Crowdsourcing is the practice of engaging a ‘crowd’ or group for a common goal — often innovation, problem solving, or efficiency. Crowdsourcing can take place on many different levels and across various industries. Thanks to our growing connectivity, it is now easier than ever for individuals to collectively contribute — whether with ideas, time, expertise, or funds — to a project or cause. Now that the Internet and social media have brought organisations closer to their stakeholders, it has laid the groundwork for new ways of collaborating and creating value together like never before. Online crowdsourcing gives organisations access to new ideas and solutions, plus opportunities for deeper consumer engagement, co-creation and task optimisation at lower costs. At the heart of it is a greater openness and transparency, it’s vital to what makes crowdsourcing work.
The core DNA of crowdsourcing can be broken down into ten key components.
1. Open call for participation
Crowdsourcing most commonly begins with an open call for participation, inviting individuals to contribute their ideas, time, or resources to a particular project or initiative. However, some users may decide they want to involve only employees, or other networks such as their social media followers or customer email database. A UK supermarket chain crowdsourced amongst its staff, and a suggestion to give customers a chance to say they didn’t need a receipt saved the business £460,000 in the first year alone.
2. Large pool of participants
Crowdsourcing relies on a large pool of participants, often drawn from diverse backgrounds, experiences, and cultures. This allows for a broad range of ideas and perspectives to be brought to bear on a particular problem or challenge. This is a key factor t0wards what makes crowdsourcing work.
3. Voluntary participation
Participants in crowdsourcing initiatives typically volunteer their time, skills, or resources without compensation. While some crowdsourcing platforms offer incentives or rewards for participation, the vast majority of contributions are made without any expectation of financial gain. There are several platforms available if people want to be part of a crowd earning money through freelance work or microtasking.
4. Motivations for participation
People participate in crowdsourcing initiatives for a variety of reasons, including a desire to contribute to a worthy cause, to learn new skills, to network with others, or to gain recognition for their work. Some platforms, particularly open innovation ones hosting prize challenges, offer monetary rewards or other incentives to encourage participation. Often, though, the desire to win prize challenges stems from gaining peer group approval.
5. Collective intelligence
The central idea behind crowdsourcing is that the collective intelligence of a large group of people is greater than that of any individual. By tapping into the wisdom of the crowd, crowdsourcing initiatives can generate novel solutions to complex problems.
6. Transparency and accountability
Crowdsourcing relies on transparency and accountability to ensure that contributions are valid, and that credit is given where it is due. This often involves clear guidelines and protocols for participation, as well as mechanisms for evaluating and validating contributions. Everything is out in the open, fully disclosed, for everyone to be involved on an even basis.
7. Iterative process
Crowdsourcing is often an iterative process, with contributions from participants building on one another and refining ideas over time. This allows for a dynamic to-and-fro approach to problem-solving that can generate innovative solutions to complex challenges as contributors are prompted by and spark off each other.
8. Types of crowdsourcing
One of crowdsourcing’s advantages is that it can take many forms. We have already mentioned freelance and microtasking work, and open innovation that includes idea generation, data collection and analysis and problem-solving. Citizen science projects also harness the effort of large numbers of unqualified, non-experts to collect and analyse data. Crowdfunding is probably the most widely recognised form of crowdsourcing. Each type of crowdsourcing requires different approaches and tools to ensure that contributions are valuable and valid.
9. Ethical considerations
Crowdsourcing can raise ethical concerns around issues such as privacy, compensation, and intellectual property. Platforms and initiatives must take care to ensure that participants are treated fairly and that their contributions are properly recognised and protected.
10. Impact on society
Crowdsourcing has the potential to generate significant social and economic benefits by encouraging and enabling innovation, enhancing collaboration, and empowering communities. Civic crowdfunding, as one part of this, provides opportunities for local communities to submit suggestions and solutions to resolve local issues, and raise money towards the cost of carrying them out. It lets ordinary people lend, donate and invest to make positive things happen in their local environment, rather than focus on investing or lending for a purely monetary return.
The mechanism of crowdfunding, in particular, can appeal to a far wider cross-section within a community, and lead to a strong determination to deliver a positive outcome. Recent UK examples of local authorities collaborating with local residents on a crowdfunding basis include fundraising for an arts festival to take place, for schools to install solar panels free of charge, and to accelerate the installation of electric vehicle charging points in public places.
Why transparency is the core factor in crowdsourcing’s DNA
To recap, the core DNA of crowdsourcing involves tapping into the collective intelligence of a large group of diverse individuals who are willing to volunteer their time, skills, and resources to solve complex problems through an open, transparent, and iterative process.
Of all the crowdfunding advantages, we believe transparency is of paramount importance for all stakeholders to have trust and confidence in crowdsourcing, and for the results to be accepted as credible. It’s at the core of what makes crowdsourcing work. Transparency also helps ensure accountability, allowing both the organisers of the crowdsourcing initiative and the participants to be accountable for their actions and decisions. Further, when the rules and guidelines for participation are transparently clear it is easier for participants to provide accurate and relevant information. Openness in the evaluation and selection of contributions can also help maintain quality standards. Transparency reduces the potential for discrimination or bias.
As technology and social norms continue to evolve, the future of crowdsourcing is likely to be shaped by trends such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, and the gig economy. Platforms and initiatives that can adapt to these changes and remain responsive to the needs and motivations of participants are likely to be the most successful. Have you any examples to share with us?