Wednesday, March 30, 2016

$5 to Save the World V2

$5 to Save the World

Our new digital age has many exciting new opportunities, both for the better and for the worse. While  many claim that computers and technology are separating us from each other, they are also connecting us in various ways that were impossible just 15 years ago. One way this occurs is through crowdfunding.

The summer of 2015, a friend of mine was involved in a terrible car crash. A car swerved across the  median into her lane, collided with her car, and then she was hit from behind. She survived, but was badly injured, and her family didn't have the money to provide her with the long-term medical care she so desperately needed. That was the first time I learned about GoFundMe.

GoFundMe is a member of an ever-growing family of websites that engage in what is known as "crowdsourcing". Crowdsourcing allows a project to be placed online, such as an idea for a product or business, or a personal need, and it can then be shared on social media. People can then donate money, five dollars here, ten dollars there, until a funding goal is reached. This allows the power of the masses to be applied to worthy causes.

My friend's medical fees became one of those "worthy causes." Somebody posted a GoFundMe, and it was soon shared across the Facebook profiles of many youth and young adults in the community. In the end, enough money was raised not just to cover her basic medical costs, but to help provide her money for college, since she wasn't able to work while she recovered. The collaborative power of crowdsourcing was able to harness the desires of normal people to do some good in the world.

At its base, this is what crowdsourcing does. By allowing us to work together, it gives us power beyond our own. Historically, if a person has needed more money than they could earn in a short time, they have had two options: petition close friends and family, who might not have the resources to cover large expenses, or go to a bank, which would charge interest and require payment plans. The communication infrastructure to harness small donations from huge amounts of people was simply not available. The new Digital Age has changed this.

Before the advent of the internet, this kind of work was the domain of large non-profit organizations, churches, and governments. While in truth, these organizations still play a major role, the influence that the layperson has on them is negligible. I might give five dollars to the Salvation Army man with a bell around Christmas time, but in the end, I don't know where that money is going, or what Salvation Army will use it for. With online crowdfunding, we can each decide exactly what cause, company, and project will receive our help.

There are now a myriad of crowdsourcing websites, each with its own focus. Kickstarter is a website primarily focuses on funding artists, authors, and designers. Kiva gives micro-loans to people in third-world countries, who use the money to start businesses, and then pay it back, allowing you to use your money to help even more people. GoFundMe is primarily used for personal causes, such as medical bills, disaster relief, and school tuition.

I personally am preparing to set up a crowdsourced project as well. I want to go to Kiribati, the Pacific island country where I served my mission, and set up an adventure-themed tourist company. The idea is that while some tourists prefer the ultra-resort feel of Hawaii, there are some that would like a more authentic island experience. At the same time, people in Kiribati do not have any major inflow of money, besides exporting coconut. Bring the rich white people to Kiribati and have island people give them an authentic island experience, and voila! You have a great opportunity to help people. Unfortunately, I do not have nearly enough money to cover my plane tickets there and the cost of building and organizing the company on site. Through the power of crowdsourcing, I hope to get the funds so that I can make this dream a reality.

Crowdfunding is a great way for us all to make a difference in the world, and it is only made possible by the new media of our digital age. Through this and other exciting avenues, modern technologies are allowing us all to work together to make the world a better place.

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