The Spacehive crawler was used to collect data for a case study aimed at testing the efficiency of the methods in identifying BTR organisations on Spacehive and exploring what insights can be drawn from the analysis of BTR activity data on crowfunding platforms.
The app does not provide relational data for this platform, and thus, the network visualisation was not created for this study. The histograms of the interactive map were used in the analysis of the main trends in funding of the BTR projects found. The data used to create the interactive map visualization can be downloaded from the right hand side of this page.
To collect the data from Spacehive, the Spacehive Crawler was run a single time living untouched the default keywords in the input box. Up to thirteen new projects were returned1. The statistic file output by the app was exported to inform the histograms linked to the interactive map visualization, which shows the location of projects from both platforms. More detailed information on how this visualization was created can be found on this same section on the Crowdfunder study.
Since the methods to map BTR activity on Spacehive are different from the methods deployed on Crowdfunder, other questions were posed for their evaluation: is the fact that the platform is aimed at civic projects a sufficient condition to ensure that the resulting projects pursue the type of social purpose that characterises BTR organisations? Do the resulting projects actually belong to BTR organisations? To answer these questions, both project pages on the platform and other online sources were consulted.
From the resulting thirteen projects at least nine were found to pursue a social purpose. Although, the other four, ‘Park and Slide’, ‘Recipes for food and architecture’, ‘The Queen's Jubillegal Head’ and ‘Ripon Christmas Lights’, present a community-oriented approach, its purpose can hardly be considered a ‘social’ one, in terms of what is expected from BTR activity.
But even among those nine projects, there are a few whose main output consists in an artistic intervention, and therefore, the extent to which they can be considered as having a social impact is limited. At this respect, it seemed that civic projects on Spacehive don’t always pursue the wider social purpose characteristic of both formal and informal voluntary organisations. As a result, it became apparent that co-link analysis, based on crawling the common preferences of contributors, would better fit the purpose of finding projects on this platform with the type of social purpose sought.
As for the second question, the combination of both methods, the keywords filter and the method using registers, worked relatively well in that it was found that six out of the nine projects that had a social purpose, had indeed been created by BTR organisations. Those projects are: ‘After the riots, Happiness in Tottenham’, A Child’s Dream’, ‘Drum Together Brum Street Party’, ‘Northgate Herb and Fruit Beds’, ‘The Porty Light Box’ and ‘Burghead Tennis’.
However, further improvements to those methods are needed. As with the keywords filter, the second method presents its own limitation. Namely, that the names of project creators on the platform do not always match the actual names of the organisations behind those projects for different reasons. Moreover, it should be noted that a proper copy of all concerned registers would allow for more refined results.
On Spacehive, apart from the name of the project promoter, the person or organisation that created the project on the platform, project pages present other valuable information, featured on a list on the right side of the page, as to the specific ways in which projects are supported by or interact with other organisations. This allows for a richer understanding of the specific context in which BTR activity is produced.
Thus, for instance, under the heading ‘council’, it is shown whether the local council has pledged support or granted official permission to the project. Other information includes the name of the ‘delivery manager’, in charge of receiving and spending the funds raised, being it either an organisation or an individual, the ‘project verifier’, the organisation that reviews the project proposal in order to ensure its viability, and the ‘contractor’, the people or organisation responsible for building or installing the project.
Not all this information is shown for every project. Furthermore, in some cases the role of the project promoter overlaps with the role of the contractor or the delivery manager. Other times, the project promoter asks other organisations to deliver and carry out the actual work.
The goal of the project ‘Northgate Herb and Fruit Beds’ was to convert a derelict eyesore into small community garden where people can grow and harvest their own fruits and vegetables. The project promoter is an organisation called Dewsbury Town Team, a group of local residents who came together with the purpose of improving their town centre. Although the project is supported by the Kirklees Metropolitan Council, it remains unclear what this support consists of. The delivery manager is an individual engaged in local community and voluntary action, and the contractor, the project promoter itself.
