The Value of Crowdsourcing During COVID-19

Written by Jennifer Elliott

Lift the voices of your citizens and bring the majority of opinions into your decision-making processes.

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Fact: The word source is derived from the Latin word “surgere,” which means to rise or lift.

As a local leader, your primary purpose is to elevate the desires of the people and make decisions for the collective good. While in-person town hall discussions will always have their place in modern governance, administrations cannot ignore the digital-first information-sharing model that now defines our society. Local governments can no longer rely on gauging broad public sentiment from only a few loud voices that can be heard at meetings or from comments on social media posts. They need modern, two-way dialogue platforms that fit the contemporary notion of communications that citizens expect. If you want to lift the voices of your citizens and bring the majority of opinions into your decision-making processes, then crowdsourcing can help.

What is Crowdsourcing?

Crowdsourcing allows leaders and researchers to engage the masses to help inform a decision or meet a goal. Often, the purpose relates to innovation, efficiency, or problem-solving. Typically, the communication platforms leveraged for crowdsourcing purposes involve digital hubs or social media.

Crowdsourcing is fully scalable. You may have witnessed or participated in a small-scale crowdsourcing campaign on your social media feed. If a social connection has ever asked his social followers for advice, such as the best pizza in town or a referral for a dog walking service, and accepted feedback in the post’s comments, then he was crowdsourcing within his network. Elevate the sophistication of the outreach and data gathering efforts, and public sector entities can benefit from the collective insights, knowledge, and ideas of their informed and passionate citizenry.

Knowledge Sourcing in the Age of Digital

We owe the availability of crowdsourced data to the digital connectivity that defines our current era. Thanks to digital data gathering modalities, it is easier than ever for geographically dispersed individuals who share a common interest to collectively contribute their ideas and knowledge to a project or cause. It is equally effortless for leaders to create an engagement model and seek input, ideas, and suggestions from the people who are passionate about the wellbeing of the place they call home.

The Value of Crowdsourcing

Think of crowdsourcing as much more than surveying. Sometimes crowdsourcing can be used to validate if citizens are supportive of a project or initiative. However, rather than relying on crowdsourcing as a confirmation tool, use it as an innovation lab. Use a crowdsourcing initiative to solicit new ideas, find solutions to common problems, or create deep, meaningful citizen engagement and opportunities to co-create the future your citizens all want for their community.  Crowdsourcing also allows you to:

  • Build trust among citizens by enabling leaders to demonstrate that they value and desire citizen input
  • Empower citizens to take an active role in the projects and initiatives that will impact their lives
  • Democratize problem-solving
  • Identify unexpected solutions to local challenges
  • Expanded diversity of thinking surrounding critical projects
  • Generate awareness, buzz, and excitement for upcoming initiatives
  • Accelerate innovation
  • Obtain input from individuals outside your administration who bring unique perspectives, backgrounds, and experiences
  • Expedite solutions and decision-making
  • Save time with less direct oversight of the innovation process’ facilitation, planning, and management by internal leaders

Case Study: Crowdsourcing During COVID-19

As the fight against COVID-19 continues to take place on the local scene, socially distanced leaders are finding ways to leverage crowdsourcing to help inform COVID-19 response efforts. As an example from the national healthcare space, the digital platform COVID Near You, a collaboration between Harvard Medical School and the Boston Children’s Hospital, asks visitors to voluntarily self-report daily if they are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. The platform uses the data in real-time to update a map of the U.S. that allows users to see how many people—at the zip code level—have experienced symptoms.

Not only does the mapping interface offer data that is valuable for the participating user, but also healthcare leaders. Real-time reports of symptoms from members of the public can help to augment traditional public health tracking for entities on the frontlines of COVID-19 response efforts. As with all crowdsourcing efforts, the platform becomes infinitely more valuable, accurate, and meaningful as more people participate and add their voice.

The Civil Space Public Consultation Platform

To enable local government leaders to leverage the power of their people to solve the most significant operational, societal, and administrative challenges created by COVID-19, CivicPlus® offers the Civil Space public consultation platform. Its unique engagement and collaboration software enables local governments to efficiently and effectively educate citizens on current issues and crowdsource ideas and solutions for a co-created future. To learn more about how you can leverage Civil Space to build your community a COVID-19 portal and crowdsourcing engagement, click below to download our fact sheet.

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