On November 15th, Launcht presented to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on how the government can utilize crowdfunding and crowdsourcing to reach more people and have a larger impact. HHS is responsible for protecting the health and providing essential human services to all Americans. Its Medicare and Medicaid programs together provide health care insurance for a quarter of Americans. The department includes over 300 different programs and administers more grant dollars than all other federal agencies combined. HHS does not only operate at the federal level, but also works closely with state and local governments to ensure the highest quality and efficiency of health programs.
Co-founder Spencer Taylor presented on the current state and future of crowdfunding in the government and healthcare space. Local governments are leading the efforts of using crowdfunding for civic purposes. In the past year, civic crowdfunding sites that partner with local governments have become increasingly popular. These sites include: Neighbor.ly, based in Kansas City; Citizinvestor, which started in Tampa, but has now expanded to Philadelphia and Boston; and Patronhood, which covers San Francisco, New York, and Montreal. These sites provide a way for citizens to fund public projects that have been approved by local governments, but lack the funding to be implemented. These projects range from bike share systems, public transport, parks and green spaces, and monuments and structures.
In conjunction with civic crowdfunding platforms, local governments themselves are beginning to designate personnel and offices to implement these innovative projects. In Boston, for example, newurbanmechanics.org is the city’s new innovation site supported by the mayor’s office. The site builds partnerships between city agencies, outside institutions, entrepreneurs, and crowdfunding sites to pilot civic projects in Boston.
Mr. Taylor also commented on the ways in which crowdfunding is being utilized in the healthcare space. He noted that it is being used across the board–by patients, doctors, and researchers–and for many different purposes. Patients are using crowdfunding increasingly to subsidize the cost for various medical treatments through sites like Fundly, YouCaring, and GiveForward. Doctors and researchers, on the other hand, are using crowdfunding as an alternative source of funding for research grants, which are labor intensive to apply for and can take up to 40% of their work time. They hope that crowdfunding will create more accessible pathways to research money.
Medical researchers use crowdfunding to gain funds from an invested community–such as those who have been afflicted with a particular illness–in order to do research to find cures or create new products to help those in need. MedStartr, one of the more famous of these types of sites, works towards healthcare innovation by allowing patients, doctors, and researchers to sign up and raise money for various innovations. Another prime example is CureFinder, which works to put money in the hands of world-class doctors so that they can spend more time focused on discovering new solutions for diseases.
Beyond this, crowdfunding is also being used for scientific research in general. #SciFundChallenge is a group that is training scientists to utilize social media channels in order to run successful crowdfunding campaigns across the sciences. Ozioma is a site that is working to improve local scientific knowledge by crowdsourcing health information from national channels–such as the NIH and CDC–and local channels. It hopes that by bringing many sources together it can help improve the medical literature that reaches underserved populations.
Mr. Taylor highlighted that crowdfunding in the government and healthcare space has been successful because of its ability to engage communities and raise needed funds for civic projects and medical research. Local governments are increasingly partnering with crowdfunding sites, especially in light of shrinking budgets, to allow citizens to choose and decide which projects are most important to them. In the realm of healthcare, crowdsourcing sites are supporting not only medical research and medical expenses, but also idea innovation.