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Goteo Uses Online Collaboration and Crowdfunding for the Common Good
© Image: Goteo

Goteo Uses Online Collaboration and Crowdfunding for the Common Good


Editor's Note: posed a few questions to Enric Senabre Hidalgo, projects coordinator & community manager for Spanish crowdfunding platform Goteo. The website opened for business two months ago and has already successfully funded four pojects and is receiving thousands of visits each day. Special thanks to Enrique Estelles for acting as liaison and translator. How and why did you conceptualize and launch Goteo?

Enric Hidalgo: Goteo was conceptualized as an R&D initiative focused on how to support open projects. It all started a year ago when the group Platoniq began to explore crowdfunding and got in touch with other people interested in the dynamics of collaboration and in how to support citizen and open source projects, based on the social innovation paradigm.

Resources were obtained to make a thorough investigation of the platforms that were emerging and of other models such as microcredit.

Before starting the project online, we presented it in dynamic sessions in workshop format, where we explained what we were investigating and at the same time we could validate the design principles of the platform with the users. We also did intensive work processes to validate real projects, supported by the money given by the participants and institutions convened. The objective was to have a platform co-designed with the community. Then came the alpha and beta phase of the tool, in which we introduced projects and users little by little before the real opening of Goteo.

How do you fulfill a unique position in the crowdfunding space?

Our approach to crowdfunding differs in several details but let's say that there are four fundamental differences:

  • The projects, in addition to offering individual rewards in exchange for certain contributions, should offer collective returns in digital form (manuals, files, code, etc..) under some open or free form. 
  • In addition to requesting monetary contributions, the crowdsourcers must think about what tasks or resource needs can be opened to the community, and so being part of the production process is more collaborative and transparent. 
  • When calculating the costs, the project drivers can set a minimum amount (to obtain in 40 days, following the "all or nothing" model as in other platforms) and another optimal amount to improve its accessibility, dissemination and quality, which can be obtained in a second round (we think this will improve transparency as they begin to explain how the project is developing).
  • Another important difference is our "feeder capital,"  a shared social fund where public or private institutions who share goals with the community can help multiply the individual donations to Goteo projects.

Where did you come from, where are you now, and where do you envision Goteo in a few years' time?

As I said, Goteo comes, on the one hand, from trying to combine elements of some crowdfunding models with elements of online collaboration, and on the other hand from thinking about what can be done for the common good today, a more pressing and necessary driver.

Right now, at the time of this interview, we have already taken the final leap, taking action after ideation, co-designing and developing the project. We are observing how people receive the project and we add, polish or find new issues along the road.

In the near future we hope we will have articulated important parts such as stable communities of support, feedback for projects, accomplished collective returns from which people can learn and help others progress, and also create local networks through Goteo or its software (which is free of course) who have both autonomy and relationships amongst them in order to move forward on common goals of open projects and tools.

What have you learned about crowdfunding from running Goteo? What surprised you?

We learned that it is a "standard" and increasingly widespread to the point of being a real alternative to what the institutions or companies do not yet know or get, and thus provides an example that categorizes the Internet as a common good and a global change tool (in this case at a socioeconomic level, when there are several paradigms that are crumbling or mutating in front of our eyes).

What is surprising in our case is the welcome and support received, despite the changes we have made to the concept (introducing other elements as ‘commons’ or ‘open processes’, which are not easy to communicate); this is all translating into first contributions and collaborations.

We still have several challenges in this regard to achieve critical mass and support, so I invite those who are reading this to go to Goteo and make a difference, giving or helping any of the big projects with which we started!

Can you describe any important project? has been the first project to reach the minimum financing objective thanks to more than 135 cofunders and numerous offers of collaboration. An open data platform, it will make the transparency of the Institutions and Public Representatives law more effective, registering questions and answers which will benefit the public.

Bookcamping, the second project to go through to the the next round in Goteo has been implacable in social networks and have posted a large number of updates which have convinced nearly 174 individuals and organisations of the need to back an open library -- a real network of free texts and other formats.

NodoMovil is not so much about software but a mobile open wifi device for public spaces which, although still needing to cover some of the collaboration needs, will soon be a reality thanks to the 80 cofunders and a constant stream of updates.

How did you manage to get your backing?

For the development of Goteo, the Fundación Fuentes Abiertas has been founded, a non-profit organization for the promotion of measures to support the commons and shared digital resources.

The main driver of it and of Goteo is Platoniq, an international organization of cultural producers and software developers; a pioneer in the production and distribution of culture copyleft.

For both the preliminary investigation stage around collective financing and its dissemination and co-design workshops and training and development as beta software, Goteo has had a strong network of support from the public and social innovation sphere, consisting of miscellaneous agents.

These supporting bodies have led to the early financing of the project in specific calls for public subsidies or other aid money, as well as know-how and material resources, thus applying the same kind of dynamics that promotes the tool (Goteo). This was all made possible thanks to the efforts of organizations like the Ministry of Culture, National Council for Culture and Arts of Catalonia, ColaBoraBora (Center for Social Innovation EUTOKIA), Culture Institute of Barcelona, Medialab Prado, CCCBlab (Center Barcelona Contemporary Culture CCCB).

 -  Enric Senabre Hidalgo, projects coordinator & community manager at Goteo is also a teacher of Multimedia Studies at Universitat Oberta de Catalunya.

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