African Journal of
Business Management

  • Abbreviation: Afr. J. Bus. Manage.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 1993-8233
  • DOI: 10.5897/AJBM
  • Start Year: 2007
  • Published Articles: 4137

Full Length Research Paper

How crowdfunding makes museum value relevant: An Italian university museum experience

Michela Magliacani
  • Michela Magliacani
  • Department of Economics and Management, University of Pavia, Italy.
  • Google Scholar

  •  Received: 09 November 2019
  •  Accepted: 28 February 2020
  •  Published: 29 February 2020


This study has attempted to enlarge the debate on museums relevant function, in connection to their mission to contribute to the development of the civic society. The research idea has stemmed from the issue of museum accessibility, through measured observation of a co-creation project carried out by a University Museum of Lombardy (Italy) through a crowdfunding campaign. The research has aimed at exploring the many facets of crowdfunding as a tool for advocacy in engaging users, non-users and generic stakeholders, both for the legitimacy of the museum as a “forum” and for enabling a co-creation project. Findings have provided new insights about museum management practices and opened new research into the co-creation of “relevant museum value” under an interdisciplinary perspective and at the international level.


Key words: Co-creation, relevant museum value, crowdfunding, advocacy, accessibility, participation.


Managing museums in today's world may be highly challenging for several reasons. Among the others, the recent financial crisis, which began in the USA in 2007 and spread throughout Europe in 2008, has led to a dramatic decline in national budgets, with proportionately drastic reductions in public spending (Zan et al., 2007). In order to cope with the austerity, governments have attempted to apply new approaches of governance and management based on citizens’ participation and engagement in the creation of public value (Moore, 1995; Benington, 2011).
These approaches refer to the theoretical model that places the public interests at the centre of the value co-creation (Cepiku and Giordano, 2014). Hence, the value created in those approaches is  socially  constructed  and consistent with the needs and priorities of the main stakeholders. Those theoretical approaches have been practically applied not only by public administrations, but also by cultural organizations, which have to achieve their mission by managing a shrinking budget (Cameron, 1971; Davies et al., 2013; Kotler and Kotler, 2000). In particular, museums, as no-profit and permanent institutions, are called to acquire, preserve, research, communicate and exhibit the tangible and intangible heritage of humanity and its environment “in the service of society and its development, for the purposes of education, study and enjoyment” (ICOM Statute, Article 3, Section 1). This general definition encompasses any type of museums, including the University ones. Their collections represent assets - such as the memory of  the
scientific or artistic heritage of the University and of its environment which need to be promoted and enhanced in order to disseminate knowledge into the society. The attention towards university museums has been increasing, in Italy at least, when the so-called “third mission” of the higher education system was introduced by the National Agency of the Ministry of Education and Research in 2012. According to this regulation, Universities undergo a quality assessment from the Ministry, not only in relation to teaching and research parameters, respectively “first” and “second” mission – but also considering the performance achieved in terms of technology transfer, continuous education and public engagement – that is the “third mission”. In this regard, university museums are directly involved in the third mission performance, as their collections have to be available and accessible for any audience. Even though the University ranking is influenced by the museum performance within the third mission, there is not a central Ministerial budget for sustaining the collections management, whereas the latter can rely only on the scant resources provided by the University. Therefore, university museums, like other public museums, must cope with the austerity by searching for additional financial resources in order to create value for their visitors and, in the meanwhile, contribute to increase the relative higher education ranking (Chan, 2016).  
All these considered and acknowledging the international debate about museums role in the civic society (Cameron, 1971; Davies et al., 2013; Kotler and Kotler, 2000), this research attempts to propose a contribution to the literature on cultural heritage management, specifically focusing on the role of university in the society issue (Cameron, 1971; Davies et al., 2013; Kotler and Kotler, 2000). Particularly, this research addresses a core question that has been feeding the interdisciplinary debate still opened (Holden, 2006; Stevenson, 2013), that is: How do university museums achieve the mission through a shrinking budget?
Recent studies have explored whether and how crowdfunding could help museum managers to face the discussed challenges (Mozzoni et al., 2018; Howe, 2006). As museums managers are called upon to satisfy their visitors and to engage as many stakeholders as possible (Kotler and Kotler, 2000), crowdfunding can also work as a means of communication, that is as a way to enlarge the number of people engaging with the museum. Moreover, crowdsourcing also reflects the participants' willingness to complete crowd sourced tasks and, in the meanwhile, advocate a project (Ridge, 2013; Bonacchi et al., 2019).
According to the museum managerial approach, nowadays the use of the platform is fundamental for fostering public engagement and for facilitating the exchange and integration  of  resources.  Notwithstanding that, the way through which this happens requires more empirical evidence (Colurcio et al., 2016). Therefore, how crowdfunding platforms contribute to the value co-creation represents another critical issue that this research attempts to investigate.
Particularly, this study aims at understanding and thoroughly examining the relationships between the implementation of a university museum crowdfunding project and the effects of the latter in terms of public engagement, visitor behaviour, museum-visitor interaction, and the expected outcome for the stakeholders involved in the project.
Furthermore, the investigation seeks to contribute to the enlargement of the co-creation theory (Bryson et al., 2017) within the museum context, building on the Museum Value Framework (Davies et al., 2013). Assuming the critical perspective on value co-creation, this research firstly addresses the understanding of how museums can contribute to the development of the civic society, as a core function, through the development of an accessibility project. Then, it explores the role of crowdfunding in the co-creation of museum value.
This study is developed as follows. Next section critically reviews the literature on public value co-creation in university museums and on the potential role of crowdfunding in this context, thus highlighting the research gaps and refining the research questions formulation. In order to answer the latter, the critical - case study of a university museum located in Lombardy (Northern Italy) is chosen because it is particularly suitable for this investigation (Yin, 2017). There, a museum crowdfunding campaign has achieved a successful result in terms of perceived goals (financial resources gathered), since it was the only project launched by the university crowdfunding platform to be linked with the “third mission”, relating to museum collection. Moreover, several types of stakeholders were engaged by this crowdfunding project and, hence, had the chance to get to know the museum and visit it. Within this context of analysis, stakeholders are not considered passive actors, but potential players in the museum's value creation process (Colasanti et al., 2018). Thus, third section describes the data sources and the research methods (platform analysis, ethnographic observations, and unstructured interviews) used. Then, the relative evidences are presented and discussed. Finally, theoretical and managerial implications, research limitations and further developments of the study are remarked.


