“Crowdsourcing” is the buzzword of the moment (though coined in the ancient world of technology back in 2006) and pertains to making an open appeal or project to a community and having those connected to that community take on the appeal or project and running it amongst themselves. It assumes the existence of a community in close communication (think Twitter, simple messaging services, Google Talk!, etc.), who is also ready to share information among their own micro-communities or constituencies. The challenge is to build one’s community and keep it engaged and ready to receive your organization’s various appeals and requests. Meeting that challenge is what a number of online services and platforms have established themselves to do. We shall review a few of them today.
Finally for this posting we include “FrontlineSMS,” a rather more sophisticated combination of online portal for crowdsourcing and cross-platform software package (designed for organizations, though the package works through individuals’ cell phones). The computer software acts as a conduit for the original cellphone owner to contact the group of people (and their cellphones) via either the software or the original software. As your community grows and more numbers are registered into the program, participants can invite their own networks into the larger one – again with the ubiquitous cellphone being the conduit. The special niche of this system is that GSM modems and 3G or 4G networks can also be used when ‘in the field,’ so contact with your supporters at home need not be lost just because a consistent internet connection can not be held. A useful video made by one of the programmers can be found here.
Crowdsourcing offers an efficient and all-but-free means to expand your organization’s community and get more people aware of your projects. There are certainly other programs designed for the not-for-profit and mission-based communities, and we shall look at some more of them in tomorrow’s posting.