Crowdfunding has become one of the great enabling platforms of our generation. Much like the internet it should be thought of more as a platform or an ecosystem, that allows for others to build on top of. Communities like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo may have started off as places for products to be funded, but now they are place for ideas to come to life. I believe DHS S&T needs to get ahead of the curve and tap into this.
There is a lot of overlap, in a philosophical approach, between what we do at DHS S&T and what these platforms attempt to. The biggest overlap is lies in the area of being an enabler for good ideas to come to life. We at DHS S&T obviously have a much more narrow scope when it comes to the ideas and products we want to see thrive in the commercial world. Those ideas are intrinsically linked to the needs of first responders and federal partners. This, as well as the complex maze of policies and regulations, dictates the path we take to getting this done. Crowdfunding platforms are not guided by these goals or policies and may appear to be a lot more like the wild west at first, but so did books with the advent of the printing press, or the world wide web. True innovation thrives in the noise of transparent and interconnected ideas.
How do we leverage this? A lot of work would need to be done with General Counsel to fully understand the roads and paths we can travel down first. One idea that comes to mind would be the creation a more responsive and active version of the First Responder Resource Group (with federal oversight) that actively looks at projects on these platforms (i.e. Kickstarter, IndieGoGo) and recommends projects that deserve funding, and then funding them. In the worst case scenario our technology foraging teams can provide reports similar to the “Interagency Storefront” on topics at the nexus of securing the Homeland.
The notion is not uncommon to government. Currently DHS S&T has a relationship with In-Q-Tel which functions as a more curated version of the same basic concept. I’m not sure how the best way this could be leveraged and actualized but I think It is an idea worth exploring. I am also unaware of it is even an idea that leadership has considered, if not, I want to get the conversation started.