Co-creation of public value in university museums
The wide  spread  of  austerity  has  led  governments  to question how to approach the community in the creation of public value (Cepiku et al., 2016). In management studies, the participation in the production of goods and services by individuals who are not ‘in’ the same organization” is intended as co-creation (Ostrom, 1996; Pollitt and Hupe, 2001; Bovaird et al., 2017; Loeffler and Bovaird, 2019). The evolution of this concept is due to the involvement of individual citizens and groups of them in different phases of the value creation process (Cepiku and Giordano, 2014). Its implementation assumes the development of a “new communitarian thinking”, based on the awareness of individuals as part of a pluralistic web of communities (Etzioni, 1993). In-depth investigations have acknowledged three types of co-creation in terms of citizens’ involvement: (a) the citizen as co-implementer of activities that are fundamental for the service provision, formerly carried out only by governments; (b) the citizen as co-designer, involved in the content or process of service delivery; (c) the citizen as initiator who contributes to formulate specific service (Voorberg et al., 2015).
Agreeing with this claim, co-creation is a cornerstone for innovation based on citizen collaboration (Crosby et al., 2017). More specifically, the service management literature has used the concept of value co-creation to depict a new and promising vision of innovation (Russo-Spena and Mele, 2012). It refers to the engagement of consumers and other actors in the context of value creation (Vargo, 2009), outlined by the “Seven Co-s model” in the following settings: co-ideation, co-evaluation, co-design, co-testing, co-launch, co-consumption and co-financing (Quero et al., 2017: 412). In addition, public management research emphasizes the social aspect of this innovation by focusing on the citizen's perspective, which shifts from consumer to value co-creator (Pollitt and Hupe, 2001). In fact, social innovation mobilises each citizen to be an active part of value co-creation (Wegrich, 2019). Hence, collaborative innovation comes out as the implementation of product, process, technology or service that is new for public organizations (Osborne and Brown, 2005). 
Social innovation and co-creation are “magic concepts” (Pollitt and Hupe, 2001) not only in the public environment, but also in the context of museums (Quero et al., 2017). It is not surprising that recent museum management approaches build on the co-creation theory (Davies et al., 2013) or embed the latter in relation to the museum value development (Pencarelli et al., 2017). Nevertheless, visitors and museums co-creation is still less investigated (Conti et al., 2017).
The new museum management literature argues that one of the critical elements for the value co-creation from cultural experience consists in the capacity of museums to build networks with the audience and other stakeholders (Minkiewicz et al., 2014). In this regard, Coffee   (2008:   261)   argued   that:  “no  museum  is  an island”, meaning that social forces underlie museums existence, including (or excluding) various museum audiences through the cultural programme provided. Accordingly, a museum is a locus of social relationships among visitors and between them and the museum. Hence, accessibility is a key value driver for museums, whose “organizational culture” can influence individual and collective behaviour (Quinn, 1988; Hopper-Greenhill, 2007). Consequently, museum managers are commissioned by the society to search for public value. According to the paradigm of Public Value (Moore, 1995), engaging citizens in the creation process is the conditio sine qua non for providing public value. Indeed, understanding what citizens want and need without engaging them, provides merely results in public service (Scott, 2009). Nevertheless, the latter does not necessarily coincide with public value, which in the museum context refers to what Holden (2006: 14) defines, as intrinsic value, “the set of values that relate to the subjective experience of culture intellectually, emotionally and spiritually”.
The capability of a museum to provide intrinsic value for communities, a sense of belonging, is not to be taken for granted. On this matter, the Museum Value Framework identifies, in relation to the focus (internal/external) and to the knowledge and interpretative strategies (single narrative/formal source and multiple interpretation/informal sources), four types of museums: “temple”, “club”, “visitor attraction” and “forum”. Considering the latter two, which are consistent with the object of this study, they both focus on external audience/stakeholders and their perception of the museums’ functions. On the one hand, the “visitor attraction” type stresses communication towards visitors in order to satisfy their needs, identifying a customer-focused museum. On the other hand, the “forum” type, attempts to benefit society and individual well-being, stressing the museums' function as contributing to the development of civil society. Therefore, a visit of the museum is no longer an occasional day out, but rather a drop-in service (Gurian, 2007), and its fruition becomes a cognitive process that takes place in the mind, stimulated by participatory experience and dialogue (Nielsen, 2015).
As Piber et al. (2019: 3) point out in the context of participatory cultural initiative, the audience, or part of it, is not only the visitors but also the actors in the co-creation process in various ways. It is the audience that confers legitimacy to a museum's functions and its existence. This occurs in any public organization that is accountable for the value created to the benefit of the community by managing common resources (Sinclair, 1995). Legitimacy, indeed, is the “right to be and do something in society” (Edwards, 2000: 20). The latter implies tactics enabling organizations to achieve goals in line with certain purposes and needs recognised by the society   (Martin   and   Capelli,   2017).  Besides  rational analysis and citizens’ participation, advocacy represents one of those tactics, as it aims at influencing public opinion and behaviour (Taylor and Warburton, 2003; De Cesari and Dimova, 2019). Research on this matter highlights the central relationship between (public) funding and advocacy (Arvidson et al., 2017), even though it has been generally investigated within cultural heritage sector, rather than in museum context (Fanelli et al., 2015).
However, Garrow and Hasenfeld (2012) explore the linkage between organizational identity and advocacy, underpinning the mission of the organization. On this basis, advocacy practices are fundamental for museums as levers for raising funds and developing their core functions, such as the preservation of cultural heritage, the divulgation of their aesthetic and historical values to the community and future generations (Barnett et al., 2006; Santos et al., 2020). From this viewpoint, ICT provides a valid support for the museum advocacy, boosting the public engagement and, consequently, the legitimacy of the museum (Nielsen, 2015). The online platforms could open a space for “decentralized dialogues” (Yu and Humphreys, 2013; Bruni and Caboni, 2017), extending the co-creation of value by engaging visitors, communities, citizens, entrepreneurs and other generic stakeholders. Furthermore, the relevance of new technologies has been highlighted by managerial studies focused on University museums at the European level (Pugnaloni, 2003; Martino, 2016). This evidence has also emerged in the Italian scenario, where the university collections and museums keep memory of one of the oldest higher education systems all over the world (Mozzoni et al., 2018). More specifically, those museums have to self-finance their functions even though they are embedded in the so-called “third mission” of the Italian University. In addition to the two traditional ones, like teaching and research, universities have to be accountable to the Ministry of Education and Research not only for the performance achieved in those core functions, but also in relation to the impact of the dissemination of knowledge on the society (Trencher, 2013). Required by the National Agency for the Evaluation of the University and Research System (ANVUR, 2012), the third mission of the Italian university system encompasses three main settings, that are technology transfer, continuous education and public engagement. 
The latter includes the management of University collections and museums, whose performance is assessed by ANVUR indicators referring to the European guidelines (Council of Europe, Rec. 13/2005), which are related to: accessibility, financial sustainability, and communication to the stakeholders. As mentioned above, university museums have to face that challenge with a shrinking budget, as the Ministry does not provide any funds  directly  to  University  in  relation  to their museum performance. Recent research on this matter encourages more investigations on that critical issue, aiming at identifying innovative practices that would enable these museums to achieve their mission - aligned with the public engagement of the University – by combining the performance in terms of accessibility, financial sustainability and communication (Mozzoni et al., 2018). 
From the previous theoretical speculations, the following research question has arisen:
1) Which factors do university museums drive to achieve their mission, according to the Council of Europe recommendations?
Crowdfunding as a mean for museum value co-creation  
Research on value co-creation has demonstrated how Internet-based technology represents a privileged channel for activating interactive relationships, providing a digital space where different actors can meet and share additional information, skills, creativity knowledge as well as financial resources (Colurcio et al., 2016). In particular, the digital infrastructures which allow to open the funding support to a “crowd” referred to what is known as crowdfunding (Lasher and Cook, 1996). The latter is defined as “an open call, essentially through the Internet, for the provision of financial resources either in the form of donations (without rewards) or in exchange for some form of reward and/or voting right in order to support initiatives for specific purposes” (Lambert and Schwienbacher; 2010). Furthermore, according to HaÅ‚aburda and Yehezkel, (2016), crowdfunding is a two sided mediated market, within which three main actors operate: the projects proponents, who seek financial resources for different scopes; donors, who provide financial resources to the proponents; and crowdfunding platforms, which are the intermediaries. The operating principle of crowdfunding is summarized as follows: through a public call, the project's proponents submit their idea to the “crowd”, which is made up of a large group of individuals, known as donors. This call usually takes place on the Internet, through a specific online platform (Kleemann et al., 2008; Schwienbacher and Larralde, 2012; Belleflamme et al., 2013a, Casadesus-Masanell and Llanes, 2015). Once registered on the platform, project proponents provide a description of the crowdfunding campaign, especially in terms of output and outcome, the goal (funding target) and intermediate results. All this information has the task of advocating potential donors to support the project during the campaign. Furthermore, there is a minimum amount of money that a supporter can send, but not a maximum. A crowdfunding project lasts for a short time, usually some weeks  or months. Moreover, platforms can have different operating rules: some of them allow projects proponents to keep the money raised only if the campaign reaches the goal or a certain percentage of it (“all-or-nothing” model) (Hemer, 2011); others allow them to keep all of the money raised during the call, ignoring the required budget fixed at the beginning of the project (“keep-it-all” model) (Wash and Solomon, 2014).
Among the different types of crowdfunding platforms, such as donation-based, reward-based, loan-based and equity-based (Mollick, 2013; Schwienbacher and Larralde, 2012; Meyskens and Bird, 2015; Futko, 2014), the former considers donors as philanthropists who do not have any expectations in exchange for their support (Mollick, 2014). Within donation-based platforms, all those wealthy people who are willing to donate their money to a good cause, expecting no type of return, compose the “crowd” (Belleflamme et al., 2013b). According to Meyskens and Bird (2015), the donation-based model creates high social value, but low economic value. Indeed, donors are not interested in generating income, since they are focused on the social benefit created by their donations. On this basis, that model is suitable for cultural organization funding. Therefore, crowdfunding could be the tool through which cultural organizations can engage a larger “crowd”, by encouraging transparency and accountability (Legget, 2009; Wheat et al., 2013; Colasanti et al., 2018). Relating to this perspective, knowledge and information sharing with donors can be a critical success factor for a crowdfunding campaign in terms of output (Leone and Schiavone, 2019; Viotto da Cruz, 2018).
According to recent studies (Eiteneyer et al., 2019; Viotto da Cruz, 2018), crowdfunding is not only a way to gather financial support from donors, but it is also an opportunity to interact with several types of actors. Although it has been acknowledged that crowdfunding frames the context in which value creation takes place (Quero et al., 2017), more in-depth investigations on how it occurs, in terms of network among actors involved, activity and resources for creating value and different types of value created in that collaborative process, are still called.
In this perspective, the following research question came out:
2) How does crowdfunding enable university museums to co-create public value? 


