Selected Readings on Crowdsourcing Funds


The Living Library’s Selected Readings series seeks to build a knowledge base on innovative approaches for improving the effectiveness and legitimacy of governance. This curated and annotated collection of recommended works on the topic of crowdsourcing was originally published in 2013.

Crowdsourcing funds, or crowdfunding, is an emerging method for raising money that allows a wide pool of people to make small investments, gain access to ideas and projects they feel personally connected to, and spur growth in small businesses and social ventures. Popular crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo helped bring the practice into the public consciousness. Now, civic crowdfunding platforms like Citizinvestor and Spacehive are helping to apply this innovative funding model already in use for helping to fund artists, charities and inventors to help address public concerns traditionally considered under government’s purview.

Crowdfunding has also received recent attention from policymakers in the US through the US Securities JOBS Act, which provides an exemption from the registration requirements for offerings of securities by a company made through an SEC registered Crowdfunding Platform.

Selected Reading List (in alphabetical order)

Annotated Selected Reading List (in alphabetical order)

Aitamurto, Tanja. “The Impact of Crowdfunding on Journalism.” Journalism Practice 5, no. 4 (2011): 429–445. http://bit.ly/1bk4wNI.

  • This article analyzes the impact of crowdfunding on journalism, where, “readers’ donations accumulate into judgments about the issues that need to be covered.”
  • Aitamurto’s central findings inspire optimism regarding the potential of crowdfunding for the public good. She finds that, “From the donor’s perspective, donating does not create a strong relationship from donor to journalist or to the story to which they contributed;” rather, “[t]he primary motivation for donating is to contribute to the common good and social change.”

Baeck, Peter and Liam Collins. Working the Crowd: A Short Guide to Crowdfunding and How It Can Work for You. Nesta, May 2013. http://bit.ly/Hkl3rx.

  • This report “aims to give a quick overview of crowdfunding, the different versions of the model and how they work.”
  •  The authors list four technological innovations that have contributed to the growth of modern crowdfunding:
    • An online place for pitches
    • Moving your money with a click
    • The social engine
    • Fueling campaigns with algorithms
  • Baeck and Collins consider public and social projects to be one of the areas where crowdfunding can have a significant impact. They argue that civic crowdfunding “has the potential to disrupt how money for charitable causes is sourced and how public services and spaces are used and paid for.”

Best, Jason, Sherwood Neiss and Davis Jones. “How Crowdfund Investing Helps Solve Three Pressing Socioeconomic Challenges.” Crowdfunding PR, Social Media & Marketing Campaigns. http://bit.ly/1aaTGwQ.

  • This paper outlines the forces driving the widespread use of crowdfund investing, namely social media, the existence of funding systems that marginalize people outside of major urban centers and the ability of people to function remotely from their work spaces.
  • The authors also discuss a number of public-facing benefits of crowdfund investing:
    • Crowdfund Investing Creates Jobs
    • Bringing capital in off the sidelines for use by small businesses
    • Funding entrepreneurs everywhere
    • Capital no longer for the chosen few
    • Crowdfund Investing Grows GDP
    • Reduction in the failure rate of small businesses
    • Crowd monitoring reduces agency costs

De Buysere, Kristof, Oliver Gajda, Ronald Kleverlaan, Dan Marom, and Matthias Klaes. A Framework for European Crowdfunding, 2012. http://bit.ly/1aaTFsE.

  • This paper seeks to provide a “concise overview of the state of crowdfunding in Europe, with the aim of establishing policy and a distinct framework for the European crowdfunding industry,” which the authors believe, “will aid in the economic recovery of Europe.”
  • The authors, in their advocacy for greater crowdfunding opportunities for businesses in Europe, provide a rationale for the practice that also helps demonstrate the potential benefits of greater crowdfunding opportunities within government. They argue that, “Crowdfunding can offer unique support for budding and existing entrepreneurs on multiple levels. No other investment form, be it debt or equity, can provide the benefits of pre-sales, market research, word-of-mouth promotion, and crowd wisdom without additional cost.”

Hollow, Matthew. “Crowdfunding and Civic Society in Europe: A Profitable Partnership?” Open Citizenship 4, no. 1 (May 20, 2013). http://bit.ly/1cgzefL.

