“There comes a time, when silence is betrayal” proclaims a Swedish anti-human trafficking website. It is one of the first projects to attempt to publicise their campaign using Swedish crowdfunded advertising site Take Space.
Nordic countries have been among the cutting edge few who’ve embraced the democratising potential of crowdsourcing in governance. Finnish Avoin Ministerio or “Open Ministry”, for example, crowdsources proposals for laws and agenda issues for consideration in the Finnish Parliament. The crowdsourced Icelandic constitution (and its current limbo) has become legend the world over.
Stockholm-based Take Space is the latest in this stream of internet activism, although unlike initiatives to affect governments’ agendas it seeks to crowdfund to change the Swedish media’s agenda through advertising. The funds raised on the platform are to make specific advertisements for a specific message.
“[The] Swedish debate over the last year has been very much focussed on the fact that journalists are trying to become more and more agenda-setting, they want to build opinion about issues. We feel that it’s not their role; their role is to objectively report what’s happening, and analyse what’s happening, but not tell us, the public, what is right and wrong,” says Take Space co-founder Carl Sidenvall.
The idea, says Carl, is for ordinary people to have more of a role in public opinion-building and agenda-setting, through the use of advertising. Projects that wish to advertise a topic or promote an agenda can post their project online and crowdfund the cost of the advertisement. This has the dual benefit of raising money for the advertising and validating the importance of the cause: “If enough people have actually supported something that you can have a subway ad campaign for a week it means that it’s relevant,” says Carl.
Of course, the importance of raising awareness about human trafficking, for example, is a relatively uncontroversial issue. It is, however, inevitable that more controversial causes are likely to come up as the platform expands. Moreover, the causes likely to come up on such a platform are ones with political or social undertones, as has been the case on American platform, louder.is, which has recently launched a project to campaign for immigration reform at the American Super Bowl. However, Carl says that anything is possible and people should keep an open mind about what can be advertised.
Carl emphasises that this is precisely why a platform like this is needed; if a cause can raise enough money to get advertising space then it means that it is a force to be reckoned with in society, and it is important to also give even controversial viewpoints a fair hearing. “It’s really good to show that there are racists or nationalists or Islamists or communists. If you don’t like what someone says, make an argument for your view instead of demanding the denial of their expression. Otherwise you are on a slippery slope to the notion that some views must be silenced for the greater good, a hallmark of an oppressive society ,” he says.
However, as he concedes himself, publications and advertising spaces still have some discretion as to what they decide to print, and although crowdfunding may make advertising space an affordable prospect, Carl points out that the platform “would check with advertisement channels first and give the project owners a chance to rephrase their message”.
The site has been up and running for just 5 weeks and is currently only in Swedish, but aims to be in English soon.
A PhD student and voracious reader based in Stockholm, Claire Ingram is interested in open innovation, co-creation, start-up funding, public policy and pictures of puppies on Reddit. You can contact her on Twitter @Claire_EBI.