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3 Crowdfunding Projects for Good and 1 That Wasn't.

Crowdfunding is typically associated with the creation of tech gadgets or other material rewards such as creative productions. However, it has also been used to directly influence social good. Throughout the years, netizens have banded together in their own small ways to spark good in the society. Check out a few of these headlining cases from around the world demonstrating the goodwill in our community!

China’s Ice Boy

China's Ice Boy.

Image: SCMP

Wang Fuman, an eight year old from Yunnan’s Ludian county, incited quite a buzz after a teacher uploaded a photo of him with icicles in his hair onto social media. Wang had made the hour-long journey on foot to get to school 4.5km from home, despite sub-zero temperatures.

Local newspaper People’s Daily quoted the school’s principal Fu Heng as saying: “It was -9°C in the morning and it was the first day of the final exam. The temperature had dropped in the last half an hour, and as he lives pretty far from school by the time he got to class his hair was full of frost.”

Additional reports shed light on Wang’s family, who lived in a mud house. Wang’s parents were frequently not around, having sought employment elsewhere to bring in money.

The photo and subsequent reports on the family’s plight caught the attention of netizens and the government. Across the country, millions of yuan in donations flowed to the family and to Ludian county. Wang’s school, Zhuanshanbao Elementary, now has proper heating and new teaching facilities. Clothes and sports equipment were also donated.

Wang is now one of the top students at his school. The Wang family now live in a small two-story house closer to school, and are even able to get together as a family for a Chinese New Year feast.

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

If you have previously seen videos of people (and even celebrities, like Bill Gates) dunking pails of cold water on themselves, this was likely to be the cause. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge made headlines in 2014 as a novel fundraising method to raise awareness and funds for research into amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

In ALS, degeneration of nerve cells in the spinal cord and brain leads to sufferers gradually losing the ability to move, swallow, and even breathe. Drugs today can slow progress of ALS but are not able to halt its eventual progress.

The premise for this 2014 campaign was simple – dunk yourself with a bucket of ice-cold water or donate $100 to charity. This campaign took off on social media, with celebrities like Bill Gates, Oprah (and more!) jumping onboard to take on the challenge and/or make donations.

The initial Ice Bucket Challenge actually had nothing to do with ALS. In its original incarnation, participants instead selected a charity of their choice to donate to. Chris Kennedy, a golfer in Sarasota, took on the challenge and selected ALS because a relative suffered from the disease. That relative was Anthony Senerchia, the husband of his wife’s cousin Jeanette Senerchia. Word eventually spread to Pete Frates, a high-profile ALS sufferer with a large following. That was when the Ice Bucket Challenge began to take off.

Anthony Senerchia, the inspiration of this entire campaign, unfortunately passed away from the disease in November 2017 at the age of 46.

Despite the campaign’s intentions and merits, it attracted its fair share of critics who slammed the campaign as “slacktivism”, devoid of any meaningful significance. Despite its naysayers however, it appears to have paid off. Scientists have been able to fund the research and development of treatment drugs – including the discovery of a new gene connected to ALS. The funds have also been used as prize money to entice people to design technology for people living with ALS.

A Vietnamese tourist, and an iPhone 6

Sim Lim Square in Singapore has always had a problem with errant tenants. However, one particularly notorious tenant known as Mobile Air certainly didn’t help its cause. The retailer had previously made headlines for attempting to refund a customer $1,010 in coins.A screengrab of the video.

Source: Straits Times

Vietnamese tourist Pham Van Thoai had tried to purchase an iPhone 6 for $950 SGD. However, the errant retailer later slapped an additional $1,152 in warranty fees. Thoai went on his knees to beg for a refund, as the retailers continued to mock him. Soon, video footage of the incident began to circulate on social media, attracting public outrage. A local entrepreneur, Gabriel Kang, started an Indiegogo campaign to buy a brand-new iPhone 6 for the tourist. It raised around $13,940 after accounting for Indiegogo and Paypal’s fees.

Thoai eventually declined the iPhone 6 Plus that Kang had bought for him. However, he did accept $200 worth of snacks such as kaya.

Kang later auctioned off the iPhone for around $2000 and used the money to buy an air ticket for a Vietnamese woman who claimed to have been trafficked out of her country. The remaining funds from the sale of the iPhone were used to buy medical supplies, sweets and toys for an orphanage in Vietnam. The move has sparked unhappiness amongst some backers who expressed that they were not consulted.

While Kang himself has stated that he will constantly remain accountable for the funds, this debacle has underscored the need for platforms to find ways to enforce accountability. The community will need to devise ways for both parties to retain their control of the crowdfunding process and safeguard their interests.

Crowdfunding for a Homeless Marine Veteran

Source: CNN

In November 2017, Kate McClure was stranded on a highway after having run out of gas. That was when she met Johnny Bobbitt Jr., a homeless Marine veteran, who gave her the last of his change on hand – $20. Moved by the gesture, McClure and her husband Mark D’Amico, launched a GoFundMe campaign to help Bobbitt “get back on his feet”. It went viral and raised $400,000.

…except this last one is not for good.

In a highly publicized spat, Bobbitt sued the couple on grounds that they were using the funds to pursue luxurious lifestyles for themselves, having received only $75,000 himself. The couple countered that they were holding the rest of the funds until Bobbitt had secured a job and overcome his drug addiction.

Upon further investigation, the story quickly fell apart. Investigators found that the couple had already known Bobbitt from as early as a month prior to the “fated meeting”. They had met at a freeway ramp on their way to a casino in Philadelphia that they frequented. The couple befriended him with money and coffee, and eventually hatched the plan.

GoFundMe has issued refunds to all the backers who unwittingly thought they were giving to Bobbitt for a good cause. The trio involved are now facing charges of second-degree theft by deception and second-degree conspiracy.

A Better Way To Safeguard Users?

Like the Mobile Air case, the case of the homeless veteran is another one that highlights the need for new approaches to the existing crowdfunding model to safeguard the process and reduce disputes. The advent and progress of technology opens the doors to more means of aggregating consent, consensus, and perhaps even collaboration. We remain committed to advancing developments in this space.

However, changes to the crowdfunding model are but the tip of the iceberg – more also needs to be done to solve the underlying problems giving rise to this in the first place. In an ideal situation, we would be able to eliminate the need for crowdfunding completely – especially social crowdfunding. However, until that day is here, we will continue to address society’s malaises the way we always strive to.

What are your opinions? Let us know!

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