Four Steps to Enhanced Crowdsourcing

Kendra L. Smith and Lindsey Collins at Planetizen: “Over the past decade, crowdsourcing has grown to significance through crowdfunding, crowd collaboration, crowd voting, and crowd labor. The idea behind crowdsourcing is simple: decentralize decision-making by utilizing large groups of people to assist with solving problems, generating ideas, funding, generating data, and making decisions. We have seen crowdsourcing used in both the private and public sectors. In a previous article, “Empowered Design, By ‘the Crowd,'” we discuss the significant role crowdsourcing can play in urban planning through citizen engagement.

Crowdsourcing in the public sector represents a more inclusive form of governance that incorporates a multi-stakeholder approach; it goes beyond regular forms of community engagement and allows citizens to participate in decision-making. When citizens help inform decision-making, new opportunities are created for cities—opportunities that are beginning to unfold for planners. However, despite its obvious utility, planners underutilize crowdsourcing. A key reason for its underuse can be attributed to a lack of credibility and accountability in crowdsourcing endeavors.

Crowdsourcing credibility speaks to the capacity to trust a source and discern whether information is, indeed, true. While it can be difficult to know if any information is definitively true, indicators of fact or truth include where information was collected, how information was collected, and how rigorously it was fact-checking or peer reviewed. However, in the digital universe of today, individuals can make a habit of posting inaccurate, salacious, malicious, and flat-out false information. The realities of contemporary media make it more difficult to trust crowdsourced information for decision-making, especially for the public sector, where the use of inaccurate information can impact the lives of many and the trajectory of a city. As a result, there is a need to establish accountability measures to enhance crowdsourcing in urban planning.

Establishing Accountability Measures

For urban planners considering crowdsourcing, establishing a system of accountability measures might seem like more effort than it is worth. However, that is simply not true. Recent evidence has proven traditional community engagement (e.g., town halls, forums, city council meetings) is lower than ever. Current engagement also tends to focus on problems in the community rather than the development of the community. Crowdsourcing offers new opportunities for ongoing and sustainable engagement with the community. It can be simple as well.

The following four methods can be used separately or together (we hope they are used together) to help establish accountability and credibility in the crowdsourcing process:

  1. Agenda setting
  2. Growing a crowdsourcing community
  3. Facilitators/subject matter experts (SME)
  4. Microtasking

In addition to boosting credibility, building a framework of accountability measures can help planners and crowdsourcing communities clearly define their work, engage the community, sustain community engagement, acquire help with tasks, obtain diverse opinions, and become more inclusive….(More)”