Crowdsourcing government arts funding

Crowdsourcing government arts fundingGovernment arts funders could harness the power of crowdfunding to get more bang for their buck.

Crowdfunding is on the rise as a way of supporting community projects. Made possible by web-based technologies, it works like this: people who think they have a good idea for a project post a proposal on a dedicated website. Information is provided on the project’s aims and objectives, how it will work, and its budget. Anyone can pledge money to the project via the website. Projects that raise enough financial support proceed.

Crowdfunding is a democratic funding system that relies on the ‘wisdom of crowds’. One dollar equals one vote. Because a voter makes a financial commitment, reckless voting and conflicts of interest are kept in check. Additional checks are usually put in place to guard against bogus operators looking to run off with voters’ funds.

Probably the most well-known crowdfunding scheme is the USA’s Kickstarter. The model has been applied to the arts at United States Artists and at We did this in the UK. And in Australia, ‘four energetic, tech-savvy, eccentric team members’ in Sydney’ have launched Pozilbe, ‘Australia’s 1st crowdfunding platform developed for creative individuals, groups and organisations’.

Crowdfunding sites exist in a highly democratised, technology-savvy space away from the tentacles of government. They work in a way that most government funding doesn’t. They lack the centralised control of government funding programs. They rely on modern technology. They are democratic, open and transparent.

Crowdfunding seems anathema to bureaucracy, and this might well be part of its appeal.

Yet, despite all these differences, crowdfunding has similarities with at least one form of government arts funding – peer review. Continue reading


Estimating deadweight loss in arts funding

Deadweight loss in arts fundingA rough estimate puts deadweight losses in Australian arts funding at $3.6 million in 2009-10.

Crowdsourcing government arts funding argues that government funders could use crowdfunding to reduce deadweight losses associated with their arts funding.

This is a post script to explore how big those deadweight losses might be. A rough estimate for Australia puts deadweight losses in Federal arts funding at $3.6 million in 2009-10.
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An arts council by any other name

An arts council by any other nameThe literary journal Overland asked me to respond to an article in its September 2010 issue, Culture is bigger than the arts, in which Ben Eltham pleads for Australia’s cultural policy to be liberated from its stuffiness. Ben calls for cultural policy to adopt a wider notion of culture – one that  includes game design and all manner of ‘screen based art forms’ – and for policy to move on from supporting ‘elite’ arts.

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In defence of the Australia Council

In defence of the Australia CouncilA recent call for an overhaul of the Australia Council misses the real culprit. If Australian cultural policy is in disarray, it is not the Australia Council that is at fault; it is the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts.

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