Straight from the (Crowd) Source0

Corinne Bowen | Fri Dec 9 2011 |

Although Jeff Howe may not be a household name, his most famous idea certainly is. Howe is famous for coining the term “crowdsourcing”—a concept that has taken Web 2.0 by storm and is already beginning to revolutionize the way citizens interact with their communities and government.

While the execution can be complicated, Howe’s definition of crowdsourcing is simple: “the act of taking a job traditionally performed by a designated agent (usually an employee) and outsourcing it to an undefined, generally large group of people in the form of an open call.”

And as San Francisco-based crowdsourcing software company Ideavibes has proven, this simple action can have a major impact on both infrastructure and public policy.

Crowdsourcing in action

In California, the campaign used Ideavibes’ Crowd Engagement Platform to “tap into the wisdom of the crowd to build better products, engage citizens, and fund the change they want to see.”

In a period of two weeks, the campaign attracted the participation of 2,400 citizens who voted on their favorite ideas.  The winners received a cash prize and the opportunity to have their proposals presented to local government officials.

In British Columbia, the government launched The Apps for Climate Action Contest to “raise awareness of climate change and inspire action to reduce carbon pollution by using data in new applications for the web and mobile devices.”

The Government of B.C. provided its best climate and greenhouse gas emission data and challenged app software developers to create “fun and innovative climate action apps.” The public voted for their favorite apps, which are now available online.

In addition to working with citizens, governments have also used crowdsourcing to work more effectively internally.

In New York City, Mayor Bloomberg is using the web platform Spigit “to break down communication silos and dramatically improve internal collaboration and sharing of ideas.” The program is still in the pilot phase, but could grow to encapsulate 300,000 employees.

Whether crowdsourcing is being used to solve traffic problems in Los Angeles or improve water quality in Africa, the key to success is turning the community-sourced ideas into tangible solutions—a development that can only occur when citizens and business work together for the sake of building smarter communities.

Illustration by Timothy Hunt