Can crowdfunding help to reshape public services?

As someone who doesn’t know the meaning of the word ‘holiday’, the Good Practice Exchange Manager Chris Bolton (a.k.a whatsthepont) visited Nova Scotia a while back, where he learnt about the work of the Nova Scotia Securities Commission.

The commission have been undertaking some work on crowdfunding, as they’re proposing exemptions so that small and medium size enterprises can raise money in a new way. It also means that investors have another way of investing in them. They ran public information sessions in order to find out what people think.

Crowdfunding is where a project is funded by getting contributions from a large number of people, and this usually happens on the internet. As a music fan, I’ve taken part in a few crowdfunding exercises, where musicians are looking to produce work that wouldn’t see the light of day otherwise. That’s just the start of it — there are so many weird and wonderful projects out there, from the bacon themed cookery book to the three metre high inflatable statue of Lionel Richie’s head.

Could public services get involved in crowdfunding? Crowdfunding has really taken off in recent years, with umpteen different platforms available from IndieGoGo to Kickstarter. It’s interesting to see that there’s even a platform for civic projects — Spacehive. It’s already been used to plug a funding gap at Glyncoch Community Centre, where a new community centre was built to fit the community’s needs.

Nesta ask some key questions in this blog post — is there a risk of crowdfunded cash being used to replace what should normally be publicly funded? Could it work for services as well as products? These are very important questions to ask. But they also throw some positives into the mix, and I’d like to add another — could it help change the relationship between providers and recipients of services?

At the Good Practice Exchange we clearly recognise that Welsh public services have to change the way in which services are delivered and by also by whom. We have already seen that at our shared learning seminar on Reshaping Services in Cardiff, where we showcased public services being delivered by trusts, voluntary sector and community councils to name but a few. At the same seminar, Tony Bovaird told us that six million people work for public services, and there are over sixty million citizens in the UK. Yet the balance of power is still firmly in the hands of the minority. Could crowdfunding help to change the way that public services perceive people, so that they’re no longer seen as grateful recipients, but as key players in public service delivery?

This post originally appeared on the blog of the Good Practice Exchange at the Wales Audit Office.