Crowdfunding the Paradigm Shift

by Marissa Mommaerts, originally published by  Transition US

What may look like just another crowd-funding campaign is actually far more profound, a welcome sign of a cultural shift away from competition and scarcity toward mutual benefit and abundance.

Here’s the story.
As an activist, Transition Trainer, and member of Transition SF, Beverly Markiewicz knows that Transition US and other non-profit organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area are “affecting huge positive change on very small budgets.” And as founder of Tree Ring Productions, a social enterprise offering “video production for changemakers,” Beverly knows a well-produced video would help these groups share their stories and extend their reach, but the cost of a professionally produced video is often inaccessible to small organizations.
Our small team at Transition US had come to the same conclusion while pondering how to best share the complex narrative of Transition and utilize some of the great footage from Rob Hopkins’ tour, so we were thrilled when Transition US got the opportunity to participate in the Tree Ring Film Fund along with nine other Bay Area non-profits: 350 Bay Area – Stop FrackingBay LocalizeCommunity Living CampaignJust One TreeLocal Clean Energy Alliance,Pathways to ResiliencePeaceTonesRE-volv, and Shaping San Francisco.
Though my coworker Maggie and I are both a bit camera-shy, we went down to the studio in San Francisco and gave the crowdfunding video film shoot a good old-fashioned try. And although we were open to the typical content approach, soon after the film shoot day, we were pleasantly surprised with a change in the process.
What started out as a contest to fund half of the videos that got the most votes from donors turned into a much more radically inclusive approach. After listening to feedback and adapting, the Tree Ring Film Fund evolved into a collective effort to produce videos for ALL of the participating organizations. Three filmmakers from Tree Ring Productions are donating their time for a third of the production costs and are crowdfunding the remaining $20,000. They chose a Fixed Funding approach on IndieGoGo. This means that either all of these equally deserving organizations will end up with a video, or none of them will.  If funded successfully, every organization gets the resources needed for a top quality video production. We are truly all in this together.
What’s exciting to me is that this new approach challenges the way we usually do business, even in the non-profit world. Instead of competing for scarce resources in a world of economic contraction, we are mutually responsible for each other’s success.
It may not seem like much, but it’s the sort of paradigm shift that needs to occur in order for us to survive and thrive in a post-growth economy. It nurtures a pay-it-forward culture, a sense of being part of something greater, and it encourages us to collaborate and leverage each other’s work. These are concepts we explore and practice in Transition, and I’m delighted to see it seeping into the culture of our organization and the broader movement the Tree Ring Film Fund represents.
One of my favorite permaculture principles states “the only barrier to abundance is lack of creativity.” I’m grateful for the vision and willingness of Tree Ring Productions and our fellow small-but-mighty organizations to creatively embrace the radical idea of mutual benefit.
So, by contributing to the Tree Ring Film Fund indiegogo campaign, you’re not only raising the visibility of some powerful yet under-resourced organizations, you’re investing in an entirely new approach.
Let’s call it “crowd-funding the paradigm shift.”


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