Taking into consideration the epistemological point of view, this study is based on an interpretative approach, which keeps the standards of qualitative studies. In order to acquire deeper knowledge and awareness of the context of analysis, an explorative case study is carried out (Yin, 2017). The case is represented by a museum that is part of the Museum System of an Italian University in Lombardy (Italy). The choice of this case study is justified  by  the success of the fundraising campaign arranged by this museum through the university crowdfunding platform. The University Museum (hereby UM) case study, indeed, represents an example of successful participatory cultural initiative, because it achieved and surpassed the funding goal (€ 5.000,00) in only four months (March-June 2017), during which the platform launched numerous research project against cancer and on 3D biomedical devices for healthcare diagnosis. Moreover, the University crowdfunding platform had previously shown other two cultural heritage projects, which unfortunately did not achieve the goal required. 
During this period, several events of public engagement were organized, both linked to the on-line crowdfunding campaign and to more general fundraising purposes, in order to promote, and raise money for the cause. The aim of the crowdfunding project was to make the permanent collections of the Museum available to all visitors, with specific attention to people with disabilities, who were actively involved in the project. Hence, the case study is particularly relevant because of the role of the several and varied stakeholders engaged in the value creation process (21 donors composed of individuals, associations, local entrepreneurs, corporations).
In order to identify the actors involved in the crowdfunding campaign, secondary data from the University crowdfunding platform have been analysed. Moreover, the ethnographic approach (Dey, 2002; Spradley, 1979) has been considered suitable for exploring the crowdfunding functionality under the advocacy and the co-creation perspectives. It was carried out by attending the back stage of the UM submission in the University crowdfunding platform, the kick-off event of the UM crowdfunding project, that were all cultural initiatives run for increasing the sensibility of people toward the social inclusion as a cultural policy issue (Sandell, 2003). Attending these Museum’s initiatives, lasted about three hours each, enabled the researcher to verify directly their impact on the crowdfunding campaign in terms of number and types of donors, as measures of advocacy and museum project legitimation. The performance information has been recorded by the UM and reported on the University crowdfunding platform in the project section for public accountability. Additionally, the triangulation of the data, results and interpretations (Ryan et al., 2002) has been achieved by unstructured interviews to the UM project team (the UM curator, the Rehabilitation Centre of Visual Impairment of the Regional Hospital, the 3DLab Research Centre and the Department of Civil Engineering and Architecture of the same University) who was asked to talk about the crowdfunding experience under their professional perspective. 
The interviews have been carried out in two moments: at the launch of the crowdfunding campaign, in order to investigate the professional contribution of the UM project team to the value co-creation project, as well as and at the end of that, in order to understand the further steps of its development. In details, three open questions have been asked to the four actors engaged in the UM project. At the launch of the crowdfunding campaign, all interviewees answered to:
1) What motivations are underpinned by this project?
2) What will be your contribution to the value co-creation?
3) What are the expected results of the crowdfunding campaign?
At the end of the crowdfunding campaign, the following questions have been posed:
1) What activities will be carried out for the project development?
2) Will it be necessary to involve other actors for the development of these activities? Which ones?
3) What is the expected value from the development of this project in relation to the museum's mission?
The texts of all interviews,  lasted  about  30’  each,  have  been recorded and transcribed by adopting the MAXQDA2020 program for social science-oriented data analysis.   
The in-vivo coding has been based on the conceptual categories identified in accordance with the consulted literature. The interviews, together with the information gathered by the crowdfunding platform and by attending all the events aforementioned, have been used for the case study analysis and further discussion.
The case study
From the analysis of the case study, carried out through the application of the three research methods mentioned above, evidence aligned with the cognitive objectives of the present study has sprung - up.


