Frank meets Creative Commons. Part 1

In August Frank backed Creative Common’s Kickstarter campaign. The aim of the campaign is to write a book that shows the world how sharing can be good for business, and we could not help participating. As a backer reward we chose a review of Frank’s open business model by Creative Commons and recently we received their feedback. The review is extremely helpful, deep and honest. We were excited to learn that Creative Commons share our vision of the Frank main challenges and that the way we developed the Frank app since the reviewed very early version is in line with their advice. As the review addresses important concerns of Frank’s early adopters, we take an opportunity to openly share the review together with our response. Here’s what Creative Commons told us:

Dear Maria,
Thanks very much for backing our Kickstarter campaign — really appreciate your support. We’re delighted that Creative Commons has been an inspiration and welcome this opportunity to provide feedback on your business model.
Here’s our feedback:
Like Frank’s aspiration to be a transparent bank account and ledger for non-profit and crowdfunded projects. This kind of openness and transparency is increasingly a focus for non-profits, foundations and even governments (eg. see openness and accountability principles in Open Government Declaration).
We encourage you to further develop this. Open business models inherently have a social good not just revenue/profits ambitions. The magnitude and meaning of the social good Frank generates is a key component of the business. The extent to which Frank operates in this same spirit of openness and transparency will be a litmus test.
Like the way Frank is tapping into the desire of donors to directly see the impact of their donation and how that incentivizes more donations.
We think it will be even better if you define what the unique value propositions are for each of the customers. What are the unique ways openness and transparency benefit both clients (non-profits, crowdfunded projects, …) and users (donors)? Make sure each sees why this is good for them.
We’re not sure whether donors really want to see ledger entries. We think most people want to see how their funds affect people’s lives. They want the personal story that shows their donation positively impacted lives. If you can find ways to put the data into a form that is easily digestible for donors and that shows the real-life impact a nonprofit is having, this will make your work extremely powerful.
The general deck suggests banking is a form of media with a story behind every payment that non-profits make and space for open discussion. This is true and we’d love to see more openness and transparency about not only the utilization of money but the outcomes and impact of that money. This portion of Frank Money, the stories about utilization and impact, including the discussions shown in the sample bank account, could be licensed with Creative Commons as open content.
The Frank deck suggests that what people see next after backing a project on Kickstarter is — nothing. We’re assuming this statement is specifically referring to the financial utilization of the funds. For even if we consider just our own Kickstarter project, backers get a lot — updates, early access, opportunities to co-create, feedback, and of course the finished product. If we imagine ourselves also sharing a ledger of financial entries associated with use of the funds we’re not sure that this would be of high interest or value to our backers (but we could be wrong). At the very least the number of people interested in this kind of information would be a small subset of all our backers.
As you state in the social good part of your canvas at its core there seems to be two principles underlying Frank — 1. trust, and 2. collaboration. We see how the trust part is amplified by the open transparency around utilization of funds. We’d like to hear more about the collaboration part. This fits with the “donor relations” aspect of the app.
Beyond reporting how does Frank support donors collaborating with the non-profit or crowdfunding project? The customer segment of your canvas says Frank is for clients who care about their donors demand for transparency, and have required resources for active real-time dialog. What is the nature of this real-time dialog? The example bank account you sent us shows a range of discussion possibilities including — Random, Ideas, Info, Cost, Category, and Recipient. It’s not intuitive what these discussion categories are about nor is it clear what is envisioned in terms of dialog. The point about “required resources” is important as it seems that use of Frank creates an additional task for clients in terms of dialoguing with their public. This may be a disincentive.
What happens if there is conflict between donor suggestions and funders plans? Projects start with a plan but when they enter into implementation inevitably must adjust plans. Reporting out on changing plans, particularly around use of funds may irk some donors even if the rationale and need is sound. Crowdsourcing decision making around use of funds could be interesting but adds time and reduces project agility.*

You can read our response to the review here.

*This is the first, general part of Creative Commons feedback, while the second part gave us very interesting insights in the CC licenses and the opportunities we can use in Frank. We will share these insights and how we work with open licenses in a separate post.

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