Frank meets Creative Commons. Part 2

Authors of “A Book on Open Business Models” by Creative Commons reviewed Frank’s business model and earlier app version and gave us their feedback we were happy to share. Here is our response:

Dear Paul,
Thank you very much for your great feedback. It is an honor for us to be backers of Creative Commons project and we couldn’t expect to get more from this pledge. In other words, there is hardly another startup that spent $250 more efficiently than we did by backing your campaign. This is the magic of crowdfunding: it enables people to collaborate using very modest resources to get a more efficient outcome. At first, we felt awkward pledging your campaign on behalf of our business, but later found out that businesses are active crowdfunders, comprising up to ¼ of some projects backers. This is a promising trend towards more collaborative business and is in line with your campaign mission of promoting open business model initiative.
We strongly believe in the power of collaboration. We believe that it is important to eliminate disincentives to open data sharing or to technologies which enable this. This is why we are using your feedback as an opportunity to focus on the two most sensitive concerns about the Frank app that you revealed. Thank you again for these tough questions.

1. Supporters of projects do not value opportunity to see financial entries associated with use of the funds. Funders are not interested in this kind of information. What they are really interested in is the real-life impact a project is having.

We cannot agree that transparency of spendings has low value for backers of a project. You are absolutely right, however, that the real interest of funders is the impact of their donations and efficiency of their efforts.
There is no reliable method to measure this impact, and as a result, all collective efforts suffer a lot from losing supporters and opportunities. People who support the aims of projects or nonprofits have to make uneasy decisions trying to figure out if their very limited money would make the biggest impact being donated to that project and not to another. This problem is critical in a world deluged with overwhelming amounts of non-reliable information. To learn how to measure impact is a great challenge, and we believe that verified, undistorted data from trusted source is necessary to solve this task — this is the basis on which we built Frank. Frank takes the data directly from a bank account and automatically analyzes, collates and presents it in a digestible way. This is the data that everybody can rely on, and Frank is the first to enable nonprofits to provide their supporters with that kind of data.
We believe that collaborative money approach is where the solution lies to measure impact, to act more efficiently as society, and to build assurance between projects and donors. We are building a platform where all parties are enabled to collaborate on a basis of verified data. By using Frank, projects can report to their supporters and share knowledge with other projects; supporters can be engaged in sharing, comparison and analysis of the data; and together projects and supporters can develop and share best practices.

2. But what if there is a conflict between donor suggestions and funders plans? Will use of Frank create an additional task for clients in terms of dialoguing with their public? Crowdsourcing decision making around use of funds could be interesting but adds time and reduces project agility.

The idea of open data sharing creates a lot of uncertainty, but in our opinion the benefits are greater. By using Frank, projects get access to the unprecedented knowledge base of real practices of other projects. We have a budgeting tool in our plans that will provide CFOs with advice based on the automatic analysis of the practices of other Frank user-projects.
At the same time, we actually aim to reduce the resources that nonprofits and crowdfunded projects have to spend for reporting and communication with the public, and make it as easy as making payments. We also work a lot on the quality and efficiency of communication through Frank. Before rolling out the first version of discussions around payments in Frank we’ve made an extensive research on how online feedback work. As result of our investigation the current interface gives Frank user an ability to leave a comment in one of 6 predefined topics which we believe are named to address the certain possible issues with the payment or it’s description, leave a message of support or suggest an idea related to the payment. The core principles stand on hypothesis that “down votes” usually lead to a vicious circle of negative feedback, while constructive (not necessarily positive) feedback or improvement suggestions could lead to a healthy discussion and real steps forward. It is a clearly one of the most complex UX tasks in the whole app so far, there are lots of improvements to be made after we gather more real behavioral data, to ensure the UX serves it’s designated purpose.
Conflict about the vision of future plans is not disposed by the nature of Frank’s feed, where new entries appear only after the decision is already made (and the payment is done). But we have experienced that it develops a great habit of readiness to immediately report about your decisions to your supporters and team. This is also a way to more agile and efficient culture within the project team, as you become more accurate and attentive to your actions at the very beginning when the mistakes are easier to notice and to correct. This requires uncomfortable changes but they are “healthy uncomfortable”. We believe that early and unforced transparency is extremely healthful for a social venture.

To conclude, we understand that in the Internet age the public demands more and more information, especially when it comes to nonprofits and crowdfunding. So the level of transparency Frank provides is inevitable for social ventures in the nearest future. But we do not aim to simply monetize this trend, and believe that the future belongs to those nonprofits and projects creators who will accelerate this process and be the first to openly share their data and practices.
In Frank we look further and create tools for collaboration of such innovative projects and their supporters. We provide access to verified data, reduce efforts required for reporting, create assurance between nonprofits and donors, and develop solution for best practice sharing. The benefits of such approach — increase of contributions and better efficiency of impact with lower resources required. The magic of collaboration.

See the text of Creative Commons’ review here.

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