Results from the platform analysis
UM is one of the eight museums belonging to the University Museum System, and its collection exhibits the history of the electrical devices applied in industry, communication and in domestic living environment. At its first decade of activity (March 2017), the museum decided to organize and submit a research project on social accessibility to the University crowdfunding platform. Looking at the project explained on that platform, the UM’s aim was to make the permanent exhibition accessible to all potential visitors, including the visually impaired and blind people.
Before launching the crowdfunding project, UM had already created a tactile map, with the aid of Lombardy Regional Law 39/74, 2016. A team of researchers and University professors (3DLab Centre and the Department of Civil Engineering and Architecture) designed the map and built it by using 3D printing technology. Furthermore, the Regional President of the Italian Union of the Blind and Partially Sighted validated the functionality of the map. Further vital contributions and support were given by the team of the Rehabilitation Centre of Visual Impairment of the Regional Hospital. Their experience in solving the everyday problems of people with acquired visual impairment allowed the staging to be targeted and to verify the effects. In order to take on active roles in the preparatory stages of the project, users and patients first experienced the museum exhibition spaces through touch, and also sensation, and in general perceiving the museum experience beyond 3D printing.
The object of the crowdfunding project was to complete the exhibition path for blind or partially sighted people by means of new technological devices. More specifically, the latter are represented by three components, each linked to an App that enables visitors to listen to the story of the object that they can touch along the route. These devices are labelled “Museum map of Tactile Experience” (MTE).
During the fundraising campaign, the platform  updated the amount of financial resources received, the type of donors and the remaining time within which it was necessary to achieve the goal of € 5,000 by the end of June 2017.
With this amount of resources, the Museum would have obtained a co-financing from the crowd to complete the museum path, for the visually impaired and blind people, with the support of the University budget and the contribution of the Lombardy Region. This was specified by the research team through the project and the video-telling available on the platform.
At the end of the campaign, the museum raised 134% of the resources requested from the crowd, thanks to the contribution of 21 stakeholders (event’s participants, industrial associations, local entrepreneurs, public institutions).
Results from the ethnographic observations
Most of the donors who made it possible to achieve and exceed the minimum of financial resources required to the crowd, in order to co-finance the museum project, have visited or attended at least one of the events arranged by the museum during the 4 months of the crowdfunding campaign.  
The number of donors represented by visitors was 1,204, whose contribution was enough to reach the goal.
The participatory cultural initiatives were made up of 3 cultural workshops in March 2017, 2 performing art events for museum visits respectively in April and May 2017, 2 Creative Lab for Kids and Families in and 2 ateliers during two months of the campaign.  
All initiatives started with the presentation of the crowdfunding project, with the purpose to make the audience aware of the objective of the fundraising and specially to stress the value that they would have contributed to co-create for the welfare of the community.
During that presentation, the UM staff stressed the social inclusion as a museum value. The curator declared, all the times, how the UM aims at feeding and satisfying the curious visitors who want to know about the history of the electrical technology and their inventions and inventors. The curiosity, indeed, is perceived by both children and adults in complete possession of all five senses or not. This challenge has been stressed in order to increase the sensibility of the event participants towards the project, which would enable blind or visually sighted adults and children to “touch” the science, experiencing something new and exciting at UM.
From the observation of the behavior of the attendants who, after the visit, proceeded to the donation, it emerged how direct interaction with the museum was important under the advocacy perspective. The museum attracted the visitors and dialogued with them as in a “forum”, according to the Museum Value Framework (Davies et al.,  2013);   after  the  donation  occurred,  the  value  co- creation project was run. In other words, participation, advocacy and crowdfunding have enabled the Museum to co-financing public value creation, considered “relevant” by the crowd for the well-being of the society (Figure 1). 
Results from the interviews
During the interviews at the crowdfunding launch, the curator declared that the motivation to develop the project of a new collection path was aligned to the museum mission to enable all visitors, including blind or visually sighted adults and children, with a common sense of curiosity/knowledge, to “touch” the science, experiencing something new and exciting at UM. The Rehabilitation Centre of the Regional Hospital decided to be part of the project team in order to develop a new rehabilitation practice for their patients in that University Museum, characterised by huge spaces (more than 2,500 metres squares) and collections that can be touched. The Department of Civil Engineering and Architecture accepted to be engaged in this project because it could be a way to extend the research topic on accessibility within the engineering studies. The 3D Lab Research Centre participated to the proposal with the aim to create a product innovation.
As for the contribution to the value co-creation, the UM curator answered  to  the  related  question  stressing  the effort of the Museum, in terms of additional working time and human resources, to arrange new participatory cultural initiatives in order to extend the audience and make it aware of the intrinsic value of the project based on the principle of accessibility. In fact, the latter is recognized by the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which states the importance of the participation of people with disabilities in cultural life, recreation, leisure and sports (Art. 30). The Rehabilitation Centre of the Regional Hospital has committed itself to involve patients in this experimentation and to test the prototype devices. The Department of Civil Engineering and Architecture provided value as co-designer of the Museum accessibility devise, while the 3D Lab Research Centre contributed to co-implement the latter by experimenting new materials, considered more suitable for the touch of the section map by the visual impaired and blind visitors.
The expected results of the crowdfunding campaign, pointed out by the UM curator, referred to the participation of the devoted visitors to the events arranged for this purpose, as well as to facilitate the project advocacy through the project presentation in situ and through the transparent and updating communication about the intermediate results on the platform. The Museum attempted to increase not only the sensibility for the accessibility, as acknowledged by Human Right, but also the contribution of the crowd to sustain the project within the  museum  context. The  Rehabilitation  Centre  of  the Regional Hospital expected the enthusiastic participation of patients from this project, given the novelty of the rehabilitation practice. In addition, the opportunity of training for medical students who wanted to specialize in rehabilitative ophthalmology was another expected result. On the University Department and Research Lab side, the possibility of increasing engineering knowledge on accessibility devices and promoting a new product for the blind and visually impaired have been expected in case of the successful crowdfunding campaign.
From the interviews done at the end of the project, interesting evidence sprang up. The UM curator declared that the first steps of the project development would have been the record of the audio-guide for the Museum map of the Tactile Experience (MET) and the Implementation of the pedestrian-tactile path, as recommended by the patients of the Rehabilitation Centre of the Regional Hospital, which tested the preliminary results of the devices crafted. These innovative applications have required specific competences outsourced by UM to high tech company, audio-maker entrepreneurs and by a manufacturing enterprise. The development of that sensory exhibition would have been able to provide a new museum experience in force of the accessibility principle, legitimizing the public investment. The Rehabilitation Centre of the Regional Hospital contributed to record the audio-guide for the MET and to test its efficacy for the therapy. That audio production required the collaboration of the patients as well as of the Medicine students who were engaged in that training. The development of this UM project allowed that Hospital Centre to implement a new practice of visual rehabilitation and, in the meanwhile, to provide a new specialised ophthalmology course. 
The activity of the Department of Civil Engineering and Architecture, carried out by a researcher team, consisted in co-designing the App, together with the other members of the project team and in collaboration with the Italian Union of Blind and Visual Impaired people. The co-creation of MET enabled that Research Unit to introduce a new research pathway, to public new scientific products, and to add new contents in the engineering course focused on accessibility. Similarly, the 3D Lab Research Centre, as co-implementer, collaborated the development of the MET by producing the tactile map section posed as MTE cover, and so that co-created an innovative product through an innovative process carried out by an interdisciplinary research network. 
The summary of the content analysis findings aforementioned is shown in Table 1.


