ reputation as active community and expanding network drivers of tru Soc Inn.

- facilitate a dialogue between governments and citizens (thers never too much of it), which increases quality of local social innovation programs.


- Create a proposition document for local authorities (and funds) explaining: the aim, the possible programme and shortly describing the community and the first conference.

- Contacting local change makers&social innovators and teaming up with them.

- Infiltrating existing events on Social Innovation. Collaborating with them.

What is needed for a start:

-Single proposition document I’ve mentioned.

-Activating local networks and creating new ones in areas with one or more edgeryder.

-Get local projects and people on board and share networks with them.  There are quite a few amazing initiatives in my area, and people who would like to collaborate.

launching events, big or small, can be a good way of doing sniffing out on the future coworking space, and keep the edgeryders network fresh and active. Edgeryders community proved itself as rather policymakers-friendly during lote, and it can be very helpful in organizing a participatory event.


1. What do you think of all that? Need some feedback before I can do stuff.

2. Some of the Edgeryders stuff is CoE’s IP, other under CC, how will Coe will look upon the fact that the Edgeryders name is used for further events of the same kind? (we don’t need to use the content generated before and during lote)

Catching up…

Biting nails cause I haven’t been there and now some of us have to catch up. K, I understand this is about organizing local events and over time get to have physical coworking spaces? Love the idea of continuing with Edgeryders in the offline more, and start from small, very local stuff.  A few critical points IMO, not sure if they are relevant to you or maybe you’re already at the point when specifics are needed?

-community is still small and dispersed, so we’d need to make sure that there are consistent networks at local levels and key members who want to organize events and champion them under the community’s umbrella

-our  community is not a legal entity: in my country at least you cannot do anything slightly formal and partner with public institutions without papers and official contracts, and that’s a huge hassle.

-we need to find a balance between growing+ potentially risking dispersion and becoming solid. and I don’t know how much time we’ve got. Plus, once you are an organization and growing, you need to have certain procedures in place to make sure the left hand knows what the right hand is doing, and stick together…  otherwise you lose the genuine feeling that we have now about being a community

good point> not necessarily solid, but networky&legal will do.

Good point. Partnerships usually require a legal personality behind.

There are few options of approaching this in a different order, here’s one which I thought of, which does not require lots of resources for a start:

-Write down the mission statement for the legal entity we want to become, but before registering it with authorities:

-Start with informal networking.

Ask cool organizations we want to collaborate with if they would like to be a part of the unincorporated association or whatever, through which they can expand their networks and participate to the events.

-Only thing which is needed from them is to be doing stuff which fits into the Edgeryders framework; such as, saving or improving the world in some way.

-Then choose the way to register a legal entity, as, for example a professional association, or a club, to befriend the law guys. We not reinventing the structure here, just choosing a comprehensible way to present it to the authorities. We’ll look into that more closely.

-Get acquainted with a local lawyer or two.

THE IMPORTANT QUESTION which arises straight away: Which role does the CoE play in this initiative? Edgeryders is partly CoE’s intellectual property, and helped the community to start acquiring nice reputation.

Will be a good idea to announce an online meeting on #actionable, where we all can discuss the strategy: networking/infrastructuring - legal entity - events - co-working space.

-I spoke to a couple of initiatives in Malmo, and everyone is  interested in doing something together, so we need to figure out more concrete “something”.

Regarding the fact that there are many small initiatives and organizations acting locally,  a supranational network, through which they can exchange skills, information, and organize events will be helpful and welcomed.

Before the online meeting, everyone who is interested can write their ideas on this in short on the platform, and list important questions to ask.

just provide the/a communication platform

just like is doing for ose in each country (excuse paucity, running to do stuff)

thats important, but so are real live activities

Yeah, we need a comprehensive communication platform for this sort of stuff: one which new non-geeky people can easily join and start using straight away.

If you give them alink to the edgeryders as it is now, it might take them ages. It is not specified for the activies I’ve been talking about.

I’m better in RL communication though. Autorities also still get the idea of the offline event quicker.

I can do RL search&networking and get local projects on the platform, but not to design one.

Interesting questions

I think it’s interesting to look at legal or administrative hacks that would enable how we’d want to collaborate across initiatives. Rysiek mentioned how someone in Poland figured out that if you are in groups of smaller than 15 people clustered they could get around the restrictions on protests. In sweden, and maybe  Smari might know about this, someone registered a church of kopimi figuring out that the legal protection for the integrity of priest to congregation communication is higher than for that between individuals. Maybe ping him? he’s on the platform. I think there is a lawyer (former corporate) in the community too…Mark if I’m not mistaken. I think Eimhin might know him? We were in the same uncoference session about alternatives sources of funding that Anthony (@demsoc) set up.

