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Designing for Crowdfunding Social Innovation (RDF17/DES/BRIGGS)

   Faculty of Arts, Design and Social Sciences

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  Dr J Briggs  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

UK-led online crowdfunding platforms such as Spacehive, tag line: “Create civic life” ( and Crowdfunder, “Where ideas happen” ( are oriented towards enabling new crowd-financed forms of social innovation. Fundraisers engage over several weeks in an online public commissioning process with the aim of raising money for a project or cause. Successful campaigns are those that reach a pre-determined funding goal enabling the project to go forward to fruition. Backers receive typically a modest reward in the form of a “thank you”, T-shirt, or event invitation, along with a warm feeling and the knowledge that they have signalled their support and potentially helped to enable their chosen cause.

Crowdfunding campaigns can bring a wide range of intangible benefits to social innovation organisations including publicity, widened support networks and increased confidence in and within the organisation. However, the practical demands of designing and managing successful campaigns are high. Even for the most meticulously designed campaign the outcomes are usually unpredictable. And it is often the most financially successful – those that significantly overshoot their funding target—that are most ‘disruptive’ for the fundraising organisation.

This PhD project will research the design-led opportunities within this space of crowdfunding for social innovators, -entreneurs and activists in the North East. The research builds on UK crowdfunding scoping work by the primary supervisor across the domains of creative production, investment and social innovation. Focusing on the latter, the project will develop in-depth coproduced knowledge working with social change organisations in the application of creatively informed qualitative methods (e.g. ethnographic approaches, Participatory Design, product prototyping and coproduction).

The practice-led design investigation will:
1. Examine the potential for and nature of engagement and community building within individual crowdfunding campaigns and beyond, from the perspective of selected social enterprises;
2. Explore design opportunities to promote trust, community-building and sustained engagement between fundraisers, funders and platform, focusing on the role that communication design plays in marketing projects, incentivising pledge-making, creating a shared identity and enabling the crowdfunding ecosystem (e.g. through functions of self-regulation);
3. Understand better the resistances to campaigning amongst small social innovation organisations and explore the design of tools to help mitigate perceived risk;
4. Contextualise crowdfunding historically in relation to micro-financed models of enterprise and recent civic finance innovation (e.g. subscription; participatory budgeting)
5. Determine the potential to mobilise social innovation towards civil impact in the North East.

This proposal offers opportunities to work closely with a social enterprise CIC or cooperative and crowdfunding platform with a mission towards social innovation. We envision that the project will involve running a crowdfunding campaign in collaboration with a social enterprise partner.

Applicants from academic backgrounds in communication, graphic, product, interactive Design and associated Design sub-disciplines are encouraged to apply. This is not an exhaustive list and the project may also be of interest to those from e.g. social innovation and service design, creative marketing, sustainable and ethical business academic backgrounds.

Eligibility and How to Apply
Please note eligibility requirement:
• Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.
• Appropriate IELTS score, if required (evidence required by 1 August 2017).

For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see

Please ensure you quote the advert reference above on your application form.
Deadline for applications: 20 January 2017
Start Date: 2 October 2017

Northumbria University is an equal opportunities provider and in welcoming applications for studentships from all sectors of the community we strongly encourage applications from women and under-represented groups.

Funding Notes

This project is being considered for funding in competition with other projects, through one of two types of funding packages available:
• Fully funded studentships include a full stipend, paid for three years at RCUK rates for 2017/18 (this is yet to be set, in 2016/17 this is £14,296 pa) and fees (Home/EU £4,350 / International £13,000 / International Lab-based £16,000), and are available to applicants worldwide.
• As Northumbria celebrates its 25th anniversary as a University and in line with our international outlook, some projects may also be offered to students from outside of the EU supported by a half-fee reduction.


Crowdfunding, design and publics
Ann Light and Jo Briggs. Crowdfunding Platforms and the Design of Paying Publics (under review CHI’17).

Local authority devolution
Ian Johnson, Alistair MacDonald, Jo Briggs, Jennifer Manuel and John Vines. Community Conversational: Supporting and Capturing Political Deliberation in Local Consultation Processes (under review CHI’17).

Participatory design and social media
Fatema Qaed, Jo Briggs and Gilbert Cockton. Social Media Resources for Participative Design Research. In: PDC '16: Proceedings of the 14th Participatory Design Conference. Association for Computing Machinery, New York, pp. 49-52. ISBN 978-1-4503-4136-3

Parallel economic models
Jo Briggs, Celia Lury and Sarah Teasley (2015) Creative Temporal Costings: A ProtoPublics Research Project with Leeds Creative Timebank.
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