UC Berkeley pilot crowdfunding website launched Monday

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The campus launched a pilot crowdfunding platform Monday, through which students, faculty and researchers can seek support for their projects under the UC Berkeley brand.

The website currently includes five projects focusing on topics ranging from health and sanitation to “the science of a meaningful life,” and will be online from April 6 to May 6 for a 30-day trial period.

“We involved both students and faculty and have a full gamut of projects that have tangible impact,” said Jose Rodriguez, a spokesperson for the initiative. “(These are) not just tech projects, but all sorts of projects from different fields of work.”

According to Rodriguez, the pilot program is a way to evaluate how the projects perform and how much support they can draw. The information the campus gleans from this initiative will determine if it will launch a permanent site.

“The main goal of this initiative is to acquire new donors and understand a little bit more about who the donors are that contribute to these types of projects,” said Lishelle Blakemore, executive sponsor of the crowdfunding initiative.

According to Blakemore, the vetting process to determine which projects would be included on the site was rigorous. The five featured projects, which were chosen from a pool of several-dozen potential groups, were selected based on criteria such as the size of the team’s social network and other information that was used to evaluate the potential success of the project.

One of the projects, the Intranational International Boulevard, aims to publish a series of maps of a 107-block area of Oakland, called International Boulevard, in order to create a holistic picture of the community’s social space.

Darin Jensen — the director of the campus’s Cartography and GIS Education, or CAGE, Lab, which is leading the project — called the atlas a form of “experiential learning.”

While the CAGE Lab plans to create an online version of the atlas regardless of crowdfunding support, it hopes to print a “physical artifact” with the funds raised through the campus platform.

According to Blakemore, project groups benefit from joining the campus crowdfunding initiative by launching their project under the “strong, reputable and innovative brand of UC Berkeley.”

Other projects include one aiming to bring safer waste-disposal options to Rwanda and a project to fund internships addressing energy and climate issues.

Rodriguez added that the campus crowdfunding initiative will retain a smaller percentage of funds raised than popular platforms such as Kickstarter.

Blakemore hopes the data collected from the initiative will be used to construct a plan for a permanent website, which would include an even broader array of projects that “reflect the diversity of student research.”

“These projects are fulfilling dreams,” said Rodriguez. “I’m excited to see these projects come forward that otherwise (wouldn’t) get this exposure.”

Contact Emily Pedersen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @epedersendc.