  • In this paper, Hollow explores the rise of crowdfunding platforms (CFPs), particularly related to civil society. He notes that, “[f]or civil society activists and others concerned with local welfare issues, the emergence of these new CFPs has been hugely significant: It has opened up a new source of funding when governments and businesses around the world are cutting back on their spending.”
  • Hollow argues that, “aside from their evident financial and economic benefits, CFPs also have the capacity to help foster and strengthen non-parliamentary democratic structures and practices. As such, they should be supported and encouraged as part of a framework of further European democratization and civic integration.”

Mollick, Ethan R. “The Dynamics of Crowdfunding: An Exploratory Study.” Journal of Business Venturing (June 26, 2013). http://bit.ly/1aaTJIV.

  • This paper “offers a description of the underlying dynamics of success and failure among crowdfunded ventures,” focusing on how personal networks and the project quality and viability have an impact on the success of crowdfunding efforts.
  • Mollick also highlights how other factors, like the geography of the project, design choices made by crowdfunding sites and developments in technology in this space all have an influence on the relationship between backers and project founders.
  • The paper finally demonstrates that projects that succeed do so by a small margin and those that fail seemingly by a large margin suggesting the influence of social bias and crowd influence.

Stemler, Abbey R. “The JOBS Act and Crowdfunding: Harnessing the Power—and Money—of the Masses.” Business Horizons 56, no. 3 (May 2013): 271–275. http://bit.ly/1ih9lts.

  • This paper discusses the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act signed into law by President Obama in 2012, with a specific focus on the CROWDFUND Act, which enables entrepreneurs and small business owners to sell limited equity in their companies to a “crowd” of investors.
  • The objective of the Act is to exempt crowdfunding from registration requirement costs, allowing the potential of equity-based funding to be realized, by creating a pathway for underfunded entrepreneurs to access otherwise inaccessible streams of funding.
  • Stemler argues that the Act helps to legitimize crowdfunding as a community-building and fundraising tool for the business community, and also helps build better relationships between small business owners and government.

Selected Readings on Crowdsourcing Opinions and Ideas


The Living Library’s Selected Readings series seeks to build a knowledge base on innovative approaches for improving the effectiveness and legitimacy of governance. This curated and annotated collection of recommended works on the topic of crowdsourcing was originally published in 2013.

As technological advances give individuals greater ability to share their opinions and ideas with the world, citizens are increasingly expecting government to consult with them and factor their input into the policy-making process. Moving away from the representative democracy system created in a less connected time, e-petitions; participatory budgeting (PB), a collaborative, community-based system for budget allocation; open innovation initiatives; and Liquid Democracy, a hybrid of direct and indirect democracy, are allowing citizens to make their voices heard between trips to the ballot box.

Selected Reading List (in alphabetical order)

Annotated Selected Reading List (in alphabetical order)