With regards to the COE type legals I can check at our end what goes, to be honest I don’t think there is that much set in stone. And it could be a very interesting experiment to explore the above, a legal setup that enables a network to e.g. apply for funding, with some of the legal experts if we can find one who would be excited about this.  I’ll seed this and see what comes up :slight_smile:

When would you want to do an online meeting?

abt meeting&legal personality for edgeryders

Any time it is appropriate for thise who want to join!

This weekend in the afternoon?

Regarding a legal personality:

some countries are more friendly towards associations, so no special hacks needed.

There is after all countries where rights for association are respected.

Regarding COE: apart from legal decency and intellectual property, if we register an organisation, it would be good to stay in touch with COE and keep them up to date, so it diesnt look like we’re out of control :wink:

We’re nice sort of people: focused and responsible.

Discussion about a legal entity

I created a document about the issue of creating a organisation (legal entity) and how to organise it on co-ment.



I found out about co-ment from a tweet by an edgeryder at lote (I can’t remeber who, and can’t find the tweet now - but thanks)

Co-ment looks like a good tool for creating and discussiong documents-

  • 2 access levels commentor and editor
  • threaded comments on text
  • user controlled email notifications (why it asks for your email address - it is not displayed)
  • can view history/versions of the document
  • open source code

Getting out of hand

The next challenge could be “what are the next challenges”. But of course it’s already happening. So, no hurry, it’s only the end of the world as we knew it, and in some regards rightly so!

ca i have “like button” on the patform, please?

People vs. organizations

I don’t like “Fund networks, not people”, actually. At least one big funder, the EC has been funding networks since day one (the network of the Chambers of Commerce, the network of the ski instructor schools…).

I think this should be: fund (networked) people, not organizations. The rationale is this: social networks are made of people AND NOT of organizations. My year at the Council of Europe really drove the point home: if you call an organization on behalf of another, you are very likely to meet with lukewarm enthusiasm at best, entrenchment at worst. If you leverage your own network, the stuff starts to happen. You yourself, Anthony, met the Edgeryders project not because you are monitoring CoE, but because of people you monitor in your own network.

Funders like to fund organizations, because the administrative side is easier. But this is ineffective. They would do better to recognize leadership in people and fund that instead, treating organizations as vehicles that are only as good as the people who drive them.

Can we combine administrative4founders&human4effectiveness?

I’m not crazy about organizations and bureaucracy as it might seem, but, as we all know, legal entities have an advantage in the eyes of authorities.

Foundations work with legal personalities to reduce risks, and not only legal personalities, but those organizations and projects who has a serious reputation. The whole communication process, whether it is socent or not for profit, ends up a bit elitist, if you like, and resources hardly accessible for good but small scale initiatives.

Take for example Tor Project by the time it got funded by SIDA, it was was far from being a startup then. I’ve asked Joachim Beijmo from SIDA “What is the main reason for the project presented not to be funded by SIDA.” The answer was “The lack of structure”.

The ideal would be to find a balance between solid structure in the eyes of authorities and founders, and soft and flexible structure for people and projects involved. I think with the potential Egderyders community has, it is feasible.

There is a significant gap between resources, skills, people and ideas, even in countries where the initiatives to bridge the gap are taken on the governmental level. Increasing mobility, fossilised formal education and overall addiction to the economic growth: just to list a few reasons why more soft networks and networking events are needed.

Soft network enabling people to connect right skills and resources can be helpful.

SoCap DTF, that James mentioned, is a great initiative, I have enjoyed it there, but, I have to say, it is a bit costly to attend, unless you infiltrate as a volunteer.

The networking and partnership building for social innovation activities do exist, but

not yet covering the gaps sufficiently. Edgeryders community can conduct this kind of events in Europe with good results: not just the creativity boost and collective comforting, but real partnerships and projects put in work.

If anyone of edgeryders apart from me, finds that this idea is worth attention, I’ll describe it in detail: program, possible participants, funding, media coverage etc, in separate post, because I try to stick to the no scroll down rule here.

Know anyone who can attend this in london?

Might be of interest to you:

Too cheap to meter

Basically, it comes down to how much money you are allocating.

If you, as a funding agency, are giving out large grants with complex but solid accounting procedures, you will need a structured corporate to carry out the administration flawlessly.

If you are handing out small grants (25K €) to young people taking a year to get something off the ground, I think it is cheaper to just hand it out and monitor what they do. If they do their homework, they will grow their own structure. The Arts Council England is a very interesting example of this: their main funding instrument (at least up to 2010, when I last checked) is completely unstructured: they give you indication, but no fixed limits. They give out grants of 1K to 200K £, “but if your project needs more talk to us”. They expect you to get as much private funding as possible, “but if for some reason this does not work for your project talk to us” and so on. The preoccupation is clear: make sure that no good idea can be excluded from applying.

