So I went to an event last night organised by The Young Foundation Accelerator Programme partly because it was in Camden, and partly because it was a live crowdfunding event for six emerging social enterprises. This was of resilience interest to me on two counts:
- I’m a great believer in crowdfunding as an example of resilience in action as it is basically networking resources;
- The projects themselves had a strong theme of networking and relationship building running through each of them.
I’m not going to comment on the projects, largely because I need to do more research on them before providing a more coherent opinion (see bottom of post for links to all of them), but I did come away with some observations about the event.
It really struck me how disengaged the audience was from the “giving” process. The event was trumpeted as a “People’s Panel”, a dragon’s den but for the masses where instead of huge sums of money being put forward by champagne socialists, an army of citizens could could provide smaller contributions and get behind worthy social causes. If I’m honest, I think the evening suffered from misunderstanding how crowds work. I’ve seen a few people try and use this formula in the past – put a load of socially minded people in a room, give them wine, gee them up via the medium of mid-level hipster and then sit back and wait for the magic to happen.
Unfortunately, I think this really misses the point of how crowds work, and rather perversely fails to learn from the very projects the event was trying to support. Openly pledging support in a room full of strangers is a hugely isolating and vulnerable position to put oneself in. Am I backing the right project? Am I giving the right amount? Am I going to be the only one? It isn’t just “vulnerable” people who need networks of support – we all do if we are placed in a position of vulnerability. Did people leave nearer the end because they were tired/bored, or because they felt alone in a crowd? Difficult to say but I have a funny feeling it might be the latter.
So big shot, what would you do differently? Two things spring to mind. First, be much more selective with the invite, specifically inviting a large community of people who already know each other and would be more likely to discuss between themselves what they like, chivvy each other to pledge, and micro-mobilise very quickly. Second, if you can’t get a crowd that already knows each other, work much harder at matchmaking the crowd before the pitches. Maybe clump together different sectors or neighbourhoods or interests. Create as many mini-crowds in your audience as possible. Think about seating arrangements to encourage this.
Who knows? Maybe this wouldn’t work. Maybe it is solely dependent on the quality of project and pitch. But with more events in the pipeline I’d be really keen to see the Accelerator get creative with the potential pledgers more than the potential pitchers.
Speaking of which, here are the groups who presented. Check them out. Make up your own mind, and if one of them speaks to you on a personal level, have a think about how you could help