I’ve often wondered if Oxfam or other large INGOs could include the option of sponsoring an activist , either as something to accompany the goats,  toilets, chickens etc that people now routinely buy each other for Christmas, or instead of sponsoring a child. I had vague ideas about people signing up to sponsor an activist in Egypt or South Africa, and in return getting regular tweets or Facebook updates. Alas, I’ve never managed to persuade our fundraisers to give it a go.
Now it’s come a bit closer to home. My son, who is a community organizer for the wonderful London Citizens , is currently looking to raise funds to work with a bunch of institutions in Peckham, South London. I couldn’t help him much as I’m rubbish at fundraising, (sure I’m a huge disappointment to him) but it did start me wondering whether there is an activist equivalent to the kind of crowdsourcing sites that are all the rage for small businesses (Kiva , Kickstarter  etc). So, inspired by the feedback to my Monty Python bleg , I tweeted a request for sites.
What emerged was a (for me) previously invisible ecosystem of crowdfunding options for radicals. Here’s the list of the links people sent it:
- edgefund.org.uk  ‘Edge Fund is a grant-making body with a difference. We support efforts to achieve social, economic and environmental justice and to end imbalances in wealth and power – and give those we aim to help a say in where the money goes.’ [via @ LABatSMK]
- startsomegood.com  mainly for US activists seeking funding, but others from Australia and UK [via @ hackofalltrades]
- changemakers.com  has more of a focus on innovation than activism, and has a global reach [via @ roscaf]
- youcaring.com  mostly for paying medical expenses in the US [ via @ YALoved]
- thesparkproject.com  nice example from the Philippines for funding social projects [via @ papalphacharlie]
- In Germany activists use adoptrevolution.org  to support activists in Syria, as well as the much larger (and global) betterplace.org  platform [via @joanabp]
It’s still pretty small (do add to the list), but showing signs of growing. And activist crowdfunding is itself a subset of a wider movement of so-called ‘disintermediation’, people sending money directly to where they want it to go, rather than through intermediaries. That has spread not just to business investments but also direct giving to poor people (see my earlier post on GiveDirectly ) and some suggestions for similar exercises to Alaska’s  scheme of transferring oil royalties direct to citizens’ bank accounts..