The 150-Second Challenge

If you think the 140-character limit imposed by Twitter is tough, try taking the 150-second challenge.  That’s basically the amount of time you have to make your case in a crowd funding campaign.

giveeffect logoSo I was advised by Anisa Mirza from Giveffect with whom I met when the Caledon Institute decided to try this method of financing.  You need to tell a compelling story in 2.5 minutes or less.

In our case, Caledon is trying to keep alive the war on poverty, not exactly an easy sell.  And while we know the subject matter very well, we had never tapped into a crowd for this kind of support.

Oh and there’s more.  Within those 2.5 minutes, you need to say who you are, why you are launching a crowd funding campaign, why your issue is of concern to viewers and what you would like them to do on your behalf.

And don’t forget.  When you tape the video, you need to be serious but funny − or at least approachable.  You need to be authoritative but folksy.  You need to be confident but relaxed.  Could we seriously pull this off?

After the production, you need to bank on your social capital.  It is crucial to muster your forces − in this case your networks − to help spread the word as quickly and as widely as possible in order to generate interest in your campaign.  After all, that is the art and science of crowd funding.  Small amounts of funds contributed by large numbers of people can add up to a substantial sum.

So what is our cause?  Here’s the story and why we need help.

I met Ken Battle (currently President of the Caledon Institute) in 1986 when he was Director of the National Council of Welfare, an advisory body to the federal government.  He hired me to work on a study of welfare in Canada.  Its purpose was to explain this hidden, incredibly complex, program and to figure out welfare rates across the country.

Despite opposition from some who didn’t want the welfare system explained, we were able to develop a methodology for calculating welfare incomes that is still used today.

The initial study was called Welfare in Canada: The Tangled Safety Net.  It spawned a series of reports entitled Welfare Incomes that have been published on a regular basis since 1989.  These reports are the only way to track the amounts that provinces and territories pay welfare recipients, the poorest of the poor in Canada.  They are often seen as the ‘undeserving’ poor and receive incomes that fall well below poverty standards.

In 2012, the federal government announced that it was dismantling the National Council of Welfare and cutting all its work, including Welfare Incomes.

After much deliberation, we decided at Caledon that we needed to keep alive this vital source of information.  We had developed the original methodology and knew how very difficult it would be − and how long it would take − to reconstruct credible numbers. Naturally this additional work costs money, and so we have decided to try the crowd funding campaign.

But Welfare Incomes is only one example of a larger problem. Access to crucial information drawn from, among many things, the Canadian long-form census is no longer available. There will be more to come on this vital issue and a broader solution, the Canada Social Report, on which we are currently working.

Welfare Access

Why Welfare Time Limits Never Flew -The Tyee

In the meantime, we are seeking help to keep alive Welfare Incomes, which provides the objective evidence to make the case for decent incomes and for welfare reform.  We need to preserve this powerful weapon in the war on poverty.

Editor’s note: See how Sherri pulled off her first crowd funding pitch by visiting their Giveffect campaign page

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Avatar About Sherri Torjman

Sherri Torjman is Vice-President of the Caledon Institute of Social Policy.

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