The case study highlights how co-creation is strictly bound up with the mission of museums as contributors  to the development of civil society. The evidence from this research has demonstrated how a university museum must face a big challenge in order to extend the accessibility of the collections, considering the scant resources available for its management (Mozzoni et al., 2018). The condictio sine qua non for achieving this goal is co-creation based on the capacity of UM to build network with the audience and other stakeholders, moved by motivation linked to the museum project objective (Minkiewicz et al., 2014). This capacity is implied in the managerial approach of the Museum as “forum” (Davies et al., 2013), where the interaction with the audience and generic stakeholder is yet embedded in the organizational culture as social practice. The dialogue with the public has been developing in situ and by digital space in order to trigger public engagement and advocacy. This latter represented a lever for legitimising the museum functionality under the community perspective and stimulated the co-financing of the value creation (Stevenson, 2013).
Therefore, relating the first research question, the case study has demonstrated how advocacy, participation and crowdfunding are three critical factors that have driven the UM to achieve the mission in terms of accessibility, financial sustainability, and communication, according the Council of Europe recommendations. The synergic contribution of these pillars (Figure 2) was critical for the UM project result. Indeed, without the participation of the visitors to the UM events, and the advocacy per sé induced by the dialogue between the latter and the Museum staff, the crowdfunding campaign would have not been able to stimulate the co-financing of the project (Coghlan, 2018). This is due to the fact that crowdfunding culture is not yet widespread but still uncommon in the Italian context, especially at the University level, considering that the first University crowdfunding platform in Italy was dates back to 2014.
Nonetheless, the accessibility project required funds from different financial sources, such as regional funding calls and sponsorships. The UM decided to turn to crowdfunding, being aware of its advocacy function.
In this regard, the case study could answer to the second research question. The crowdfunding platform was able to create a digital space where UM and stakeholders have exchanged financial (the amount of donation) and managerial information (type of donors). Therefore, it provided a room for decentralized dialogue (Yu and Humphreys, 2013), knowledge (Leone and Schiavone, 2019) and information (Viotto da Cruz, 2018) sharing between the museum and the community (Etzioni, 1993). As such, the university crowdfunding platform allowed UM to guarantee a digital communication with the stakeholders, based on transparent and updating information. This kind of communication is a prerequisite to facilitate the exchange and integration of resources through  new  technologies  (Colurcio   et  al.,  2016). The crowdfunding platform built the relationship between the UM and the community and  fostered the ones within the project team. Relating to the latter, the contribution  to  value  creation  from  all members of the project team was highlighted by the digital  project,  as  well  as  through  the video posed on the platform. In fact, the content analysis has clearly shown how the Rehabilitation Centre of the Regional Hospital, the Department of Civil Engineering and Architecture and the 3D Lab Research Centre firstly co-created value in terms of co-launch of the UM project, co-ideation of the devices, co-design them, and co-test the prototype version of the MET App. The co-consumption of the preliminary output of the UM project engaged the end-users (the blind and visual impair patients of the Rehabilitation Centre) as co-initiators of public value creation (Moore, 1995). In this sense, Tzortzi (2014) argues that visitor navigation is critical for understanding any museum collections’ meanings and for transforming experience beyond physical infrastructures. Indeed, UM attempted to enable blinded and sighted people to touch and feel this experience by applying innovative technological devices co-created by the interdisciplinary work-team to the collections. The tactile map, combined with the app of the three MTE devices was created by engaging the patients of the Rehabilitation Centre of the Hospital as end-users. Visually impaired adults and children were invited several times by the Museum to explore the collections through this technology, in order to test the validity of the materials adopted, the effectiveness of the technology applied to the latter, and their perception of the experience. Indeed, they expressed a desire to add a pedestrian-tactile path to enable them to approach the collections on their own, contributing to formulate a relevant museum (and public) value (Colasanti et al., 2018; Eiteneyer et al., 2019; Gurian, 2007). Once the campaign was completed, the museum started the App development process (MET). During this stage, the co-creation phase has been carried out by an extended network made by the project research team in collaboration with both local enterprises and patients to co-evaluate the functionality of the output of this social innovation project (Figure 2) (Eiteneyer et al., 2019; Leone and Schiavone, 2019).