Similarly, the purpose of the project ‘A Child’s Dream’ is to build a pilot sensory garden for a young girl with autism in her school, located in the town of Letchworth Garden City. The small amount raised through Spacehive will be applied in buying chalkboards for the users of the sensory garden. The project’s long-term goal is to apply the skills learnt by the local community during the development of the pilot in the construction of a community garden accessible to all.
The project promoter is the Wilbury Community Forum, a group of neighbours from the Letchworth Willbury Ward who run a free community cafe offering information, outreach services and different types of activities to the local community at no cost. This project also receives some type of support from a council. The contractor is another BTR organisation called Arch Community Group. That the name of the delivery manager does not appear in the page suggests that it is the organisation above that is in charge of the delivery of the project.
The later two projects are both under the category of ‘Green Space’ and represent clear examples of the type of BTR activity and organisations sought. The next three projects present a more artistic approach to their purpose, and in fact, two of them belong to the category of ‘Art & Performance’ on the platform.
The project ‘After the riots - Happiness in Tottenham’ raised money to set up an exhibition in an arts centre in Haringey, Greater London. The exhibition is based on a series of proposals intended to address the psychological and financial impact that the riots of 2011 had on this area. The project promoter is ‘Happiness Tottenham’, a couple of architects, who together with students at Birmingham City University, conducted research over one year to create the proposals for the exhibition.
The studio of one of those architects, Dominic McKenzie Architects, figures as the contractor on the page. The extent to which this project can be seen as being below the regulatory radar depends on who is considered to be behind the project: the group of individuals, the two architects and the students, or the studio. The reasons why it was eventually regarded as BTR activity are that the project promoter is different from the studio and the exhibition is not featured on the studio’s website as one of its projects. The project has been granted official permission by the Haringey Council.
The project ‘Drum Together Brum Street Party’ aimed at creating a one-day free event for the local community in the city of Birmingham, featuring a program of live music performances and workshops. The project promoter is Drum Together Brum, a community-drumming group. In this case, the delivery manager is an above the radar organisation. Namely a community interest company called Superact, which delivers social impact projects in the area of music and the arts.
The company organises ‘Our Big Gig’, an annual event intended to encourage people to develop their musical skills and extend their networks within the local community. The project was intended to take part in this bigger event, and therefore, it can be argued that it does not count as BTR activity. Nonetheless, the project promoter can still be considered a below the radar organisations in its own right. Once again, this project receives some type of support from Birmingham City Council.
‘The Porty Light Box’ is a project intended to raise funds to turn a decommissioned phonebox in Portobello, Edinburgh, into a light box from which to display images by local artists, schoolchildren or other local groups. The project promoter is a member of the Portobello Community Council. A community council is a public representative body in Great Britain.
Made up local people, community councils have the aim of representing communities before the local authorities. Therefore, it is not surprising that the project has been granted official permission by the Edinburgh City Council. Again, there is evidence that the project promoter covers the role of the delivery manager.
The project ‘Burghead Tennis’ was aimed at raising funds to purchase a portable tennis net and other equipment to be used in a schoolyard by a tennis club and the local communities of Burghead, as the town lacked this sport facility. The project was granted official permission by the Moray Council. At first it was unclear who was behind the project, as the information about the project promoter does not clarify this.
However, it was further found that the individual featuring as the delivery manager was a local councillor acting on behalf of the Burghead community. In summary, even if the two last projects can be considered BTR in a strict sense, as they were not created by registered organisations, the direct involvement of public bodies and officers on their realisation make them borderline instances of BTR activity.
Compared to the BTR projects found on Crowdfunder, Spacehive projects have a smaller scope. This is reflected on the overall lower amount set as funding target for the later. In fact, only one of the projects described above showed a funding target greater than £1000. As with Crowdfunder projects, a positive correlation can be observed between the amount raised and the number of backers, but again, it is not very strong. Furthermore, the negative correlation between the number of backers and the amount pledged also holds for Spacehive projects, along with the outliers pleading considerably higher amounts than the average.