Using Crowdsourcing In Government


Using Crowdsourcing In Government

Friday, April 11th, 2014 - 12:46
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There is growing interest in “engaging the crowd” to identify or develop innovative solutions to public problems.

This trend has been inspired by similar efforts in the commercial world to design innovative consumer products or solve complex scientific problems, ranging from custom-designing T-shirts to mapping genetic DNA strands. The Obama administration, as well as many state and local governments, have adapted these crowdsourcing techniques with some success.

Crowdsourcing is an online, distributed problem-solving and production model that has grown in use in the past decade. While many of the exemplar cases of crowdsourcing highlighted in the scholarly research have been for-profit companies or ventures managed by for-profit companies, crowdsourcing has been gaining traction as a public participation tool for governance and planning, as well as a method for building common resources or processing large batches of data to streamline government functions.

Simply put, crowdsourcing happens when:

  • An organization has a task it needs performed
  • An online community voluntarily performs the task
  • The result is mutual benefit for the organization and the online community.

An important distinction between crowdsourcing and other, similar forms of online participatory culture and user-generated content activities is that crowdsourcing entails a mix of top-down, traditional, hierarchical management process and a bottom-up, open process involving an online community. In crowdsourcing arrangements, the locus of control must reside between organization and online community rather than primarily in one or the other (see figure). An example of a high degree of organizational control that made insufficient use of the online community’s input is the “vote for your favorite flavor” marketing contest, such as Mountain Dew’s DEWmocracy campaign. And examples of a high degree of online community control with insufficient organizational directive are Wikipedia or open-source software projects such as Mozilla Firefox.

It is important to distinguish crowdsourcing as a process, rather than a tool. Crowdsourcing is an online process for connecting online communities and organizations in pursuit of a product or solution to a problem. Crowdsourcing can be accomplished through any number of new media tools, including wikis, blogs, websites, social networking sites (e.g., Facebook, Twitter), mobile apps, mapping software, and so on. Many tools enable communication, and so many tools can make crowdsourcing possible.

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