Civic Crowdsourcing is Community Development

Neighbors are joining on social media to make a difference in every aspect of their community. Neighborhoods are using social media as a platform to solve security, infrastructure, and regulatory issues. Residents, community groups, businesses and government agencies that use social media to resolve problems and develop better communities are crowdsourcing. This type of community interaction is also known as civic crowdsourcing. Crowdsourcing is a business term coined in 2006. Defining crowdsourcing is a messy subject. We will begin by defining crowdsourcing in our context. All crowdsourcing definitions can be based on the following description “The act of taking a job traditionally performed by a designated agent and outsourcing it to an undefined, generally large group of people called a crowd”.

Civic crowdsourcing is when the crowd’s expert advice comes from the community. There Anna Bergren Miller, in her article “Civic Crowdfunding and the Public Good”, defined crowdsourcing as the use of crowdfunding to produce shared goods and services for communities. Ms. Miller adds crowdfunding, another vague term, to the conversation. The industry tends to blur the difference between crowdsourcing and crowdfunding. The simplest way to look at the difference is crowdsourcing bring together a crowd for the purpose of developing new ideas or solving problems. Placemaking is an excellent example of crowdsourcing. Find more information on Placemaking at Projects for Public Spaces. Crowdfunding is when the crowd monetarily supports a project for recognition, reward or financial interest in the project.

Understanding the difference between crowdsourcing and crowdfunding is critical to a project’s social media success. Crowdsourcing and crowdfunding projects may have different influencers on social media. Influencers are individuals or groups that have large networks of friends and associates. The campaign should also be launched on websites that best support the project’s type, mission, and goals. Influencer’s support of a project and the right website are required elements of a successful community engagement campaign.

Civic crowdsourcing has been used for everything from eGovernment to designing bus shelters in Utah. More information about eGovernment can be found at The University of Albany Center for Technology in Government. These projects show that crowdsourcing is a platform that develops public participation, collaboration and engagement in the community design and planning process. There are many barriers to citizen involvement. Crowdsourcing has the potential to address many of these barriers. Civic crowdsourcing will become an essential part of community development efforts because of the following reasons:

  • Improves community connectivity, communication, and safety
  • Vetting ideas and community projects
  • Democratize the community development process
  • Prevents fraud in community projects
  • Prioritizes projects within the community
  • Develops the social currency required for crowdfunding

Civic crowdfunding allows the residents and businesses to invest knowledge and labor into their community. The process also provides communities with different skill sets a vehicle to invest in their neighboring communities. Better technology and clearer terminology are required before crowdsourcing will be widely accepted as a community development tool. Communities will use civic crowdsourcing as the technology improves and case studies are developed.

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