Friday, April 3, 2015

The Connotations of Crowdsourcing

Crowdsourcing is the act of taking a job traditionally performed by a designated agent (usually an employee) and outsourcing to an undefined, generally large group of people in the form of an open call. In other words, a company posts a problem it is facing on the internet, individuals submit solutions, winning ideas are rewarded, and the company mass produces the innovation for profit. Crowdsourcing differs from open source in terms of both intellectual property rights and participants’ motivation. Innovation becomes company’s property after it offered by crowd and mostly peer recognition, to build a network or financial reward is the main motivation of participants of crowdsourcing process. Although there are some obstacles such as citizen privacy sensitiveness when dealing with government, different and complex nature of government problems or relatively high personnel resistance in public sector, crowdsourcing would be effective tool for them.[1] With these new platforms government can issue an open call to people (all citizens, potential contractors, industry representatives etc.) to reap the benefits from so many people’s ideas to solve a complex government task. The focus is on innovation, creativity, and the generation of new ideas.[2] Considering limited resources of most agencies, this is also a very cost effective method. There is no need for a trying different things and errors then trying again cycle. Paying or satisfying a successful solution is that easy. It is possible to place greater emphasis on efficient and effective use of public funds for innovation.

My government is aiming to draft a new constitution ambitiously even if it a challenging task because of the highly polarized political environment. As one of the interesting and attractive takeaway of this course, crowdsourcing and open innovation concept promises a peaceful solution for us. With crowdsourcing citizens of kind of political ideas or religions can find an outlet to express their ideas and enjoy the feeling of being heard. Despite the fact that a constitution is a technical document which requires various disciplines such as law, sociology or politics, collective wisdom of whole nation might open new doors to ones who prepares it. And we have example of Iceland at hand that has the first crowdsourced constitution in the world. Except such high level issues crowdsourcing is the most relevant for municipalities in my country. Desire to reelection and a close relation with voters compels mayors to be more responsive. As well as providing solutions to lots of local problems by an open contest, this method can be applied to evaluation of alternatives of a certain project. Apparently direct engagement of citizens to municipality’s problems which will be their own problems at the end of the day is the most powerful aspect of it. Apart of participation ratios to this kind of contests, promoting awareness among citizens is another important gain of the method.

I really feel eager to use this method in my own department and maybe prepare a detailed proposal for relevant governmental bodies. But taking into account their negative feelings for social media and their efforts to ban them, I’m not sure that my government would be willing to adopt this kind of modern ways. But as we know a bottom-up approach would give its fruits sooner or later. That’s why promoting this new ideas and tool among my fellow colleagues seem to be the most appropriate way for now.

[1] Mergel, I. (2012). Social Media in the Public Sector: A Guide to Participation, Collaboration and Transparency in The Networked World. Jossey-Bass. p.51
[2] Ibid. p.174

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