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Elderly Needs Study Could Be First “Crowdfunded” Social Research

A study into the consumer needs of elderly and disabled residents of a UK town could be the UK’s first piece of social research to be “crowdfunded”, E-Access Bulletin has learned.

The project was developed by the non-profit campaign group Eastbourne Designed For All ( http://www.eastbournedesignedforall.co.uk/ ), which aims to pass on advice to businesses in the Sussex town on how to design products and services to be as accessible as possible to the area’s high proportion of elderly and disabled residents.

A local company has offered to carry out the market research study, “Understanding Eastbourne’s Needs”, for a discounted fee of £4,200. Eastbourne Designed For All is now using the crowdfunding website “Peoplefund.it” ( http://bit.ly/13mXaFT ) to source this fee.

Each project on the site is allocated a target fund figure and deadline, with backers offered rewards from the project team depending on the size of their pledge, such as (in the case of the Eastbourne project) free consultancy from a local business support organisation. Pledges will only be cashed in if the full target sum is met by the deadline.

Tom Serpell, founder and director of Designed For All, told E-Access Bulletin the project is the first time in the UK that crowdfunding had been used to fund research, but that it seemed the logical choice for an organisation like theirs.

“Because we are a social enterprise we’re not funded, and it’s difficult to raise money, so we decided crowdsourcing might be the way forward. It provides new ways of linking people. We’re hoping to make Eastbourne the UK’s first ‘inclusive town’ as a result of the work.”

If the project is commissioned, Serpell expects the results to build on findings from previous research conducted by Designed For All partner the University of Brighton, which revealed that town infrastructures can be difficult to negotiate for elderly and disabled residents, due to features such as high pavement curbs and signage being difficult to read for those with visual impairments. At time of writing, Understanding Eastbourne’s Needs had received £850 of its £4,200 target, with 22 days remaining until the deadline.

Online crowdfunding is becoming an increasingly popular method of acquiring funds for social and community projects, with other platforms such as Spacehive also growing in prominence.

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