Brussels, 3 July 2018 – Valuable contributions and high-level networking have been the distinctive elements of the 3rd edition of the ECN CrowdCamp “The European Dimension of Civic Crowdfunding”, that took place in Bologna on June 28-29. The event has been co-organised with ASTER, the Consortium for innovation and technology transfer of Emilia-Romagna region and ECN Member since 2016. Around 140 participants including policy-makers, representatives of subnational governments, private foundations and crowdfunding industry have gathered to exchange views, listen from experts and collect new ideas.
The objective of the two-day conference was to highlight the potential that civic crowdfunding and partnerships between crowdfunding platforms and public administrations could unlock in terms of regional economic and social development. In addition to the existing good practices, the event aimed at exploring the many opportunities offered by a combination between crowdfunding resources and ESIF grants.
As presented by Emilia-Romagna’s General Manager of Resources, Europe, Innovation and Institutions, Francesco Raphael Frieri, the regional ecosystem is strongly committed to pursue a practical implementation of a match-funding scheme, which can modify the rewarding system of public tenders and increase the winning probability for crowdfunding projects. At the same time, the integration of this innovative paradigm into public tenders in different areas would stimulate participation and active citizenship, while integrating public grants with collective funding.
The commitment of Emilia-Romagna region towards a gradual integration of crowdfunding into the set of tools available to citizens and enterprises in its territory was also confirmed by ASTER’s Executive Director, Marina Silverii, who praised the results produced by the KICK-ER service, the regional support desk for all actors that want to approach and use crowdfunding for projects with a local or regional impact.
The unique case of match-funding with grants allocated from the European Social Fund in the Extremadura region was presented. Irene Palomino, from the regional Innovation and Technology Agency FUNDECYT, introduced the audience with the main drivers and outputs of the match-funding schemes “CO-FINANCIA” and “Conecta Financiacion”, both framed within the regional Operational Programme and aimed at boosting the regional economy through crowdfunding since 2013. In the five years of active match-funding, the Extremadura region has allocated over 100.000 EUR to 45 successful projects in RIS3 areas, with crowdfunding resources doubling the final amount awarded to projects.
In an effort to collect and standardise the existing cases of the partnership between civic crowdfunding platforms and public authorities, Francesca Passeri, Head of Advocacy at ECN, presented the report “Triggering Participation: A Collection of Civic Crowdfunding and Match-funding experiences in the EU”. The report is the first deliverable of the CF4ESIF working group, officially established in January 2018 with the aim of exploring the potential of crowdfunding as a blending and match-funding mechanism within the context of the European Cohesion Policy. Seven case studies, covering 6 EU countries and analysing different models of partnership between crowdfunding platforms and public authorities have been included, as to describe the most relevant trends in the area of this innovative funding scheme.
Panel sessions allowed the participants to hear different perspectives directly from the key stakeholders in the topic. The first panel was dedicated to crowdfunding platforms that have initiated a cooperation with regional and local authorities, while panel 2 called on stage four representatives from the broader alternative finance landscape in an effort to highlight how civic crowdfunding and local impact can further develop as to find a new model of cooperation with different financial players.
Openness towards the possibility of implementing such match-funding partnerships within ESIF and other EU Funds has been shown both by Mr. Jader Cané, Senior Expert at DG EMPL, and Ms. Daniela Francovicchio, Head of South European Unit of Guarantees and Securitisation EIF. From their point of view, further analysis and design efforts will be required from crowdfunding platforms and subnational governments to include match-funding in regional Operative Programmes, but the mechanism could indeed bring added value to all parties involved, especially in times of growing challenges and shrinking public budgets in EU regions.
Umberto Piattelli, Partner at Osborne Clarke, underlined how civic crowdfunding is indeed quite similar to microfinance but, by leveraging on digital technology, it could positively redefine the interaction between institutional investors, European funds, subnational governments and the crowd.
The academic perspective was also brought on stage in Panel 4, for a closing of the first day. Professor Alessandro Giovanni Grasso stressed the importance of exploring further the opportunities offered by lending- and equity-based crowdfunding for civic projects, encouraging the audience to “think outside the box”. Jonathan Bone further elaborated on the benefits of match-funding, by recalling the main findings collected in the report “Matching the Crowd” published by NESTA. The Odisee University research team, represented on stage by Ms. Katja Verbeek, highlighted the importance of data analysis not only for crowdfunding platforms’ managers, but also for guiding, supporting and providing precise training to project owners.
The second day of the conference was opened by Matteo Passini from Emil Banca, a cooperative local bank which experimented with crowdfunding as a powerful multiplier to help social coops in developing their projects. The following panel, Panel 5, was dedicated to local authorities who have been partnering with crowdfunding platforms on a range of different areas. Matteo Lepore, Deputy Mayor of Bologna, explained how the first civic crowdfunding campaign in Italy (2013) helped the Municipality to start a bigger co-design project that engaged thousands of citizens in the following years and made Bologna one of the winners of the Bloomberg Engaged Cities Award 2018. Enric Miravittlas (Barcelona Activa) and James Parkinson (Greater London Authority) presented the match-funding calls social impact and local projects respectively in Barcelona and London, while Sandra Vlasic (TERRA Hub Croatia) explained how citizens in Croatia can now invest in the instalment of solar panels, and benefit both from the energy produced and from the return on their initial investment.
Moving the discussion towards investors and entrepreneurs, a presentation of ESIL (the European Early Stage Investor Launchpad) by Luigi Della Sala, Head of Operations at ECN, outlined its capacity building activities in more than 40 countries. The conference was closed by the first SMARTUP National Roundtable, chaired by Professor Elisabetta Marafioti, and aimed at exploring which tools are currently available for students and young entrepreneurs that want to bring their idea closer to market. A significant contribution to the discussion came from Giordano Dichter, Senior Business Advisor at ECN, who underlined the paramount importance of developing and nurturing a “culture of failure” that can support students in learning from their mistakes while providing them with the right tools to “try again”.
The 3rd ECN CrowdCamp was an inspiring kick off for the civic crowdfunding topic not only within the public administrations’ agendas, but also for the European Commission’s one. The experiences and the impacts shared during the two-day discussion stimulated all the players involved (platforms, public institutions, local entities, finance, academia, EU stakeholders) to carry on at the institutional level the exploration of further opportunities deriving from the combination between crowdfunding resources and ESIF grants.