As protests have rocked Turkey over the past few days, three Turkish professionals in the U.S. decided on Sunday that they had to take some action. Turning to their technology backgrounds, the trio launched a crowd-sourced fundraising campaign on Indiegogo to buy a full-page ad in the front section of the New York Times in support of their fellow Turkish citizens who’ve clashed with the government across dozens of cities. In just a matter of hours, they’d jump-started the fastest major politics funding campaigns in Indiegogo’s history.
The campaign received donations from 50 countries at a clip of over $2,500 per hour over its first day, crossing its $53,800 goal in about 21 hours, according to Indiegogo, and it’s at over $85,000 just 36 hours after launch. That makes it the fastest politics campaign to hit a goal of higher than $6,000 in the history of the crowd-funding platform.
The team behind the campaign aren’t expert activists or fundraisers, though–they’re self-described tech geeks who just felt compelled to act. Murat Aktihanoglu isn’t known for politics—he’s known in the NY tech community as an entrepreneur and investor, the founder of Entrepreneurs Roundtable and its related startup accelerator. Oltac Unsal is an angel investor and adviser to the World Bank. And the youngest of the campaign’s founders, Duygu Atacan, is a user experience and interface designer in New York. But watching protesters occupy Gezi Park and face government backlash over what many see as heavy-handed actions by an autocratic regime, all three techies felt the need to take action.
“I was seeing everything going on over social media,” Atacan says. “But calling up my grandparents and finding out they hadn’t heard that anything was going on was very frightening.” Searching for a symbolic way to counteract a lack of coverage of events in the Turkish press, the group decided on a full-page print ad in a U.S. paper of record that they could then share globally over social media (and pick up some global press coverage.) They chose the New York Times over the Washington Post because of the promise of a placement in the front section (A-2, even) by Thursday or Friday.
The trio took to Twitter, which many protesters have used to organize and spread information to each other and contacts abroad through accounts like @OccupyGezi—social media that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called society’s “worst menace.” The group’s idea, says Unsal, was to use crowd funding and a crowd-sourced effort to draft a message, add graphics, and get the results into the Times’ pages by the end of the week.
Keeping to the crowd, Aktihanoglu asked his Twitter followers where to raise money for their plan and was pointed to Indiegogo. In five minutes, the campaign was online; in just 18 hours, donors had reached the $53,800 needed for an ad. Just how fast did donors across the world get the campaign funded? Speedily enough that the campaign team got a phone call Monday from Indiegogo’s surprised cofounder and CEO, Slava Rubin. “He wanted to know who we were and how this happened as one of the fastest raises in Indiegogo history,” says Aktihanoglu. “And all we did [to spread awareness] was put out updates on our Twitter accounts.”
To maintain a feeling of transparency and democratic participation, the group has used Google docs for its real-time edits, with as many as twenty people working on the copy, many from writing backgrounds. Designer supporters crowd-sourced the digital work. Then four thousand people voted for their favorite of half a dozen versions of the ad; a run-off between the two favorites ran between 6pm ET and 8:30pm ET on Tuesday night. The version “A” above, ”What’s happening in Turkey,” was the winner.
The fast pace at which the campaign has moved has left its founders short on sleep and time for their day jobs. Unsal concedes that their positions within the tech community may have helped the credibility of their project compared to full-time political activists who might have met a more polarized response. But overall the trio maintains that anyone could have had their idea.
“It’s not about us, it’s about a crowd coming together,” Unsal says. “We want to show [the protesters], we heard you. This is an experiment, and I don’t know if it would work for a new [Turkish] constitution, but I’d like to see it.”
The group has had one problem—the campaign continues to receive donations and is already over $30,000 over its funding goal. To solve that problem, the campaign has stuck to the crowd: Turning to a forum on Reddit to ask where the extra money should go, its founders now plan to also fund a film documentary about the protests. Online and over social media, volunteer film crews are already reaching out. (Alex Konrad, Forbes)
Last modified onSaturday, 06 May 2017 10:07