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Crowdfunding for Smart Delivery in Tanzania

November 6, 2011NiSEFeatured, SustainabilityComments Off

By Jennifer Schmitt

What if we could find a way to reduce the cost of distributing life-saving childhood vaccines in developing countries?  What if regular deliveries could be made economically to local clinics and children could be vaccinated without the need for irregular, international aid-based, campaign-style programs?  A group of researchers at the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment (IonE) are attempting to answer these questions and seeking funding in some unique ways.

NiSE at the Institute on the Environment is partnering in an experimental model for science fundraising and public engagement called crowdfunding. Crowdfunding has been popular in the arts and journalism, but remains largely untried in the sciences. This method of fundraising allows NiSE to directly connect with the public about the problems in current vaccine deliveries in rural Africa and engages them in the research needed to solve it. NiSE has joined with almost 50 others to participate in the #SciFund Challenge to launch crowdfunding campaigns. This is more science-crowdfunding projects than all previous US efforts combined!

These campaigns work by funding projects through many small donations solicited over the internet. While some contributions are small, some modest, and some large, the result is a fully funded project. Dr. Ranganathan and Dr. Byrnes, the #SciFund organizers, envision a future where significant portions of scientific research could be funded directly through public engagement, bridging the gap between science and the public.

NiSE’s model of engaging nonacademic partners provides an exhilarating synergy with the model of crowdfunding.  We are excited to be participating in this pioneering endeavor. Dr. Jennifer Schmitt has led our crowdfunding efforts by putting together our Smart Delivery for Tanzania campaign. This project is an application of previous NiSE research, “LEVERAGING SOCIAL MEDIA IN THE LAST MILE OF LOCAL DELIVERY”, led by Dr. Kyo Suh. Dr. Suh’s work demonstrated how a smart networked delivery system, using cell phones and social media, can significantly decrease the distance, cost, and greenhouse gas emissions of a delivered package. Drs. Suh and Schmitt are applying this previous work to a vaccine delivery system, integrating currently available information from rural Tanzania. Initial funding for this effort is now coming from their crowdfunding campaign. You too can contribute to this new endeavor, share it with a friend, or simply check it out!

The views expressed by the authors of this blog and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of NiSE at the Institute on the Environment or any employee thereof.

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