The new museum management approach underlines how the relevant value able to meet the visitor need consists in providing a memorable experience and/or a personal transformation at the emotional, intellectual or spiritual level (Pencarelli et al., 2017). This is valid also for university museums, which are deemed to play a key role for the performance of university connected to the technology transfer, continuous education and public engagement. In the Italian context, such dimension of performance has been institutionalized within the so called third mission of the higher education system. The challenge to perform better with scant resources has stimulated University museums to adopt new managerial tools in order to achieve their mission that is evaluated by ANVUR in relation to the three principles as accessibility, financial sustainability and communication.
Considering the low attention paid to this issue so far (Mozzoni et al., 2018), the UM case study has contributed to the debate with some insights within the value co-creation theory. More specifically, the research has identified three pillars of “relevant museum value” - that are participation, advocacy and crowdfunding - as an experience for specific audience, represented by the blind and visually impair visitors. These pillars are key value drivers that enabled UM to perform under the assessment criteria aforementioned. In fact, accessibility implies audience participation (Brawne,1982), as the more the visitors achieved, the better the museum will perform, especially if it attempts to include different targets according to the principle of social inclusion (Sandell, 2003). The performance will be even higher if the museum engages visitors in the creation of value from its ideation, design and implementation. The UM case study demonstrated that this could happen through a transparent and updating communication, applying both digital and traditional tools. Even though the new technologies are fundamental for facilitating interactive relationships, museums should integrate the real and the virtual space of dialogue in order to engage different actors in value creation processes (Pencarelli et al, 2017; Bruni and Caboni, 2017). However, the efficacy of communication could be appreciated in terms of the advocacy of the cultural project by the community (De Cesari and Dimova, 2019). The capacity of the museum to  influence  the  behaviour  of  the public,  stimulating its engagement on the value creation process, is boosted by the direct relationship as well as through online platform. Advocacy led stakeholders to co-financing the UM project through the crowdfunding campaign, thanks to the financial and managerial information sharing. Moreover, the crowdfunding platform provided public accountability about the financial performance achieved by the UM project during the campaign. This donation-based model allowed to create a trusty network between project team and the community and, in the meanwhile, to legitimate the museum value co-creation (Stevenson, 2013). In other words, crowdfunding has represented, in this case study, an innovative tool for boosting the financial sustainability of the project. It was a conditio sine qua non for starting the value co-creation process. In fact, participation and advocacy have been prerequisites for strengthening the effectiveness of crowdfunding: without them, it would have been difficult to achieve the goal in a context where fundraising is still marginal.
Moreover, the three pillars can be used by the management to enhance strategically user’s behaviour, engagement and co-creation only if the “organizational culture” of the museum is based on openness towards interdisciplinary integration and network (Hopper-Greenhill, 2007). It does occur in participatory museum characterized by the modus operandi as forum (Davies et al., 2013).
This research underpins some limitations, such as the focus on a single-case study and the exclusive consideration of the museum and project team viewpoints. Nevertheless, some theoretical and managerial implications deserve to be presented. Under the former perspective, the study has demonstrated how accountability should be guaranteed for fostering the effectiveness of the crowdfunding platform in value co-creation (co-financing) and for networking. In addition, the three pillars model induced University museum to reflect on performance measurements system suitable for self-assessment within the strategic areas identified by ANVUR. This issue should be a new research path worth investigating in Italy as well as at the international context.
The managerial implications of the study regard some different aspects. First of all, the relationship between University and community should not be taken for granted, as since the recognition of the “third mission”, Italian University system has typically been perceived detached from the surrounding environment and the related museums have been considered like “storage” or, at best, research labs. This explains the remarkable effort of University museums to achieve their mission, by engaging community in value co-creation for the well-being of society. The UM crowdfunding campaign has contributed to increase the visibility of the museum as well as the community awareness of its social-economic impact. 
Moreover, the platform was structured in a way to create    network    among   the    team   project   and  the stakeholders (entrepreneurs, associations, visitors, public institutions), demonstrating how University museum could activate the cultural and creative eco-system.
At the same time, the outcome of the UM crowdfunding has improved the university ranking under the third mission perspective, in terms of public engagement. Moreover, the interdisciplinary competences required by museum accessibility project leads to develop new professional profiles and to update the academic program, boosting the linkage between university and the job-market.
All these implications need more investigations for their generalization, extending the perspective of the analysis to all the stakeholders’ viewpoints, within the university museums context at the national and international levels.


