Crowdsourcing solutions for social change

Independent top advisors call for increased EU investment in research and innovation for the sake of Europe's futureRead more

The report calls for citizen involvement, especially for social good. One of the top 11 recommendations is to mobilize and involve citizens — allow citizens access to data and participate in decision making.

As an innovation technique, crowdsourcing or soliciting ideas from people to work collaboratively or individually toward a common goal has been around for a while.

What can crowdsourcing be used for?

Mining established or original data and solutions, soliciting feedback, improving organizational transparency, and building consensus through a more interactive process, or even harnessing the labor of the crowd…1
Apart from funding, crowdsourcing can help you garner support from all quarters to build a successful campaign. Some examples of crowdsourcing platforms for social good include openideoioby, indiegogo, crowdrise, and startsomegood.

How can you crowdsource innovation?

According to Boudreau and Lakhani, there are four models of crowdsourcing innovation to choose from depending on the situation:

  • Crowd contests (e.g., hackathons)
  • Crowd collaborative communities (e.g., a business teams up with an online community that has software engineers, customers, etc.
  • Crowd complementors (e.g., developers create complementary apps through iTunes
  • Crowd labor markets (e.g., third-party intermediaries that match buyers and sellers)

To know more about crowdsourcing ideas & solutions for your business, click here>>

Why bother with public crowdsourcing?

Because of obvious advantages!

People are turning to civic hackathons to turn the world into a better place. What’s more important than getting together bright minds to tackle real-world social challenges?

  • Crowdsourcing empowers citizens and creates future change agents.
  • Crowdsourcing offers scale and diversity that aren’t easy to match.
  • Crowdsourcing is easy, cost-effective, and manageable, because of amazing advances in technology and social media platforms.
  • Crowdsourcing enables transparent and interactive communication between the community and decision makers. 
  • Crowdsourcing can rally “doers” to champion a social cause, create meaningful impact, and get practical solutions.

Crowdsourcing could be the best way forward for nonprofits and “cash-strapped” local authorities. However, note that technical experts may be required to interpret feedback or solutions in case the “crowd” is not a true demographic representation of the actual community.

Are crowd contests the best bet to address civic challenges?

In a crowd contest such a hackathon (online or offline), participants set the stage to accelerate innovation using their drive and skills in an environment conducive to creation and ideation. The promise of rewards or enervated by intrinsic motivators, people work to help a cause—be it water shortage, poverty, disaster management, climate, refugee crisis, hunger, or health.

Hackathons to solve sustainability issues or initiate social change bring together programmers, thought leaders, activists, designers, entrepreneurs, and thinkers. Civic hackathons certainly give the citizens a voice, while raising awareness and developing solutions germane to a social pain point.
For example, Cloudera and Intel are conducting a child finder hackathon. Participants have to use technology to help locate missing children. The IP will go to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. In another example, Indian e-commerce company Flipkart hosted the Gridlock hackathon to address Bangalore’s traffic woes by crowdsourcing innovative ideas.

Takeaway: “Crowdsourcing is just another shiny object unless you can tie it to outcomes,” says Beth Kanter, author of The Networked Nonprofit. And we agree.

About the Author

Dhanya Menon
Dhanya Menon is an editor and academic writer. This is her first stint in content marketing, having spent over 5 years in e-learning. Her interests are varied. She likes to lose track of time reading anything from chemistry to Allende, from statistics to Thurber cartoons, from Ruth Rendell to listening to her son's unique take on life.
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