Free & Conscious Contribution Experiment

This experiment was performed by Michka during the European Biomimicry Alliance Working Weekend on June 6-7th 2015.

The objective of this experiment was to evaluate how much money can we gather for space rental from people “philosophically connected” with FoAM, however having a too low budget to pay for the “floor” non-profit fee + hosting.

The crowd was made of 20 people, mostly free-lancers dealing with biomimicry in diverse European countries. Some were just starting their company, others had it more figured out, so the situation of the different people were quite uneven.

I put a hat and a pile of envelopes on the “tree-chair”, were people were often passing by, with two colored post-its stating “Free & Conscious Contribution to the Space” and “Thank you !”

I (Michka) briefed them on Saturday 6th at lunchtime, telling them that:

  • FoAM is a cultural laboratory, stating that we could “grow our own worlds”, interested in biomimicry, in making the future a “Common”, researching multidisciplinary work methodologies & collective intelligence processes.
  • FoAM had overcome a huge funding cut in 2014 (around 40%), and was looking for other sources to fund the space & its work
  • The usual fees for-profit/non-profit + hosting fees for the space

I then asked them to evaluate how much they felt to contribute given:

  • The quality of the service (space+hosting)
  • Their own current economic situation
  • FoAM's situation

… and to put a contribution they felt comfortable with in the hat.

I reminded them to get some cash on Sunday before we went out for lunch.

We managed to gather 61,2% of the usual “floor” non-profit fee for 2 days, excl. the hosting fee. Unfortunately, the protocol of “one contribution per envelope” was not clear enough, and we cannot provide detailed statistics of the individual contributions.

It seems that 14 people out of 20 participants contributed. The minimal individual contribution seems to have been 4,9% of the total collected contribution. The maximal individual contribution seems to have been 11,4% of the total collected contribution. The median seems to be 8,2% of the total collected contribution.

The collected amount is quite satisfying. The crowd was quite respectful, and while not rich, still not totally broke. I think that this process should be proposed only to crowds

  • which are empathic with FoAM's work & situation
  • which are not rich enough to just split the fee between the members
  • which members have uneven personal situations, to allow for the poorest to contribute at his own level

It seems that having a “volunteer host” is necessary to have a significant contribution to the rental of the space.

  • Someone asked for an invoice, which would have allowed him to be more generous. However, handling 20 invoices raises significantly the administrative overload, though it is probable that not everyone may request an invoice. Maybe propose an invoice above a certain contribution ? Will it induce a bias in the contribution, as it would no longer be free/anonymous ?
  • Be more clear about the “one envelope per contribution”, to have a better understanding of the number of individual contributions and the general statistics.