It has now been 10 days from the flurry that was the end of my second successful crowd funding campaign to garner funds to support my research activities. Phew! It was an exciting ride at the end of the campaign and as happened last time, Hips 4 Hipsters took on a life of its own in the final 40 hours or so.
This is due to the ’emotional’ investment from the people who have already pledged and would like to see the campaign succeed as well as final cracking of the resolve of the ‘lurkers’. Many of the ‘first timers’ to the concept of crowd funding projects were watching the total tot up towards the trigger point with bated breath. Some urged members of their own social networks to pledge and the lovely support I received from people I consider Australian ‘Super Tweeters’ like @colvinus and @upulie, was gratefully received and these two people are perhaps responsible for several thousands of dollars worth of pledges from their networks alone.
The day before the campaign ended, I had a theme based grant meeting at work in the afternoon. There was 5 of us lab heads going around the table to talk about our various projects’ progress and the success or failures of recent Grant Applications. After hearing the tales of woe (?!) from the two NHMRC fellows (neither fellowship renewal had been successful, despite a Nature paper for each), it was my turn.
I baldly stated I don’t consider myself a researcher in their league, as I could never envisage Cat A grant applications as a CI-A and that I felt locked out of the system due to my ECR status, lack of patrons and a spotty track record. I was then asked ‘What is it that you are an expert in?’ My reply was ‘Stakeholder Engagement’ …which was a strange answer, as they expected a more science based response. But it has become clear to me over the past 12-18 months that this is indeed quite true in my case.
The head of research then looked at me in a different light than he had 3 weeks before (when advising me to stick to Pozible campaigns and Philanthropic foundations) and stated perhaps I should seek stakeholders from the local area to put in a ‘One Health’ ARC linkage project with my collaborators on my M. ulcerans work. (The disease which is the subject of Mighty Maggots campaign) ….so looks like I will be spending the next year door knocking my local Councils and Boroughs to get them to put cash aside in their next budgets for an attempt at an ARC linkage…on which I will be CI-C or D. I am hoping that as this grant type requires strong communication with non-research stakeholders, that my newly minted ‘Track Record’ of direct engagement to involve people in my research, will actually count for something in the traditional Grant framework.
During the meeting I had my iPad open and kept pressing ‘refresh’ on the Hips 4 Hipsters page. Just before leaving the meeting, I noted that I had about $1,500 in pledges left to gather to reach the ‘jackpot’ pay over point. I had plans in place to enact the next day in case it was looking like going ‘belly up’ as I had received a promise of a traditional ‘funds transfer’ from one of my collaborators at the eleventh hour. This allowed me to contemplate using some of my existing research funds to temporarily ‘fill the gap’ in my campaign, due to the inability of said collaborator to use a university credit card to pledge directly, due to auditing concerns. I then got in my car and drove home.
Arriving home, I took up my usual position on the sofa, surrounded by the kids…with an aperitif in one hand and the iPad in the other, to resume awareness raising on Twitter for the campaign. And then…..everything went a little surreal and crazy online. Within an hour or so of arriving home, I had received several large pledges that had sent Hips 4 Hipsters over the line. To say I was ecstatic and relieved by turns, is an understatement. The messages of congratulations immediately started flooding my Twitter notifications as some of the 180 newly minted biotech investors messaged me with their own excitement about the campaign’s success. And with 26 hours to spare!
And in the time since Hips 4 Hipsters ended…a similar style of ‘crowd sourced’ direct engagement campaign, The Longitude Prize was won by the Challenge of fighting Antibiotic Resistance. There is now £10 million GBP on offer to anyone who comes up with the best idea to tackle this issue.