Re. The Evening Standard: I did NOT say that crowdfunding was “unsustainable”

There have been too many factual incorrectitudes and cringe-making misquotes spread about me in the press for it to be worth my time collecting and redressing. However, there is one fabricated “quote” that really bothered me, not least because it was printed after I had spent about half an hour on the phone to the journalist responsible explicitly describing how I saw the future of crowdfunding. The “quote” reads:

But lots of people from socially disadvantaged backgrounds won’t be as lucky as me. And for that reason crowdfunding is not a sustainable way of raising money.

I did tell her that having a diverse and booming social network was no doubt central to the success of my project, because currently most pledges to crowdfunders are made nepotistically – to people in whose lives donors have some sort of stake. I was in a really good position to crowdfund because I’ve been to Oxford once before, I’m a performer, I co-run IFHP, and I’ve had all sorts of great opportunities to meet people because I don’t come from a disadvantaged background. I had a *lot* of people to email. But there are people out there whose parents are uneducated and who have never had any access to high-flying networks of people, and, against the odds, have mustered their own motivation, done well at school, and had brilliant ideas. I think that one of the real challenges faced by crowdfunding organisations like Hubbub is being able to cater for those people – people who have the raw material – talent and imagination – and nothing else. Contrary to what the Evening Standard journalist implied, however, I don’t think that this challenge is insurmountable, and “sustainability” is just the wrong concept to invoke when talking about rising to it. Furthermore, once this obstacle has been faced, crowdfunding is practically the definition of sustainability, because if enough people are involved, nobody ever has to part with very much at all – the power is in the crowd. Why do people bother to vote when they know that their vote could never make or break the result? Why do people bother to tip in restaurants they’ll never go to again? Why do people give to charities anonymously? People must be subjectively connecting with, or ‘internalising’, these causes. They do these things because if they did not, they would suffer a feeling of having betrayed their identity in some way. Restaurant-tipping, voting, and giving to charitable organisations are all well-established social norms. Crowdfunding, on the other hand, is still in its infancy. But it is getting more and more press, and is gradually seeping into public awareness. My prediction is that as this continues, crowdfunding for education will become more and more of a ‘thing’ and, over time, pledging a couple of quid per week to a project will become more and more normalised, as people identify more deeply with crowdfunding as a social institution, a bit like they do when they tip the waiter in a restaurant they know they’ll never return to.    

One thought on “Re. The Evening Standard: I did NOT say that crowdfunding was “unsustainable”

  1. The same thing happened to me when I gave an interview — to a journo friend of a journo friend, mind you — about student loans here in America. The resultant misquote bought me a lot of flak in the comments, too, so it was especially uncool. Ah, well. Axes to grind, quotas to fill.

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