The author is very pleased with the Curator of the University Museum, the Head of the3DLab Centre and the Department of Civil Engineering and Architecture of the University, the staff of the University Crowdfunding Service and the Head of Rehabilitation Centre of the Regional Hospital for their insightful support on the development of the case study. Last but not least, the author thanks the reviewers of this article for the useful suggestions given in order to improve and make it ready for publication.


The author has not declared any conflict of interests.


Arvidson M, Johansson H, Scaramuzzino R (2017). Advocacy Compromised: How Financial, Organizational and Institutional Factors Shape Advocacy Strategies of Civil Society Organization. Voluntas: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations 29(4):844-856.


Barnett ML, Jermier JM, Lafferty BA (2006). Corporate reputation: The definitional landscape. Corporate Reputation Review 9(1):26-38.


Belleflamme P, Lambert T, Schwienbacher A (2013a). Individual crowdfunding practices. Venture Capital 15(4):313-333.


Belleflamme P, Lambert T, Schwienbacher A (2013b). Crowdfunding: Tapping the right crowd. Journal of Business Venturing 29(5):585-609.


Benington J (2011). From private choice to public value. Public value: Theory and practice 121:31-49.


Bonacchi C, Bevan A, Keinan-Schoonbaert A, Pett D, Wexler J (2019). Participation in heritage crowdsourcing. Museum Management and Curatorship 34(2):166-182.


Bovaird T, Flemig S, Loeffler E, Osborne SP (2017). Debate: Co-production of public services and outcomes. Public Money and Management 37(5):363-364.


Brawne M (1982). The museum interior: temporary and permanent display techniques. Architectural Book Publishing Company.


Bruni R, Caboni F (2017). Place as Value Proposition: The Marketing Perspective. Milano: Franco Angeli. Available at:



Bryson J, Sancino A, Benington J, Sørensen E (2017). Towards a multi-actor theory of public value co-creation. Public Management Review 19(5):640-654.


Cameron DF (1971). The museum, a temple or the forum? Curator 14(1):11-24.


Casadesus‐Masanell R, Llanes G (2015). Investment Incentives in Open‐Source and Proprietary Two‐Sided Platforms. Journal of Economics and Management Strategy 24(2):306-324.


Cepiku D, Giordano F (2014). Co-production in developing countries: Insights from the community health workers experience. Public Management Review 16(3):317-340.


Cepiku D, Mussari R, Giordano F (2016). Local Governments managing austerity: approaches, determinates and impact". Public Administration 94(1):223-243.


Chan RY (2016). Studying philanthropy and fundraising in the field of higher education: A proposed conceptual model. Facilitating higher education growth through fundraising and philanthropy. pp. 1-27. Available at:



Coffee K (2008). Cultural inclusion, exclusion and the formative roles of museums. Museum Management and Curatorship 23(3):261-279.


Coghlan R (2018). 'My voice counts because I'm handsome.' Democratising the museum: the power of museum participation. International Journal of Heritage Studies 24(7):795-809.


Colasanti N, Frondizi R, Meneguzzo M (2018). Higher education and stakeholders' donations: successful civic crowdfunding in an Italian university. Public Money and Management 38(4):281-288.


Colurcio M, Carè S, Caridà A, Melia M (2016). Crowdsourcing: Looking for a Pattern. Journal of Emerging Trends in Marketing and Management 1(1):259-271.


Conti E, Pencarelli T, Vesci M (2017). Museum visitors' profiling in the experiential perspective, value co-creation and implications for museums and destinations: An Exploratory study from Italy. In Proceedings of the Heritage, Tourism and Hospitality International Conference HTHIC pp. 21-34.


Crosby BC, Hart P, Torfing J (2017). Public value creation through collaborative innovation. Public Management Review 19(5):655-669.


Davies SM, Paton R, O'Sullivan TJ (2013). The museum values framework: a framework for understanding organisational culture in museums. Museum Management and Curatorship 28(4):345-361.


De Cesari C, Dimova R (2019). Heritage, gentrification, participation: Remaking urban landscapes in the name of culture and historic preservation. International Journal of Heritage Studies 25(9):863-869.


Dey C (2002). Methodological issues: The use of critical ethnography as an active research methodology. Accounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal 15(1):106-121.


Edwards M (2000). NGO rights and responsibilities. A new deal for global governance. London: The Foreign Policy Centre.


Etzioni A (1993). The spirit of community: Rights, responsibilities, and the communitarian agenda. New York: Crown.


Eiteneyer N, Bendig D, Brettel M (2019). Social capital and the digital crowd: Involving backers to promote new product innovativeness. Research Policy 48(8):103744.


Fanelli S, Ferretti M, Lanza G, Zangrandi A (2015). Le risorse per il sostegno della mission: criteri per finanziare la gestione e l'innovazione. In Sibilio B, Donato F, Governare e Gestire le aziende culturali, Milano: FrancoAngeli.


Futko J (2014). Equity vs. Debt Crowdfunding-Crowdfund Insider. Available at:



Garrow EE, Hasenfeld Y (2012). Institutional logics, moral frames, and advocacy: Explaining the purpose of advocacy among nonprofit human-service organizations. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly.


Gurian EH (2007). The potential of museum learning: The essential museum. The Manual of Museum Learning. AltaMira Press, Plymouth.


Hałaburda H, Yehezkel Y (2016). The role of coordination bias in platform competition. Journal of Economics and Management Strategy 25(2):274-312.


Hemer J (2011). A snapshot on crowdfunding (No. R2/2011). Working papers firms and region.


Holden J (2006). Cultural value and the crisis of legitimacy: Why culture needs a democratic mandate. London: DEMOS.


Hopper-Greenhill E (2007). Museum and education: Purpose, pedagogy, performance (Museum Meanings). London: Routledge.


Howe J (2006). The rise of crowdsourcing. Wired magazine 14(6):1-4.


Kleemann F, Voß GG, Rieder K (2008). Un (der) paid innovators: The commercial utilization of consumer work through crowdsourcing. Science, Technology and Innovation Studies 4(1):5-26.


Kotler N, Kotler P (2000). Can museums be all things to all people? Missions, goals, and marketing's role. Museum Management and Curatorship 18(3):271-287.


