Crowd Funding a Viable Option for Diaspora Development Support

For persons seeking to make development happen in Jamaica, crowd funding, specifically through the I Support Jamaica website, will make that a much more targeted and impactful process.

The website, which was launched by the Jamaica National Building Society (JNBS) in June 2013, seeks to promote community empowerment, technology, innovation and entrepreneurial endeavors by Jamaicans for Jamaica.

The mounting of the website followed a prediction in a 2013 World Bank report stating that crowd funding would be a global market, which could grow to between US$90-95 billion dollars being invested by persons, over the next 20 years. The report stated that the sum represented about 25% of the more than US$400 billion dollars which developing countries were expected to receive in 2015 from remittances sent by their nationals in the Diaspora.

Leon Mitchell, assistant general manager at JNBS says, “Crowd funding is an ideal mode of investment for persons, particularly those in the Diaspora, who want to contribute to the development of communities and individual persons in Jamaica in measured ways to achieve visible results.”

At present, anyone can visit the website, and view existing projects; however, they will need to register to make donations to the initiative of their choice.

“Our aim is to provide a space for projects that would otherwise not be able to get funding, or the level of exposure, which ISupport Jamaica provides for them,” Mr Mitchell stated.

The transparency of the funding process is also a positive aspect, which has been a boon to the persons and entities seeking crowd funding support.

“It removes the dubiousness of other support methods and with the integration of technology; as well as, social interaction, beneficiaries are able to attract a wider audience to participate in the funding process,” he added.

Nathaniel Peat, co-founder of GENNEX Elite, a renewable energy source company with operations in Africa and the United Kingdom has already realised benefits from the ISupport Jamaica platform.

Mr Peat, who is UK born with Jamaican heritage, says “Organising a project of this nature is one that I am passionate about, because it has overarching benefits for both national and individual growth.”

Through the crowd funding site he was able to raise US$5,000 to fund a series of workshops hosted in Jamaica in 2014 and earlier this year, at which rural young people were taught how to make solar lanterns to bring energy solutions to communities without power, in rural areas across Jamaica.  In addition, the new skills will allow these students to establish and maintain sustainable businesses in the renewable energy industry.

“This programme empowers participants. They are taught how to make solar devices, which they penetrate into rural communities. And, they will become trained technicians with the skill set to replicate and make solar lanterns, with the intention of establishing their own businesses,” Mr Peat affirmed.

“Gennex Elite changes people’s lives through renewable energy,” he emphasised, adding that “This project improves living conditions for those who benefit from the solar powered lanterns; and, those who benefit from the training. The empowered technicians will be able to create sustainable employment opportunities for themselves and eventually others interested in the field.”

Currently, the ISupport Jamaica website features fundraising projects for the Jamaican Sunshine Girls, who are making a bid to participate in the Netball World Cup in Australia in August 2015; in addition to other community based and small business initiatives with varying funding goals.

Mr Mitchell is encouraging Jamaicans at home and in the Diaspora, “To register for ISupport Jamaica and take a look at the existing projects to identify activities that they would be willing to fund.”