Bergmann, Eirikur. “Reconstituting Iceland – Constitutional Reform Caught in a New Critical Order in the Wake of Crisis.” in Academia.edu, (presented at the Political Legitimacy and the Paradox of Regulation, Leiden University, 2013). http://bit.ly/1aaTVYP.
  •  This paper explores the tumultuous history of Iceland’s “Crowdsourced Constitution.” The since-abandoned document was built upon three principles: distribution of power, transparency and responsibility.
  •  Even prior to the draft being dismantled through political processes, Bergmann argues that an overenthusiastic public viewed the constitution as a stronger example of citizen participation than it really was: “Perhaps with the delusion of distance the international media was branding the production as the world’s first ‘crowdsourced’ constitution, drafted by the interested public in clear view for the world to follow…This was however never a realistic description of the drafting. Despite this extraordinary open access, the Council was not able to systematically plough through all the extensive input as [it] only had four months to complete the task.”
  • Bergmann’s paper illustrates the transition Iceland’s constitution has undertaken in recent years: moving form a paradigmatic example of crowdsourcing opinions to a demonstration of the challenges inherent in bringing more voices into a realm dominated by bureaucracy and political concerns.
Gassmann, Oliver, Ellen Enkel, and Henry Chesbrough. “The Future of Open Innovation.” R&D Management 40, no. 3 (2010): 213– 221. http://bit.ly/1bk4YeN.
  • In this paper – an introduction to a special issue on the topic – Gassmann, Enkel and Chesbrough discuss the evolving trends in open innovation. They define the concept, referencing previous work by Chesbrough et al., as “…the purposive inflows and outflows of knowledge to accelerate internal innovation, and expand the markets for external use of innovation, respectively.”
  • In addition to examining the existing literature for the field, the authors identify nine trends that they believe will define the future of open innovation for businesses, many of which can also be applied to governing insitutions:
    • Industry penetration: from pioneers to mainstream
    • R&D intensity: from high to low tech
    • Size: from large firms to SMEs
    • Processes: from stage gate to probe-and-learn
    • Structure: from standalone to alliances
    • Universities: from ivory towers to knowledge brokers  Processes: from amateurs to professionals
    • Content: from products to services
    • Intellectual property: from protection to a tradable good
Gilman, Hollie Russon. “The Participatory Turn: Participatory Budgeting Comes to America.” Harvard University, 2012. https://bit.ly/2BhaeVv.
  •  In this dissertation, Gilman argues that participatory budgeting (PB) produces better outcomes than the status quo budget process in New York, while also transforming how those who participate understand themselves as citizens, constituents, Council members, civil society leaders and community stakeholders.
  • The dissertation also highlights challenges to participation drawing from experience and lessons learned from PB’s inception in Porto Alege, Brazil in 1989. While recognizing a diversity of challenges, Gilman ultimately argues that, “PB provides a viable and informative democratic innovation for strengthening civic engagement within the United States that can be streamlined and adopted to scale.”
Kasdan, Alexa, and Cattell, Lindsay. “New Report on NYC Participatory Budgeting.” Practical Visionaries. Accessed October 21, 2013. https://bit.ly/2Ek8bTu.
  • This research and evaluation report is the result of surveys, in-depth interviews and observations collected at key points during the 2011 participatory budgeting (PB) process in New York City, in which “[o]ver 2,000 community members were the ones to propose capital project ideas in neighborhood assemblies and town hall meetings.”
  • The PBNYC project progressed through six main steps:
    •  First Round of Neighborhood Assemblies
    • Delegate Orientations
    • Delegate Meetings
    • Second Round of Neighborhood Assemblies
    • Voting
    • Evaluation, Implementation & Monitoring
  •  The authors also discuss the varied roles and responsibilities for the divers stakeholders involved in the process:
    • Community Stakeholders
    • Budget Delegates
    • District Committees
    • City-wide Steering Committee  Council Member Offices
Masser, Kai. “Participatory Budgeting as Its Critics See It.” Burgerhaushalt, April 30, 2013. http://bit.ly/1dppSxW.
  • This report is a critique of the participatory budgeting (PB) process, focusing on lessons learned from the outcomes of a pilot initiative in Germany.
  • The reports focuses on three main criticisms leveled against PB:
    • Participatory Budgeting can be a time consuming process that is barely comprehensive to the people it seeks to engage, as a result there is need for information about the budget, and a strong willingness to participate in preparing it.
    • Differences in the social structure of the participants inevitably affect the outcome – the process must be designed to avoid low participation or over-representation of one group.
    • PB cannot be sustained over a prolonged period and should therefore focus on one aspect of the budgeting process. The article points to outcomes that show that citizens may find it considerably more attractive to make proposals on how to spend money than on how to save it, which may not always result in the best outcomes.
OECD. “Citizens as Partners: Information, Consultation and Public Participation in Policy-making.” The IT Law Wiki. http://bit.ly/1aIGquc.
  • This OECD policy report features discussion on the concept of crowdsourcing as a new form or representation and public participation in OECD countries, with the understanding that it creates avenues for citizens to participate in public policy-making within the overall framework of representative democracy.
  • The report provides a wealth of comparative information on measures adopted in OECD countries to strengthen citizens’ access to information, to enhance consultation and encourage their active participation in policy-making.

Tchorbadjiiski, Angel. “Liquid Democracy.” Rheinisch-Westf alische Technische Hochschule Aachen Informatik 4 ComSy, 2012. http://bit.ly/1eOsbIH.

  • This thesis presents discusses how Liquid Democracy (LD) makes it for citizens participating in an election to “either take part directly or delegate [their] own voting rights to a representative/expert. This way the voters are not limited to taking one decision for legislative period as opposed to indirect (representative) democracy, but are able to actively and continuously take part in the decision-making process.”
  • Tchorbadjiiski argues that, “LD provides great flexibility. You do not have to decide yourself on the program of a political party, which only suits some aspects of your opinion.” Through LD, “all voters can choose between direct and indirect democracy creating a hybrid government form suiting their own views.”
  • In addition to describing the potential benefits of Liquid Democracy, Tchorbadjiiski focuses on the challenge of maintaining privacy and security in such a system. He proposes a platform that “allows for secure and anonymous voting in such a way that it is not possible, even for the system operator, to find out the identity of a voter or to prevent certain voters (for example minority groups) from casting a ballot.”

