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Bio & Life Sciences

The Healing Power of the Crowd

The applications of crowdfunding—leveraging technology to raise small contributions from the many—continue to grow. The crowdfunding platform is now being utilized to finance disaster relief, build startups, develop scientific research, support artists and musicians, develop inventions, enable citizen journalism, and aid political campaigns.

Now a former Peace Corps volunteer, 26-year-old Chase Adam, is using crowdfunding to increase access to healthcare in 13 developing countries, as reported by Nicole LaPorte in The New York Times. His website, Watsi, allows donors to fund medical treatment for patients in third-world countries, such as Cambodia, Nepal, and Ethiopia. With as little as $5, donors can help fund simple or more sophisticated procedures, from broken limbs to surgery. “The treatments generally have a high likelihood of success and don’t involve multiple operations or long-term care,” writes LaPorte.

According to the Times, Adam developed the idea for his business on a bus ride in Watsi, Costa Rica, when he witnessed a mother ask fellow riders for money so her son could get medical help. He wanted to build a “Kiva for health care,” he said, with one key difference: open books.

Recognizing the growing need for accountability and transparency when asking the crowd to buy in, and citing the “big problem in nonprofit data circles in general about the quality of data,” Adam included an updatable Google Doc on the Watsi website that lists key details like doctor names, PayPal funds transfers, the outcomes of the treatments, and even the company’s financial statements.

As crowdfunding continues to take on more complex global issues like healthcare, we expect this demand for increased transparency and openness to continue to grow with it.

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