Crowdfunding to Eliminate Silicon Valley Poverty

Tue 14 May 2013 12:45, Seema Sanghavi

Many of us think of the Silicon Valley as a hub for all things technology, however, most people are not aware of a lingering problem in the area, poverty. According to Mashable, the number of those living below the poverty line is drastically increasing just a few kilometers away from the huge known offices of Google and Amazon. To help work towards a solution, an online crowdfunding platform is making headway. 

Crowdfunding to Eliminate Silicon Valley Poverty

Similar to the model used by Kiva, online crowdfunding platform Benevolent is using the same power to help people break free from the cycle of poverty. Benevolent is a site where anyone can make a small donation to help low income individuals. According to the Knight Foundation, there are over 100 million Americans living in low income households and the number has risen drastically since the financial crash. Unlike Kiva, the money however is in a form of a donation rather than a loan. Benevolent’s niche is microdonations that allow people to buy a specific item or accomplish a specific task, such as getting a car fixed, buying a refrigerator, or getting business training. The company’s founder, Megan Kashner, has over 20 years experience working as a social worker aiding low-income families. Kashner stated that she thought of the idea after seeing many situations where a family would be derailed from their goals by a challenge that would have only cost them a few hundred dollars to overcome. What good is it to go to college if you can’t afford the glasses to read the books?

Benevolent

As Kashner told Mashable, the Knight Foundation, an organization that focuses on certain communities one of which being the Silicon Valley, introduced her to the problems in that area. She pointed out that the biggest concern is the isolation the huge technology companies have from their surroundings and this is why the area’s poverty has been a slow moving issue. Kashner highlights that on huge corporate campuses, employees can do everything from eating and exercising to getting their dry cleaning done. Because of this, the positive work environment is actually making it less likely for employees to step out into the community and see what is going on. Kashner feels more creative solutions are needed to get the companies more integrated with the community.  

Kickstarter1

Using Kickstarter as a benchmark, Kashner and her staff decided to use a crowdfunding model, but Benevolent aims to do more than just raise money. Instead of having people speak on behalf of someone in need, individuals seeking the money can tell their own stories online. According to Kashner, in the USA there are programs to help people find jobs but no funding to help them overcome short term hurdles. Now, there is the technology available to do something about this problem.

This is a great initiative taken on by Kashner and her team. Poverty is a problem unfortunately seen in most countries. It’s also good to see that crowdfunding and platforms similar to that of Kiva and Kickstarter are being replicated for the greater good. What I feel is still lacking for Benevolent is more help from the huge corporation in the Silicon Valley. Shouldn’t they be more actively involved in assisting the communities they are in? 

Sources:

  • mashable.com
  • www.knightfoundation.org
  • tv.msnbc.com

 Images:

  • http://www.thisisitaly-panorama.com/business-news/italy-tech-week-to-start-in-the-silicon-valley/
  • http://www.knightfoundation.org/press-room/press-release/benevolent-crowd-funding-site-low-income-people-ne/
  • http://venturebeat.com/2012/06/11/kickstarter-failures-revealed-what-can-you-learn-from-them-infographic/

 


 


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