The Digital Community: CoDE, crowdfunding and ‘Back the Boat’

CoDE is thrilled to be a corporate sponsor of Surrey Women’s Rowing: we sponsored the second prize for the NatWest Crowdfunding Challenge. The USSU Boat Club attracted almost 50 supporters in three days to finish second; the boat club won our £100 sponsorship, and CoDE won the alarming prospect of a Learn-to-Row tank session at Molesey Boat Club.

It’s a great example of CoDE in action, and is set to make a huge difference to gender equality in Surrey sport and help the Boat Club secure a top position in UK rowing. It also illustrates how digital technology is changing the face of fundraising and community.

The ‘Back the Boat’ initiative reflects a dramatic leap forward for women’s rowing worldwide. After the Rio 2016 Olympics, the International Olympic Committee voted to make rowing gender equal at the Olympics – a long-overdue but highly controversial move in some respects, as increasing the women’s events meant losing some of the men’s teams.

Then, the Henley Royal Regatta added more women’s events, and suddenly the constraints fell away from women’s rowing – presenting opportunities and challenges as the sport attempted to grow fast on limited resources.

President of the USSU Boat Club, Ellie Stevens, explains that Surrey simply didn’t have enough equipment for this expansion. ‘Boats are designed to perform optimally for a specific weight class. We therefore can’t share boats with the men’s teams: the boat we were training in for Henley Women’s Regatta had an average crew weight of 100kg, and our women’s team’s weight was 68kg. As captain of the boat at the time, I could see that dedicated women’s equipment was going to have to be a priority.’

But how? There was no Surrey Annual Fund to help this year, and a new women’s eight costs over £40,000. It was a daunting prospect – but equally, if they didn’t meet this requirement, the women’s team simply could not progress to meet all the new possibilities opening up. ‘We had to do something!’ asserts Ellie.

Fundraising research connected Ellie with CoDE’s Jim Sears, who has been immersing our Entrepreneurship MSc students in hands-on crowdfunding projects, and started the GaggleConnect initiative – a brilliant Digital connections-not-cash variant on raising funds. 12 students joined ‘Back the Boat’, and after a month of ‘social reach’ funding on GaggleConnect, ‘Back the Boat’ launched its funding campaign on 26 October.

In the meantime, Ellie has sourced a nearly-new top of the range Hudson boat for £22,000 – putting this vital equipment within closer reach, but still with a significant sum between Surrey’s women and world domination.

Can you help change the game, and the race, for Surrey’s women? Donate HERE!


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About the Author : Kris Henley

Communications and Outreach for Surrey Business School's Centre for the Digital Economy, a newly-founded research centre to explore the implications of the Digital Economy for business, government and society.