An Enlightened Look at Crowdfunding and CrowdFunding Planning NewPort Beach

posted Feb 12, 2013, 9:02 AM by David Khorram


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Entertainment is a great mirror for capturing the cultural mood. I can think of several current television shows that reflect our anxieties about the future and our lack of trust for formerly sacrosanct institutions.

My current favorite is season two of ” Enlightened,” the HBO series created by the weird and wonderful Mike White. It stars Laura Dern as Amy Jellicoe, a deeply flawed but well-meaning corporate drone who, after a professional meltdown, has seen the light—sort of.



In many ways Amy symbolizes our collective insecurities albeit writ large. She wants to be an agent for change! A superhero in a shiny cape who is willing to face off with her soulless employer for the collective good.

No spoilers here. Let’s just say while Amy’s heart is in the right place, judging from Episode 4, in which she has been introduced to the power of Twitter, things may not go well for her.


Insecurity, however, also creates space for innovation, and fortunately there are now other ways to put people over profits using social media. It wouldn’t make for good TV, but the next time you have a case of “cape fever,” here are some new and effective ways people are using the power of crowdfunding to make the world a nicer place.


CO-OPS is a global group based in Canada that aspires to involve the masses in creating solutions to society’s community problems through one-member/one-vote co-ops.

Founder Roii Patterson wants to get people thinking about what co-ops they’d like to establish locally—he believes just about any idea is ripe for a co-op—and then use crowdfunding to bring them into the world. The group created an Indiegogo campaign, the model of which rewards entrepreneurs who start sustainable co-ops by allocating a percentage of profits to them. Their initiative then makes it easier for other to replicate the model elsewhere.

Rewards include co-op brainstorming sessions, assistance in business-plan creation and funding strategies. If you’ve got an idea for a co-op they’ve got your back.

Citizen Science!

Public funding has dried up like a Christmas poinsettia. It’s now commonplace for artists to turn to crowdfunding to fill in the gap. Last year, in fact, Kickstarter accounted for more funding to artists than the National Endowment for the Arts.

Now the scientists have caught the fever. In an effort to understand the microbes that inhabit our bodies, two Indiegogo campaigns running simultaneously (one is still active) are using the crowdfunding model combined with open-access data analysis to allow individuals to participate in unlocking the secrets to how diet and lifestyle decisions can dramatically affect health. Not only will the results improve our health, but without all those tedious grants to write, not to mention the time it takes to get the funding, progress will happen much faster.

American Gut calls itself “the world’s largest open-source, community-driven effort to characterize the microbial diversity of the Global Gut.” Though the campaign is over, having raised $339,780, you can still be a part of phase one (as of this writing) if you contact them soon.

Ubiome is an international effort available to 196 countries. With several days to go it’s more than doubled it goal by raising $267,545.

For both the process is the same as any DNA sampling. You purchase a kit, swab the body part, and mail it back to them for analysis. In return you get detailed information about your bacteria and what it says about you. Though both projects are mainly interested in your gut, perk levels also include kits for the mouth, skin, nose and even genitals.

It’s important to note that the rest of the scientific community will have to catch up before individuals can truly make use of this technology. But by participating now you are a pioneer and first on your block to learn what your gut is trying to tell you.

 Free the Books!

The list of traditionally published books that are no longer available to the public is long. These works are by law in a state of limbo—they are “stuck.” invites you to imagine a world in which any book ever written can be made available to be read by device, format or ebook of your choice. Legally. works with book rights holders. Together they determine a fair price to set the book free under Creative Commons licensing. A crowdfunding campaign is then started and you can pledge money to help raise the decided sum. When the goal is reached, the owner is paid and a digital version is created, for the device of your choice, worldwide. And you can legally copy it to share it with friends. Books rights holders can also initiate campaigns. Owners are also allowed to enter into other licensing agreements, including film rights. Win-win!

 Public Works!

Based in London Spacehive funds the capital costs of building public projects. Anything in the public space can be crowdfunded—sports facilities, green spaces, playgrounds. The appeal is that it invites the communities who best know and care about their needs to put forward project ideas. While it doesn’t eliminate the need for planning permission, according to their site it offers a streamlined approach that “put communities in the driver’s seat.”

Here in the U.S. a bill has been proposed by the lower chamber of the state of Hawaii to create a state crowdfunding website, which “allows members of the public to donate their own money toward the funding of specifc public capital improvement projects and monitor the progress of those projects as they near completion.”

Notably or not, the sponsors are all Republicans.

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