Lambert T, Schwienbacher A (2010). An empirical analysis of crowdfunding. Social Science Research Network 1578175:1-23.


Lasher WF, Cook WB (1996). Toward a theory of fund raising in higher education. The Review of Higher Education 20(1):33-51.


Legget J (2009). Measuring what we treasure or treasuring what we measure? Investigating where community stakeholders locate the value in their museums. Museum management and curatorship 24(3):213-232.


Leone D, Schiavone F (2019). Innovation and knowledge sharing in crowdfunding: how social dynamics affect project success. Technology Analysis and Strategic Management 31(7):803-816.


Loeffler E, Bovaird T (2019). Co-commissioning of public services and outcomes in the UK: Bringing co-production into the strategic commissioning cycle. Public Money and Management 39(4):241-252.


Martin E, Capelli S (2017). Region brand legitimacy: towards a participatory approach involving residents of a place. Public Management Review 19(6):820-844.


Martino V (2016). University museums and collections: survey of a widespread cultural heritage. Museologia Scientifica 10:42-55.


Meyskens M, Bird L (2015). Crowdfunding and value creation. Entrepreneurship Research Journal 5(2):155-166.


Minkiewicz J, Evans J, Bridson K (2014). How do consumers co-create their experiences? An exploration in the heritage sector. Journal of Marketing Management 30(1-2):30-59.


Mollick ER (2013). Swept away by the crowd? Crowdfunding, venture capital, and the selection of entrepreneurs. Venture Capital, and the Selection of Entrepreneurs (March 25).


Mollick E (2014). The dynamics of crowdfunding: An exploratory study. Journal of Business Venturing 29(1):1-16.


Moore MH (1995). Creating public value: Strategic management in government. Harvard university press.


Mozzoni I, Fanelli S, Donelli CC (2018). Italian university collections: managing the artistic heritage of the university's ivory tower. Journal of Cultural Management and Policy 8:30-43.


Nielsen JK (2015). The relevant museum: Defining relevance in museological practices. Museum Management and Curatorship 30(5):364-378.


Osborne SP, Brown L (2005). Managing Change and Innovation in Public Service Organization. London: Routledge.


Ostrom E (1996). Crossing the great divide: coproduction, synergy, and development. World Development 24(6):1073-1087.


Pencarelli T, Conti E, Splendiani S (2017). The experiential offering system of museums: evidence from Italy. Journal of Cultural Heritage Management and Sustainable Development 7(4):430-448.


Piber M, Demartini P, Biondi L (2019). The management of participatory cultural initiatives: learning from the discourse on intellectual capital. Journal of Management and Governance 23(2):1-24.


Pollitt C, Hupe P (2011). Talking about government: The role of magic concepts. Public Management Review 13(5):641-658.


Pugnaloni F (2003). The future of the university museums' system in Italy. Museologia 3:51-54.


Quero MJ, Ventura R, Kelleher C (2017). Value-in-context in crowdfunding ecosystems: how context frames value co-creation. Service Business 11(2):405-425.


Quinn RE (1988). Beyond Rational Management. San Francisco and Oxford: Jossey-Bass.


Ridge M (2013). From tagging to theorizing: deepening engagement with cultural heritage through crowdsourcing. Curator: The Museum Journal 56(4):435-450.


Russo-Spena T, Mele C (2012). "Five Co-s" in innovating: a practice-based view. Journal of Service Management 23(4):527-553.


Ryan RJ, Scapens RW, Theobald M (2002). Research methods and methodology in accounting and finance. 2nd Edition. London: Lightning Source.


Sandell R (2003). Social inclusion, the museum and the dynamics of sectoral change. Museum and Society 1(1):45-62.


Santos MR, Laureano RM, Moro S (2020). Unveiling research trends for organizational reputation in the nonprofit sector. VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations 31(1):56-70.


Scott C A (2009). Exploring the evidence base for museum value. Museum Management and Curatorship 24(3):195-212.


Schwienbacher A, Larralde B (2012). Alternative types of entrepreneurial finance. In The Oxford Handbook of Entrepreneurial Finance.


Sinclair A (1995). The chameleon of accountability: forms and discourses. Accounting, organizations and Society 20(2-3):219-237.


Spradley JP (1979). The Ethnographic Interview, New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.


Stevenson D (2013). Reaching a 'legitimate' value? A contingent valuation study of the National Galleries of Scotland. Museum Management and Curatorship 28(4):377-393.


Taylor M, Warburton D (2003). Legitimacy and the role of UK third sector organizations in the policy process. Voluntas: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations 14(3):321-338.


Trencher G, Yarime M, Mccormick KB, Doll CN, Kraines SB (2013). Beyond the third mission: Exploring the emerging university function of co-creation for sustainability. Science and Public Policy 41(2):151-179.


Tzortzi K (2014). Movement in museums: mediating between museum intent and visitor experience. Museum Management and Curatorship 29(4):327-348.


Vargo SL (2009). Toward a transcending conceptualization of relationship: a service-dominant logic perspective. The Journal of Business and Industrial Marketing 24(5-6):373-379.


Viotto da Cruz JV (2018). Beyond financing: crowdfunding as an informational mechanism. Journal of Business Venturing 33(3):371-393.


Voorberg WH, Bekkers VJ, Tummers LG (2015). A systematic review of co-creation and co-production: Embarking on the social innovation journey. Public Management Review 17(9):1333-1357.


Wash R, Solomon J (2014). Coordinating donors on crowdfunding websites. In Proceedings of the 17th ACM conference on Computer supported cooperative work & social computing. pp. 38-48.


Wegrich K (2019). The blind spots of collaborative innovation. Public Management Review 21(1):12-20.


Wheat RE, Wang Y, Byrnes JE, Ranganathan J (2013). Raising money for scientific research through crowdfunding. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 28(2):71-72.


Yin RK (2017). Case study research and applications: Design and methods. Sage publications.


Yu A, Humphreys P (2013). From measuring to learning? - Probing the evolutionary path of IC research and practice. Journal of Intellectual Capital 14(1):26-47.


Zan L, Bonini Baraldi S, Gordon C (2007). "Cultural heritage between centralisation and decentralisation: Insights from the Italian context. International Journal of Cultural Policy 13(1):49-70.