Selected Readings on Linked Data and the Semantic Web


The Living Library’s Selected Readings series seeks to build a knowledge base on innovative approaches for improving the effectiveness and legitimacy of governance. This curated and annotated collection of recommended works on the topic of linked data and the semantic web was originally published in 2013.

Linked Data and the Semantic Web movement are seeking to make our growing body of digital knowledge and information more interconnected, searchable, machine-readable and useful. First introduced by the W3C, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, Christian Bizer and Tom Heath define Linked Data as “data published to the Web in such a way that it is machine-readable, its meaning is explicitly defined, it is linked to other external data sets, and can in turn be linked to from external datasets.” In other words, Linked Data and the Semantic Web seek to do for data what the Web did for documents. Additionally, the evolving capability of linking together different forms of data is fueling the potentially transformative rise of social machines – “processes in which the people do the creative work and the machine does the administration.”

Selected Reading List (in alphabetical order)

Annotated Selected Reading List (in alphabetical order)

Alani, Harith, David Dupplaw, John Sheridan, Kieron O’Hara, John Darlington, Nigel Shadbolt, and Carol Tullo. “Unlocking the Potential of Public Sector Information with Semantic Web Technology,” 2007. http://bit.ly/17fMbCt.

  • This paper explores the potential of using Semantic Web technology to increase the value of public sector information already in existence.
  • The authors note that, while “[g]overnments often hold very rich data and whilst much of this information is published and available for re-use by others, it is often trapped by poor data structures, locked up in legacy data formats or in fragmented databases. One of the great benefits that Semantic Web (SW) technology offers is facilitating the large scale integration and sharing of distributed data sources.”
  • They also argue that Linked Data and the Semantic Web are growing in use and visibility in other sectors, but government has been slower to adapt: “The adoption of Semantic Web technology to allow for more efficient use of data in order to add value is becoming more common where efficiency and value-added are important parameters, for example in business and science. However, in the field of government there are other parameters to be taken into account (e.g. confidentiality), and the cost-benefit analysis is more complex.” In spite of that complexity, the authors’ work “was intended to show that SW technology could be valuable in the governmental context.”

Berners-Lee, Tim, James Hendler, and Ora Lassila. “The Semantic Web.” Scientific American 284, no. 5 (2001): 28–37. http://bit.ly/Hhp9AZ.

  • In this article, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, James Hendler and Ora Lassila introduce the Semantic Web, “a new form of Web content that is meaningful to computers [and] will unleash a revolution of new possibilities.”
  • The authors argue that the evolution of linked data and the Semantic Web “lets anyone express new concepts that they invent with minimal effort. Its unifying logical language will enable these concepts to be progressively linked into a universal Web. This structure will open up the knowledge and workings of humankind to meaningful analysis by software agents, providing a new class of tools by which we can live, work and learn together.”

Bizer, Christian, Tom Heath, and Tim Berners-Lee. “Linked Data – The Story So Far.” International Journal on Semantic Web and Information Systems (IJSWIS) 5, no. 3 (2009): 1–22. http://bit.ly/HedpPO.

  • In this paper, the authors take stock of Linked Data’s challenges, potential and successes close to a decade after its introduction. They build their argument for increasingly linked data by referring to the incredible value creation of the Web: “Despite the inarguable benefits the Web provides, until recently the same principles that enabled the Web of documents to flourish have not been applied to data.”
  • The authors expect that “Linked Data will enable a significant evolutionary step in leading the Web to its full potential” if a number of research challenges can be adequately addressed, both technical, like interaction paradigms and data fusion; and non-technical, like licensing, quality and privacy.

Ding, Li, Dominic Difranzo, Sarah Magidson, Deborah L. Mcguinness, and Jim Hendler. Data-Gov Wiki: Towards Linked Government Data, n.d. http://bit.ly/1h3ATHz.

