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Research by the UOC opens the way to studying crowdfunding as a powerhouse of social change

  Photo: Unsplash/Perry Grone

Photo: Unsplash/Perry Grone

28/05/2020
Elsa Velasco
Data from campaigns by the Goteo platform help understand how these public participation tools promote the Sustainable Development Goals

In recent years, crowdfunding has extended beyond the arts, where it had its beginnings, and has evolved into a kick-starter for all types of projects with a social impact. One example of this is the range of solidarity campaigns springing up to combat the COVID-19 crisis on platforms such as Goteo. Because of its participative nature, studying crowdfunding could serve to explore society's interests and support dynamics. Likewise, it could help to reveal the role it plays within the framework of sustainable development and the solidarity economy.

In light of this, work by the Dimmons research group at the UOC has laid the foundations for studying the phenomenon of civic crowdfunding with scientific rigour. Published in open access in the Nature group's journal Scientific Data, it is the largest collation of data from campaigns of this type and is available to other researchers wishing to study them in greater depth.

For their research, the authors retrieved data from 487 campaigns on Goteo, a crowdfunding platform focused on social projects and one of the few in open code. In addition, to check the social impact of the projects, the researchers analysed how far they were in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals for 2030. "Whereas in public funding, these goals have become a benchmark, there wasn't much information about how crowdfunding and civil and social initiatives matched up with the Sustainable Development Goals," explained Enric Senabre, co-author of the study and collaborator with the Dimmons group, led by Mayo Fuster.

Among other issues, the data reveal that of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, some received more support than others in the period studied, covering over three years. For example, the initiatives related to sustainability and education account for more Goteo campaigns and more donations than projects in the areas of industry, innovation and economic growth.

 

Crowdfunding and matchfunding

Parallel to this, the researchers also studied the effectiveness of another type of collective funding, known as matchfunding. In this type of campaign, for every euro given by individual donors, an institution or organization pledges to give an equal donation, so doubling the amount collected. Senabre said: "This is an innovative form of crowdfunding that had not been used to date with sufficient rigour or potency. On Goteo, thanks to its open data, we can study in detail how resources multiply during funding." Analysis of the Goteo campaigns shows that this type of hybrid funding is more effective than typical crowdfunding: on average, around 75% of Goteo campaigns achieve their goal, whereas the ones that include matchfunding are successful in over 90% of cases. However, as the researcher explained, “it's a more complex strategy to manage as it generally calls for close collaboration between the platform and public institutions".

 

A tool for public participation

According to Senabre, under the Dimmons philosophy of research-action and thanks to the collaboration between the two organizations, the work has also enabled the improvement of the Goteo platform itself. Senabre highlighted the following: "Based on the classification we made, Goteo can now incorporate more precise criteria to determine how each campaign is linked to the Sustainable Development Goals. [...] Our aim was not only to conduct research, but also to contribute to creating a social impact: to improve this tool thanks to in-depth work with its data."

Amidst the current coronavirus crisis, the researcher also highlighted the importance of civic crowdfunding: "It can complement so many other tools that have been put in place in a lot of other sectors."

The researchers are now calling for other crowdfunding platforms, such as the popular Kickstarter, to open up their data to research as well. Senabre concluded by saying: "At the moment, they are hidden away in black boxes, but this type of tool is a significant powerhouse for public funding and participation. If we could pool our efforts, this would signify a great contribution to gaining a better understanding of these platforms and learning more about their impact on different areas of sustainability, evidently at all times maintaining privacy and complying with data protection laws."

 

Reference paper

Fuster Morell, M.; Senabre Hidalgo, E.; Rodriguez, E. Goteo.org civic crowdfunding and match-funding data connecting Sustainable Development Goals. Scientific Data 2020:7:132. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41597-020-0472-0

 

UOC R&I 

The UOC's research and innovation (R&I) are helping 21st-century global societies to overcome pressing challenges by studying the interactions between ICT and human activity, with a specific focus on e-learning and e-health. Over 400 researchers and 47 research groups work among the University's seven faculties and three research centres: the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute (IN3), the eLearn Center (eLC) and the eHealth Center (eHC).

The United Nations' 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and open knowledge serve as strategic pillars for the UOC's teaching, research and innovation. Further information: research.uoc.edu.