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Kickstarter opens applications for paid positions on a community advisory council

Members will help the crowdfunding company make decisions regarding blockchain tech, among other user-focused issues.

Two members of Kickstarter's community advisory council expressed optimism and excitement for advocating on behalf of users, despite ongoing concerns over the company's blockchain plans.
Image credit: Kickstarter

Crowdfunding giant Kickstarter announced that it has opened an application process for positions on a newly created Kickstarter Community Advisory Council, whose members will work directly with the company on decisions regarding many user-facing issues, including its future in blockchain technology.

An article published on March 16th explains that this new council will work in “open, constructive collaboration” with Kickstarter staff and directly help the company develop stronger lines of communication with the people who create funding campaigns on their platform. The council will be representative of the general user base - at least those who use it to raise seed money for goods, artwork and collaborative projects - and improve Kickstarter’s ability to “identify issues we may not be able to see on our own,” the announcement states.

“We'll work with the council on prioritizing the development of new features, with a focus on ensuring that the platform is as useful, welcoming, and inclusive as it can possibly be. We'll rely on the council to give feedback on proposed solutions to user problems, and to offer insights on how Kickstarter should show up in the public dialogue through our communications campaigns and policy advocacy work,” the post continues.

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Perhaps most critically, the advisory council will explicitly hold Kickstarter accountable as it continues to invest in blockchain technology. This divisive move was announced in November last year and, in early 2021, called an ongoing priority, despite the immediate negative feedback from many creators and users who cited the myriad ethical and ecological concerns associated with blockchain technology, cryptocurrency and NFTs.

The language Kickstarter used when referencing its blockchain initiative is vague and non-committal - the company says it is only starting “to think about how we should engage with new technologies, including blockchain,” and the advisory council’s responsibility will apparently be to remind the company how flimsy a solution it’s turned out to be, how rife with outright scams the community is, and why wading into a pool filled with poorly-sourced venture capital money might not be the best move for a company ostensibly committed to supporting independent creators. This seems to undercut COO Sean Leow's impassioned, if ill-informed, dedication to the move expressed in an interview with The Beat in February.

Prospective council members can apply - or nominate someone else - using a publicly open link, provided they have run at least one campaign any time in the past and are a member of a year or more currently in good standing. Kickstarter doesn’t state many qualifications beyond a passion for improving the platform’s relationship to its community and experience in how its brand of crowdfunding operates. Anyone chosen to serve will be paid an annual $5,000 honorarium “in gratitude for the time and expertise they share” and will initially meet six times per year via video, though Kickstarter holds the door open for in-person meetings, for now.

Still the largest and most prolific crowdfunding campaign in the tabletop space and well beyond, Kickstarter has recently had to share an increased piece of the pie with competing companies such as the fulfillment service-turned-platform Gamefound, Indiegogo and relative newcomer Game On Tabletop. Gamefound received a $5 million injection from board game publisher Ravensburger as part of a stated goal of investing in the tabletop industry’s burgeoning infrastructure, and Indiegogo has been working hard to court individuals dissatisfied with Kickstarter’s turn to blockchain, most notably securing Possum Creek Games’ upcoming tabletop RPG Yazeba’s Bed & Breakfast.

It’s unclear exactly how much power the Kickstarter Community Advisory Council will actually wield in negotiating with employees and higher-ups. As a public benefit corporation, Kickstarter doesn’t have a shareholder board clamoring to maximize profits, but that doesn’t exclude it from making decisions based on profitability or increase its control of the crowdfunding market, especially as the competitors stated above begin to edge in on territory it previously dominated.

Those creators interested in applying for council positions have until midnight (Eastern US time) on April 6th to submit their application, and Kickstarter plans to announce the first members sometime in late spring of this year.

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