Cape Town startup Weaverlution is set to launch an online marketplace allowing those setting up community projects to source and market their needs, and plans to gain revenue by charging corporates subscription fees.
The platform, which is targeting going live in October, allows people and organisations to share community projects, engage and collaborate, and track activity to assess impact.
“Weaverlution’s online marketplace unites people with information, and empowers non-profits, corporates, and small businesses to connect, coordinate and collaborate around community needs,” co-founder and chief executive officer Anne Pao told HumanIPO.
“Weaverlution allows users to create projects to source and market their needs – funds, volunteering and supplies – and to contribute to projects based on passions, skills and schedules. Weaverlution enables profile management, robust search, project coordination, enhanced collaboration and analytics.”
Pao said Weaverlution believed the “goodness and connectedness” of people fuelled an “inherent desire to do good”, but such activities are at present uncoordinated, inefficient and non-collaborative.
“An inherent goodness and connectedness fuels a desire to make a difference in one’s community, evidenced by the significant CSI investment, corporate volunteering and NPO activity,” she said. “A lack of passion is not the problem; it is the lack of transparent information, collaboration, and efficient coordination in the community engagement space.”
She said the fragmented nature of the space means people and organisations struggle to manage their activities in an efficient, informed and collaborative way, something Weaverlution is looking to assist with.
“Citizens and organisations want to quickly find and connect with projects that match with schedules, skills and passions. NPOs need to manage and report on community projects to satisfy governance requirements. Corporates need to access the right partners, and need more efficient ways manage investment and volunteerism across a range of projects.”
Pao said Weaverlutions’s desire to assist in management of community projects also came with a profit angle, with larger organisations who manage a large number of projects charged a subscription fee to coordinate project management, link employees to projects, and to receive reporting and analytics.
“Weaverlution is embracing a freemium business model. Individuals who want to launch a project and mobilise support can use Weaverlution for free. We want to empower all citizens to think globally; start locally when it comes to effecting change in the community,” she said.
“For our larger clients with significant activity to consolidate and report on, we charge a subscription fee. This fee allows for grouping numerous campaigns under a single umbrella, and will provide aggregated reporting and analytics on activity-to-date.”
She said there was a substantial market for this in South Africa alone, with annual CSI totalling ZAR7 billion (US$654 million) and growing at 11 per cent per year. Meanwhile, 75 per cent of corporates in the country are running employee volunteering programmes, and 113,000 NPOs act in the community engagement space.
“Approximately 100+ corporates contribute 90 per cent of the CSI activity in South Africa. These are our initial targets from a corporate perspective. We are piloting with a range of NPOs and entrepreneur networks in the Western Cape and also have engaged with a local government social incubator,” said Pao.
“Organisations and individuals invest significant time and money to spur community action, but because of limited coordination, communication and collaboration, resources are often wasted. We believe in using business to do good, and in providing a valuable service that helps our clients use their resources more efficiently.”
She said assisting community projects and making a profit were not polarised as some might think.
“Weaverlution makes a profit, but it is not the driving force. Weaverlution is borne out of the desire to empower communities to take action to make a difference,” she said. “We are not about handouts. We are not about giving. We are about community mobilisation and community action, because ultimately we think real change at the community requires a deeper level of engagement.
“Are we out to make money? Or make a difference? Ultimately, we realise that many people think these two aims are quite polarised. People will not blink at the retail industry charging an 80 per cent markup or higher on a t-shirt, but a small percentage fee charged to optimise community activity for greater impact raises eyebrows. We believe this polarising perspective is the biggest hurdle to overcome in the social space.”
Pao said the company is in the process of developing the MVP platform, and has engaged extensively with potential clients from the Western Cape government, ICT corporates, consulting industries, NPOs, and entrepreneur networks. Having bootstrapped thus far, the company is seeking funding and is in discussions with potential investors and partners.
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