This past fall, I was helping a friend who was trying to raise money for a fish farm in my hometown of Youngstown, Ohio. We felt that there were probably other people in the country who would be supportive of a zero discharge re-circulating tilapia system in the middle of an urban neighborhood. So, of course, my friend turned to Kickstarter. The project exceeding its $5,000 funding requirement.
A recent New York Times article about Kickstarter states that more than $200 million and 20,000 projects have found funding on the site. This week’s reading “Creating Shared Value” from Porter and Cramer discusses the value that companies can create for themselves as well as for their communities. Kickstarter is an example of this, but it also serves as a means for finding other opportunities that can create shared value. Kickstarter acts as a willingness-to-pay meter, whereby projects that people want to support are successful. This can be an alternative way to know if a venture will create value for the community and for the company.
There are now several sites that allow the community to weigh in on projects they support and wish to see get started. Kiva offers the opportunity for individuals to make small loan to people who wish to start small businesses in developing countries. When I was teaching, DonorsChoose allowed me to obtain funding for essential classroom supplies. I was able to get donations for a classroom set of calculators for my Algebra I class.
This new movement represents part of the “higher form of capitalism” that Porter and Cramer discuss. Websites that makes it easy for a large number of people to give a small amount of money are not only creating shared value in themselves, but creating shared value for the people who are seeking the money. Unfortunately, there is still money to be made in products and services that harm communities. The question is what will encourage more companies to create shared value like Kickstarter?