Crowd Funding the Environment

Heritage Lottery Fund[This is a guest blog post by Pete Johnstone]

It is always pleasing but rare these days to see new funding opportunities to support environmental and community improvements come into being. Many grants schemes have either disappeared, have been cut back, or if they do survive are often heavily oversubscribed by potential applicants. Or perhaps worse still the grant funds that do exist don’t actually fit what you want to raise money for in the first place.

Well, all is not lost, crowd funding is the new kid on the block and a phenomena that deserves further investigation. Crowd funding is essentially online fundraising, with its roots in the United States, it has over the past few years typically supported a whole range of start-up businesses and one of projects such as in film, music and art.

Crowd funding is now big business, with crowd funding platforms having raised $2.7 billion in 2012 (Massolution 2013) and a prediction that this will rise to $5.1bn in 2013. In the UK, a recent report by NESTA estimates that crowd funding spending will rise to £14bn by 2016. The motivation for people investing in crowd funded projects varies greatly, from purely financial motives through to a desire to support a local issue of concern. Here the return on investment is more social or environmental based rather than in the form of money.

So what has this got to do with the Ouse Washes and the recently created Landscape Partnership Scheme Over the next few years as the project gets underway we will expect to see a greater coordination of activities between national and local bodies involved with this distinctive landscape, greater community participation and a host of practical improvements based around the heritage of this part of the Fens.

All these expected improvements and community interest will be good for the area but can we not build on this foundation and add another source of potential funding through crowd funding?

What is put up for crowd funding will largely depend on what is required and what is likely to receive public support. It could be a school nature garden, village playground improvements, access or environmental conservation work associated with the bird reserves. Of course as with any fund raising initiative there is no guarantee of success. Certainly once you have started fund raising for your chosen project there is hard work to come to bring it to people’s attention but nothing ventured nothing gained as the saying goes!

Spacehive is the UK’s first crowd funding platform for civic spaces and since launching a year ago has crowd funded a £1m of projects across the UK, empowering communities to transform their civic environment for the better. Although these projects have largely been town or city based there is potential to bring crowd funding to rural areas such as the Ouse Washes.

So is there any interest in setting up an initiative to crowd fund for improvements in Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership area? If there is we would like to hear from you.

Flying swans

Flying swans – an iconic Ouse Washes species. Image by Pete Johnstone; all rights reserved.

Pete Johnstone runs PJ.elements his own Cambridgeshire based environmental business. He is an adviser to 2020VISION, the multimedia nature conservation initiative run by the Wild Media Foundation, adviser to Spacehive and has worked on a number of Landscape Partnership Schemes in East Anglia.

Would you also like to have a guest post on the Ouse Washes LP blog? Feel free to contact me to discuss your ideas.