I have written a post about this stuff here (Italian).

People vs. organizations

Hi Alberto,

I see your point - often individuals and groups of people working independently of organisations can be highly effective. However, I would also suggest that the key is for funders to ensure that the intent of people is very closely aligned with the objectives of a particular intervention. It’s easier to define the intent and interests of an organisation than an individual - usually non-profit organisations have a written constitution, aims and objectives etc.

It seems to me that we’re running up against two ways of understanding how intervention approaches work:

(1) Get the model right - the people don’t matter so much.

This way of understanding presumes that interventions are an organisational matter.

(2) Get the people right - the model for the intervention doesn’t matter so much.

This way of understanding supposes that the right people, well intentioned and focussed, will do some good, with whatever specific intervention model is to hand.

I believe in neither of these narratives!

Here’s my sugestion:

(3) Get a “good enough” model (one that’s reasonably effective and flexible) and get “good enough” people. (I am an example of a “good enough” person - I’m not a great manager, nor am I the most knowledgable technical expert, but I have a wide range of awareness and knowhow, leadership skills, and ability to get the job done.) NOW MAKE SURE THAT THE INTERESTS AND IMPULSES OF THE PEOPLE DRIVING IT, AND THE INTERESTS AND INTENT OF THE INTERVENTION ARE VERY CLOSELY ALIGNED.

This alignment is crucial to success. Many, many projects crash because the people running them are “really quite interested” in their intent. That’s not good enough - projects need them to be totally dedicated to the project’s success. Funders can only acheieve this by understanding well how the particular project dovetails with people’s career plans, other interests and jobs, hobbies, family life and professional development.

I believe that this alignment is one of the things that has been crucial to Access Space. My portfolio career as a socially engaged artist, researcher and lecturer align very well with the best interests of Access Space. So I, personally, am absolutely determined that Access Space succeeds - not just for its own sake, but ALSO because it helps me progress my personal agendas.

I have seen many projects come to grief because the key people driving them have agendas other than the success of the project in play. Their interests gradually diverge from the interests of the project, and the whole thing starts to fall apart. (Were they really interested in regenerating this community? No - they were intersted in building a career in community regeneration!)

Hope this helps!


James here :wink:

Am I James? Not sure about that demsoc (Andrew?) but I know for sure that the lawyer Nadia is talking about, the ex-corporate, is Patrick, and yes he’s lovely and his heart is on point in the right place.

So if I am James, and either way (as Eimhin-ok I’ll stop this nonsense)

Here is a breakdown, first of the needs faced by investors and socent innovators as they have described, and then of the funding tool and a proposed plan for its deployment with links to some parties already moving in that direction.

This is going to be a little lengthy as I want to get all the info over to you that could help. While at SoCap I wrote a list of everything the funders and investors mentioned they needed, it is as follows:

-new forms of enterprise + their legal structures


-social investment funds

-a new political agenda

-cross sectoral pro-action

-public engagement

-new support structures

-simplification of collaboration

-new solutions to social challenges

-new markets

-biospheric identity integration

-creativisation of social enterprise

-more communication

-credit and value distribution systems

-defragmentation of efforts

-faster and more efficient action

This list comes from notes taken at talks from Unlimited, the socent investment intermediary, Bamboo Finance, the Aga Khan foundation, SoCap, Toniic (SF based angel investor network), Group SOS (France), The Hub network, various energy tech socents, Adelphi, LGT Venture Philanthropy, Voxtra, Corporate Finance, the Swedish International Developoment Cooperation Agency (SIDA), the Swedish Social Enterprise forum, Unitus and various individual speakers. It should be taken into account that there were simultaneous sessions and so this is by no means an exhaustive list, it does however shed light on the common feeling both in Europe and in America as to the nature of the situation.

There were also a number of important issues that seemed to pop up again and again, these included:

-experiencing inequality directly

-the direction and balance of capital

-the development of enabling and connective infrastructure

-trust, proof of impact/deliverance

-defining socents

-the dependence on short term political arrangements and holders of office

-the dependence on the financial markets and the problems faced by this

(socent and the like are hinged on trends in the financial markets, what effects the latter effects the former)

-state to socent investment where the state gets a return of the initial investment ( not just feasibility grants etc)

Reflection on this is well advised, is there a tide to lift all of these boats?

And now the funding tool.

