One of Canada’s leading tech industry associations is branching out – figuratively and financially – in its efforts to support the country’s innovation economy.
This week the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance (CATA), an Ottawa-based non-profit advocacy group, launched a crowdfunding campaign aimed at better engaging Canada’s tech sector in its efforts to advocate for government support, boosting its competitiveness on the world stage, and influencing the subjects CATA focuses on in future campaigns.
“To the best of my knowledge, we’re the first trade association to do this sort of thing – integrating social networks and crowdfunding into our work,” CATA CEO John Reid tells ITBusiness.ca. “I looked for organizations that had already done it, so I could incorporate some of their best practices, and couldn’t find any.”
As with platforms such as Indiegogo or Kickstarter, contributors to CATA’s inaugural campaign, “Advancing Canada’s Competitive Innovation Nation Ranking,” can use non-profit crowdfunding Chuffed’s platform to leave comments and communicate with each other after contributing.
Unlike a typical crowdfunding campaign, however, CATA does not intend for the eventual boost of Canada’s Competitive Innovation Nation Ranking (which, for the record, is presently a C) to mark the end of its efforts, with Reid saying he looks forward to seeing what subjects donors encourage the organization to focus on next.
“What’s cool about this platform is it’s perpetual,” he says. “So it’s not just running for 30 days, it’s running as an integral part of our new business model.”
A three-pronged approach
As of this writing, CATA’s campaign to raise Canada’s Competitive Innovation Nation Ranking has raised just over $12,600, indicating interest in its latest goal.
The organization’s intent, Reid says, is to approach every future subject the same way, considering three angles – social networking, outreach, crowdsourcing – all of which benefit from crowdfunding.
“You’re in the communication business,” he says. “You know firsthand that when you have a message the most important thing you need to do is get yourself to the top of the pile. One of the best ways to do that is to connect with a large number of people that share your interest and mobilize them to disseminate information that supports your goal, whether it’s a breaking story or a campaign for tax policy change.”
When it comes to networking, the Chuffed platform itself serves as CATA’s unofficial social network, Reid explains, with every contributor offered a stake in the action.
“We’re just as interested in small contributions as large ones, because some of the best ideas come from citizens rather than special interest groups,” he says. “We ourselves are moving away from being a special interest group to being a group that gleans our ideas and innovation from the marketplace.”
Outreach-wise, extensive research and government contacts had always been CATA’s bread and butter – but Chuffed upgrades its efforts to version 2.0.
“We have the whole platform laid out,” Reid says. “Each subject has a link to a social network or research document. It’s probably taken us a good two years from conception to realization, but we definitely think it’s a more modern, effective, compelling model for articulating our views on innovation and competitiveness.”
And by identifying Canadians willing to pledge their money in support of its cause, Chuffed helps CATA better crowdsource, and focus on, issues that matter to its members.
“Some people have already come to us saying they have an idea or issue they’d like us to champion for them,” Reid says. “So it’s already working in that respect.”
“It’s hard to forecast the number of issues that will come in, but we now have an engine in place to deal with them in real time,” he continues. “We can literally get on top of a marketplace request in 24 hours. That’s how the industry works; it’s how public policy should work too.”
Check out Reid’s video pitch for CATA’s crowdfunding efforts below.