Federated personal crowd funding
ECOLISE acting as a trusted broker between practitioners needing financial support to sustain personal livelihoods and donors wishing to support them.
Many key organisers and leaders face difficulties in reconciling their commitment to their work with their need to generate a livelihood. Donors possibly willing to support such individuals but who do not know them directly would have difficulty assessing whose work genuinely merits and needs support. This proposal seeks to bridge the gap and help connect deserving individual cases with sources of financial support, with ECOLISE as a trusted intermediary.
Money is a scarce resource within our networks and organisations. The financial capacity of all organisations to provide employment is limited, zero in the case of many smaller member organisations. Levels of activity that can be sustained solely through voluntary labour are limited. Professionalisation brings many hazards, not least that maintaining the revenues necessary to pay salaries becomes an end in itself, and distraction from the real purpose of the organisation or project.
Some practitioners ask or receive support from their community. [Tithing] is an established, if probably uncommon, practice among Australian permaculturists working in established communities of place. Neighbours who recognise the value of their work and have surplus income give the practitioner a proportion of this surplus in order to enable them to continue this work. Recently a small number of key organisers in the ECOLISE network have set up personal crowd-funding schemes through which they ask others for financial support.
A limitation of such schemes is their strong reliance on personal connections, limiting their reach to established networks in which most people have compromised their earning potential for the sake of their work, and many generally operate in conditions of financial scarcity and precarity. Someone who does not know the individual personally would have little basis on which to assess any request for financial support – whether the person actually does what they claim to do, whether this work is sufficiently important to merit financial support, what barriers exist to financing the work through other means, what other livelihood possibilities exist, and whether they are in genuine financial need – and be potentially vulnerable to deception or even fraud.
A potential resolution lies in ECOLISE taking the role of a trusted intermediary. One the one hand, as an organisation it potentially has access to funding sources, including philanthropic, beyond the scope of individual practitioners and member organisations, and a credibility beyond what most individuals can personally attain. On the other hand, as a community it possesses the social, interpersonal and practical knowledge necessary to assess the merits of requests for financial assistance from individuals within it. Bringing these two qualities together could potentially bridge the gap between practitioners needing financial assistance and potential financial sponsors.
The proposal is that ECOLISE leverages its credibility and fundraising potential in order to generate an internal fund to support the livelihoods of individual practitioners, backed up by rigorous and transparent procedures for vetting, need assessment and accountability. Actual and potential beneficiaries could also contribute to the same fund during times they experience a financial surplus (or operate a separate scheme for [income pooling]).