I would suggest the development of a legal structure to base a funding tool by which shared value/practice communities and/or networks/networked representatives can draw funding down from investors. This will require a rethink in terms of ‘return’ , ‘concessionary returns’ , and ownership in general. The ideal would be user owned networks acting according to the economics of social business (Yunus) wherein individuals and groups can create social enterprises (for profit + social good) to service the network by proposing viable resources and services to their network via an ‘equity crowd funder’ (creating shareholdership of the Enterprise among the funders)

Info graphic explaining the potential equity crowd funding scenario:

In the ‘business as usual’ model investment always comes down from above and so we have seen the institutionalisation of the interest of capital holders. This model adds a bottom up aspect to the investment relationship. To explain we can take the example of Unlimited as layed out by Joan at the SoCap conference. Acting as an intermediary, Unlimited have a portfolio of angel investors who collectively identify the top 25 social entrepreneurs in England annually, they add force to the talents of these people by publicly identifying them as high potential actors and guarantee any investment made in their enterprises with a promise of equal investment, a one from you, one from me arrangement. This does two things, it legitimises the social entrepreneur, and it amounts to shared risk among the investors.

Now think again on the equity-crowdfunding potential counterpart to this model. If investors are trying on the one hand to reduce, and on the other, to share risk, then it follows that through identification of the market, before the fact, as well as partnership of public/crowd funding and private investment, the ‘risk’ is shattered and the investment is shared. Through the equity, and thus shared ownership of the developing enterprises, there is a building of trust between the private and the public involved as there is a shared ownership in which the worker-owners are no longer working solely for the profit of external investors,but are working also for themselves and for their community/network. This is a hybrid model, the necessary step between straight capitalism according to self interest and capitalism according to shared inter-esse, it is neither one or the other (granted - capitalism has no foothold in the latter).

I have thought a lot about how this tool might be of use and it would appear that it requires some kind of network aggregation tool that makes it easy for people to identify others sharing their values, practices and proffessional and social modes. A network aggregator can be built rather easily’ and in such a way as to lead people to find one another and group according to location, practice, fields of interest and study, passion, inspiration and so on; but this is no good without an adequate method of tipping the platform on a global scale. This is where the ‘cultural sector’ come in. We all like culture, we enjoy languages and art and spirituality of some kind (even defending its non-existence is a kind of spirituality;) or of many kinds, and so if looking to reach the broadest audience we need a diverse approach through many channels. We know the worlds or our immediate involvement, and still we are trying to create something that is inclusive, it’s not enough only to work with policy makers, precariats, entrepreneurs, or any other group.

Over the last years I have been looking into ‘supra-cultures’ and their ecologies, mostly for fun. There are dancers, African and jazz, contemporary and hip hop, there are all of the halls of academia, there are the per formative arts, the physico-spiritual arts, spiritual communities, energy tech workers, tech wizards, designers and programmers, visual artists and filmmakers, musicians of so many varieties acoustic and electronic…the list goes on. All of these practices have in common that they are not locationally specific, and are in the general sense, transnational communities of practice, or they would be if they were sufficiently connected.

I reckon these groups are the ones to leverage, and what is very interesting is that often the members most influential and able in these respective communities are cross-pollinating with other cultural groups by virtue of the surge of collaboration we have seen in the past ten years. If this activity and these groups can be rallied, connected, and accommodated, then there is potential for global impact in a short(ish) time frame.

If any of you want to chat about this further please comment or email me on

That’s it for now, Demsoc, please feel free to take what’s written here and make it more digestible, I realise I can make things more complex than they need to be at times, as ever, I’m working on it.

Holistic Approaches

I suggest that it’s key is to get funders thinking about and valuing, holistic approaches that achieve many objectives through their actions. At the moment “cross-cutting themes” are seen as “icing on the cake” for projects which are otherwise highly siloed.

Support Holistic Approaches

Many of your current funding streams are highly focussed. Focussed is good, right? Not necessarily. Mandating particular priorities for funding streams may marginalise many highly effective, small-scale community development approaches, which have positive impacts across priorities.

Successful community based initiatives can increase health and wellbeing; build skills and employability; incubate micro-enterprises, create jobs and regenerate the local economy; include and support people with disabilities or health issues; reduce carbon impacts; bring together people from diverse ethnic backgrounds and different generations; reduce crime; bring into use redundant offices, industrial spaces, tools and equipment; increase community identity and cohesion.

Mandating particular outputs presumes that you know the situation on the ground in each locality. You don’t. Community organisations often do. Find ways to receive as well as produce information, and remember, best practice in one community may not be applicable to another - the details matter.


Mandating particular outputs presumes that you know the situation on the ground in each locality. You don’t.

Very true. We go back to online social networks being very good at processing and organizing information. They are just way more parallel than large organizations.