THE BLOG
09/01/2015 07:42 pm ET Updated Sep 01, 2016

How Global Crowdfunding Might Ease the Greek Crisis

This is the fourth in a series of political risk and prediction blog posts derived from Dr Aziz's upcoming political comic book, The Global Kid (note: 100% of sales will go to global education non-profits that help youth reach their potential).

We managed to dodge a Grexit this summer thanks to the bailout deal negotiated with Greece's euro zone and IMF lenders. But what if this third attempt fails yet again in the coming months? One of the Euro currency's architects, Otmar Issing, even said on Sept 1 that leaving the euro might still be the best move for Greece. The reality is the threat of another bailout failure still looms large. And the short-term and long-term consequences of that threat are likely to be very bleak for Greece, the EU and the global markets. We also know that, whether or not the deal holds, Greek citizens will have to struggle. Crowdfunding - "the practice of funding a project or venture by raising many small amounts of money from a large number of people, typically via the internet" - might be one strategy to ease the Greek crisis in two significant ways, with a backup bailout fund and a relief fund for austerity-hit citizens.

CROWDFUNDING NOW IF THE GREEK BAILOUT FAILS
We can hope the latest deal will pan out - but we probably shouldn't hold our breath. Securing new funding from new sources outside of the troika is the obvious contingency plan we should work on now to help end Greece's debt spiral or at least offer it emergency support. At various points in recent months and years, the usual suspects - superpowers China, Russia and the US - were expected to step in to save the day and, you never know, this could still happen. But what if we put aside policymakers and took matters into our own hands? Let's consider how crowdfunding globally could generate additional funds to secure Greece's future.

In fact, this strategy has already been attempted. A well-meaning London-based 29-year old from York, Thom Feeney, launched an ambitious campaign to crowdfund the entire bailout fund for Greece over the summer on crowdfunding site Indiegogo. As he explained it, "All this dithering over Greece is getting boring. European ministers flexing their muscles and posturing over whether they can help the Greek people or not. Why don't we the people just sort it instead?" His one-week campaign failed to meet its €1,600,000,000 target and so the €1,930,577 raised was returned to the 108,654 donors. But his approach reaffirmed the value of crowdfunding for development funds - something the World Bank is also trying to advocate and governments should consider. What if we launched a new crowdfunding campaign with a smaller goal - any funds raised could be used for emergency support to the Greek government via its Ministry of Finance if this bailout fails? It's worth investigating.

CROWDFUNDING FOR AUSTERITY-HIT GREEKS
We could also use crowdfunding to offer Greek citizens relief from harsh austerity measures. The reality is the average citizen will continue to suffer, whether or not former prime minister Alexis Tsipras steps back into his role after the Sept 20 election. There will be more brain drain, with Greece's brightest fleeing for better opportunity elsewhere in the EU. Yes, there was some good news recently - Greece's unemployment rate inched down to 25% - but youth unemployment is almost 60% and official data suggests most will not find work again. The even harsher austerity measures associated with the latest bailout will of course mean more anti-austerity protests and even more suicides to come in Greece. And the chronic uncertainty in the country means freer movement for certain non-state actors like ISIS - already, reports suggest foreign ISIS fighters have used Greece as a transit point before heading to Iraq and Syria.

Frankly, much of this will continue in the short-term even if the bailout deal magically succeeds in stabilizing the country in the long-term. Either way, what if we tried to crowdfund for Greece specifically to offer relief to austerity-hit citizens? Feeney in fact launched a second and more focused Indiegogo campaign to ease the humanitarian crisis linked to the Greek crisis. With the help of 13,885 donors, he raised €289,152 to give jobs to unemployed youth via charity Desmos. What if we launched an additional campaign for the elderly who have lost their pensions to austerity measures since 2010? Or simply a fund to provide free electricity and food stamps for cash-starved households (what former prime minister Tsipras had promised to 300,000 households under the poverty line when his Syriza party came to power)? The money from this austerity-relief fund could be given directly to the government or, even better, to local or global NGOs for distribution to citizens. Again, it's worth investigating.

ONE WAY TO HELP SECURE GREECE'S FUTURE
Crowdfunding could be one way forward for a more stable Greece, whether or not the current bailout deal works. We could just sit and wait and hope for Greece's policymakers, other world leaders and the troika to figure things out - or we could take control. It may be time for national governance to become more inclusive through global innovative tools like crowdfunding - it's a relatively easy way for global citizens like us to look after our suffering Greek counterparts. So come on, get moving.

Dr Aziz recently completed a research certification in leveraging crowds in the public sector at NYU's GovLab and also spoke on crowdsourcing in policymaking at the 2015 Open and User Innovation Society Meeting in Lisbon, Portugal.