Get in… Funded by “The People”

So today we are celebrating. Today we reached/exceeded our PeopleFund.it target of £20,000 http://www.peoplefund.it/young-rewired-state/.

I had promised myself that I would save up the blog post I wanted so much to write about crowd-sourced funding until after we had actually achieved it. So within minutes of the target being reached – here I am.

Firstly, thank you so much to everyone who either donated or promoted our call for funds. Part of the reason I was so excited when I happened to catch a tweet about the launch of http://www.peoplefund.it (PFI) was that we had found a way to involve the people who have been such a huge part of Young Rewired State (YRS) over the years and have really wanted to contribute, even if it was only a fiver, and I hated having to just go for corporate sponsorship – which is its own special nightmare.

It’s the crowd, man

I know that Kickstarter exists and is excellent, but have always been confused as to whether UK organisations could apply – and still am – so PFI appeared at exactly the right time: just as we were cranking up the calls for participation for YRS2012 we had a way of including the community that champions what we do.

It is so important to me and to what we are doing with Young Rewired State, that this is something that can be truly community-based, and community-funded*, and I really do feel that the people who have chosen to pledge money to YRS are as much a part of this as we are. I will work hard to ensure this happens as we race towards August, and to celebrate this at the festival of code itself.

But the pledgers were not only individuals, some were start-ups, some start-ups founded by YRS alumni, others were small businesses who really know how important this peer-to-peer interaction and learning is, and have benefitted directly or indirectly from it.

I will come back to this point in a mo…

It was hard work

Believe you me, this was not a case of submit the information, set a target and sit back and let PFI/twitter do the work. Sure we had an early high with those who were already bursting to be involved in some way pledging their cash, then a lull during which time Stephen Fry tweeted about it, as did Martha Lane-Fox and other luminaries – this rarely translated into money donations, but it did certainly raise the profile and we won in a different way by more kids signing up to come along – which is just as brilliant. I asked PFI to send a timeline of donations, it’s here if you are interested! (Thanks Jake!)

It took a *lot* of hard work and time. I became horribly mercenary, everyone who wanted me to do something or talk somewhere would be hit by a request from me to donate! My poor, poor social networks were reminded pretty much daily that they could contribute, through a variety of thinly veiled pointers to the donation site. My family did not escape, in fact my poor Mum – who had worked out how to pledge through GoCardless, then cancelled the pledge when she later looked at her online banking and did not recognise the direct debit – is still insisting on sending a cheque. Rewired State events were hijacked by pleas for donations to YRS and friends with rich friends mercilessly ‘reminded’.

But £20,000 is a LOT of money. Maybe not in bubble world, but in the real world, it is a huge sum. And ten weeks is not a long time to raise it. No matter how good the cause or idea, it needs to be relevant and there has to be value for money.

So this is a massive and resounding success, and I am just so pleased that it worked out.

Peer to peer funding

So as much as peer-to-peer learning is key right now, so it seems is peer-to-peer funding. But there is a missing element to this.

When Young Rewired State first started in 2009, we were sponsored £23,000, mainly from government if I remember correctly. Once the weekend was over, we had £5,000 left and so we looked for somewhere to donate that money. We gave it to Jonty Wareing and Hackspace, they had not found premises and needed a small lump to help them.

It was a perfect transaction, we had it spare, they needed it and they were providing something that would help the YRSers of the future.

This year the Real Time Club got in touch with us, after being pointed in our direction by the fabulous Simon Peyton-Jones and the Computing at Schools network (yes I blasted them too!), they had a similar situation with some excess money at the end of their year that they wanted to put towards a good cause. I went to meet them and explained about YRS, they talked to me about it and agreed to donate some money. Not only this, but one of the people I was introduced to there took me to the school for which they are a governor: Anson Primary, a remarkable school, doing wonderful things and now a YRS centre. Win!

It would be nice to think that as this crowd-sourced funding jag becomes more popular, so the circle continues. It would be nice if as the community funds projects, so the projects, once they become successful or if they end up with excess, helps the funding community. What a way to encourage individual enterpreneurism? What if a reward for pledging money to a community project or any project for that matter, came with a promise to assist anyone who was thinking of starting something themselves.

Just as YRS is a real example of P2P learning, so we can learn from the actions of the alumni, who all come back, year on year, to help support and assist the newbies coming through. It would be good to see this fostered in P2P funding and next year when I do this again (oh yes I sill, sorry gang) I will find a way to do just that.

Finally a HUGE thank you to the people at People Fund It, they have been hugely helpful and supportive and of course, those YRS alumni and mentors I have stumbled across working at GoCardless!

*Post Script

The PFI £20k is not the total sum we are having to raise for YRS, we are having to raise further funds through traditional sponsorship. This is to cover the costs of the event itself on the Friday and Saturday. The money raised using community funding is for the kids, hardship funds for travel, believe you me this will be hammered this year!, and anything else they might need during the week – it is a very specific amount and a very specific purpose that feels right to be funded by the community. Other costs such as toilets, marquees and AV can be funded by the corporate sponsorship we raise. If you want to know the total amount we need to raise for YRS this year, it is £50,000 (including the PFI £20k) – and if we don’t use it all, we will be donating it back to other social projects, naturally.

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