  • In this paper, the authors “investigate the role of Semantic Web technologies in converting, enhancing and using linked government data” in the context of Data-gov Wiki, a project that attempts to integrate datasets found at Data.gov into the Linking Open Data (LOD) cloud.
  • The paper features discussion and “practical strategies” based on four key issue areas: Making Government Data Linkable, Linking Government Data, Supporting the Use of Linked Government Data and Preserving Knowledge Provenance.

Kalampokis, Evangelos, Michael Hausenblas, and Konstantinos Tarabanis. “Combining Social and Government Open Data for Participatory Decision-Making.” In Electronic Participation, edited by Efthimios Tambouris, Ann Macintosh, and Hans de Bruijn, 36–47. Lecture Notes in Computer Science 6847. Springer Berlin Heidelberg, 2011. http://bit.ly/17hsj4a.

  • This paper presents a proposed data architecture for “supporting participatory decision-making based on the integration and analysis of social and government data.” The authors believe that their approach will “(i) allow decision makers to understand and predict public opinion and reaction about specific decisions; and (ii) enable citizens to inadvertently contribute in decision-making.”
  • The proposed approach, “based on the use of the linked data paradigm,” draws on subjective social data and objective government data in two phases: Data Collection and Filtering and Data Analysis. “The aim of the former phase is to narrow social data based on criteria such as the topic of the decision and the target group that is affected by the decision. The aim of the latter phase is to predict public opinion and reactions using independent variables related to both subjective social and objective government data.”

Rady, Kaiser. Publishing the Public Sector Legal Information in the Era of the Semantic Web. SSRN Scholarly Paper. Rochester, NY: Social Science Research Network, 2012. http://bit.ly/17fMiOp.

  • Following an EU directive calling for the release of public sector information by member states, this study examines the “uniqueness” of creating and publishing primary legal source documents on the web and highlights “the most recent technological strategy used to structure, link and publish data online (the Semantic Web).”
  • Rady argues for public sector legal information to be published as “open-linked-data in line with the new approach for the web.” He believes that if data is created and published in this form, “the data will be more independent from devices and applications and could be considered as a component of [a] big information system. That because, it will be well-structured, classified and has the ability to be used and utilized in various combinations to satisfy specific user requirements.”

Shadbolt, Nigel, Kieron O’Hara, Tim Berners-Lee, Nicholas Gibbins, Hugh Glaser, Wendy Hall, and m.c. schraefel. “Linked Open Government Data: Lessons from Data.gov.uk.” IEEE Intelligent Systems 27, no. 3 (May 2012): 16–24. http://bit.ly/1cgdH6R.

  • In this paper, the authors view Open Government Data (OGD) as an “opportunity and a challenge for the LDW [Linked Data Web]. The opportunity is to grow by linking with PSI [Public Sector Information] – real-world, useful information with good provenance. The challenge is to manage the sudden influx of heterogeneous data, often with minimal semantics and structure, tailored to highly specific task contexts.
  • As the linking of OGD continues, the authors argue that, “Releasing OGD is not solely a technical problem, although it presents technical challenges. OGD is not a rigid government IT specification, but it demands productive dialogue between data providers, users, and developers. We should expect a ‘perpetual beta,’ in which best practice, technical development, innovative use of data, and citizen-centric politics combine to drive data-release programs.”
  • Despite challenges, the authors believe that, “Integrating OGD onto the LDW will vastly increase the scope and richness of the LDW. A reciprocal benefit is that the LDW will provide additional resources and context to enrich OGD. Here, we see the network effect in action, with resources mutually adding value to one another.”

Vitale, Michael, Anni Rowland-Campbell, Valentina Cardo, and Peter Thompson. “The Implications of Government as a ‘Social Machine’ for Making and Implementing Market-based Policy.” Intersticia, September 2013. http://bit.ly/HhMzqD.

  • This report from the Australia and New Zealand School of Government (ANZSOG) explores the concept of government as a social machine. The authors draw on the definition of a social machine proposed by Sir Nigel Shadbolt et al. – a system where “human and computational intelligence coalesce in order to achieve a given purpose” – to describe a “new approach to the relationship between citizens and government, facilitated by technological systems which are increasingly becoming intuitive, intelligent and ‘social.'”
  • The authors argue that beyond providing more and varied data to government, the evolving concept of government as a social machine as the potential to alter power dynamics, address the growing lack of trust in public institutions and facilitate greater public involvement in policy-making.