The Reason We’re Talking about Conscious Crowdsourcing

Paul Massey

The Reason We’re Talking about Conscious Crowdsourcing

Innovation Trends Report: Conscious Crowdsourcing

Conscious Crowdsourcing.

Heard of it?

Today, Weber Shandwick’s Social Impact team launched the next report in our Innovation Trends Report series, focused on this very topic.

Conscious Crowdsourcing

In our view, Conscious Crowdsourcing is the practice of crowdsourcing to generate awareness of, action for, or solutions to pressing social and environmental challenges.

It builds on the longstanding practices of crowdsourcing to access information, services or content – for instance, finding the best local plumber to fix that leaky faucet or the favorite neighborhood coffee bar in a new city.  This process has accelerated and scaled considerably with technology and the rise of social media, but it’s worth celebrating that as far back as 1900, The National Audubon Society was crowdsourcing input for its annual count of all the birds in the Western Hemisphere.  

The distinction between “conscious” crowdsourcing and everyday crowdsourcing is the former’s focus on gathering information, ideas and actions that contribute to social progress. That’s why we see this as such an urgent topic to explore today.

Why it Matters

In 2017, you won’t find much argument that we have many complex issues to address.  

The UN Sustainable Development Goals offer a comprehensive roadmap of issues, from ending poverty and hunger, to advancing gender equality and reducing inequality. Moreover, the news offers us a daily snapshot globally of critical issues that require us to listen, understand and assess how each of us – as individuals or as a part of networks – can contribute to meaningful progress and solutions.

In fact, conscious crowdsourcing is a tool that has applications for people, networks, nonprofits, companies and government agencies.  It’s a practice that smartly leverages technology to unlock new ideas, forge new connections and advance large-scale advocacy, such as the #LoveWins campaign for marriage equality or #BlackLivesMatter social justice movement.

For people engaged in the urgent fight for fundamental values – such as equity, civility, diversity and inclusion – conscious crowdsourcing is at the center of movements to uphold these values, such as #RefugeesWelcome and the Women’s March Global this year.

For nonprofits, conscious crowdsourcing is a core component of efforts to raise awareness and support for key causes or issues. One of the most talked about examples, is the #IceBucketChallenge, for its impact on ALS, a progressive neurodegenerative disease, notably the more than $200 million it raised to help accelerate scientific inquiry to find a cure for ALS.

One area to watch is the continued rise of conscious crowdsourcing among purposeful brands. I first wrote about this in 2011, reflecting on efforts such as The Pepsi Refresh Project (a former client) to invest $20 million in funding to support community-led solutions. More recently, we’ve seen Unilever (a client) launch The Unilever Foundry, as my colleague Drew O’Brien shares in our report, “to engage start-ups and innovators in product development and business model disruption across 400 brands.”
I expect to see more corporate innovation along these lines, with conscious crowdsourcing as a driving force in achieving sustainable growth.

The Conscious Crowdsourcing Roadmap
One of the primary motivations for developing our Innovation Trends Report series is to explore key trends that we see at the center of social impact communications – to understand and apply them to our work, and to be a strategic resource for purpose-driven brands and organizations.  

At the center of each of our reports are roadmaps for action that equip people with a way forward, a path to moving from insights on a topic like conscious crowdsourcing to action and implementation.

If you’re someone who is interested in applying conscious crowdsourcing to your work, here’s a roadmap for getting started, with a particular lens on communications:

  • Focus on a clear and compelling issue or initiative to advance
  • Recruit the perspectives and expertise to shape the message
  • Facilitate inclusive and efficient collaboration and sharing
  • Design a nimble and responsive communications platform
  • Deploy messengers and storytellers as a united front
  • Evolve the story based on learnings and momentum

For more information, including insights on crowdsourcing learning and transparency, mobilizing networks for advocacy, the role of crowdsourcing in journalism and recommended resources to learn more on the topic, I invite you to read our Conscious Crowdsourcing report  and to share your impressions, questions and ideas with us.


Post-Election Panel

Pam Jenkins

I sat down with some of our public affairs leaders to talk communications takeaways from the 2016 election and how lessons from the campaign can benefit clients.


What does a Trump Administration Mean for Purpose-Driven Companies?

Paul Massey


It’s early days.

The election of Donald Trump has sent shockwaves throughout the world — and there is real anger, fear and anxiety related to the outcomes of the 2016 election, particularly given what it portends for progress on issues including climate change; gender, income and racial equality; social justice and more.

The outcome also points to a real opportunity for purpose-driven companies to lead.

If anything, the need for private sector action is now more important.

Read more »


An Education on Leadership: A Soldier’s Journey to Honesty and Authenticity

Amelia Simpson

Brigadier General Tammy Smith

Brigadier General Tammy Smith
[Photo credit: Logan Werlinger/GW Today]

Earlier this year, Weber Shandwick (the parent company of Powell Tate) released its Gender Forward Pioneer Index, and found that companies with Fortune’s “Most Admired” status have twice as many women in senior management positions as those who didn’t make the list. Helping clients promote female leadership and diversity isn’t just a trend, it’s an integral part of building a strong organization and this insight informs our approach to executive visibility. Recognition of the importance of diverse leadership offers clients creative ways to engage stakeholders in meaningful ways.

We work with the Army Reserve to coordinate speaking opportunities that feature senior leaders with unique leadership stories that show how the Army Reserve sets a high bar for embracing diversity in the military. The Army Reserve is home to 8,300 female officers, including one of the first women to graduate from Army Ranger School, and the first openly gay officer in the military, Brigadier General Tammy Smith.

At George Washington University’s Women’s Leadership Conference, Brig. Gen. Smith spoke about the challenges of serving before the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” in 2011 and how she has advanced as a female leader in a traditionally male dominated field. You can read more about Brig. Gen. Smith’s story in a recent profile feature in Task & Purpose.

Brig. Gen. Smith’s resiliency and passion for what the Army uniform represents – combined with her love for her wife – motivated her to serve openly and to be an honest leader. By sharing her story, Brig. Gen. Smith demonstrates her role in shaping the Army Reserve’s approach to equality as they make progress towards gender equity, including gender integration for all of their combat roles. 

In the military or in the boardroom, strong, diverse leaders have empowering stories to tell. Leaders like Brig. Gen. Smith personify a commitment to inclusion that helps attract top talent and allows organizations to thrive. 


Bring Your Kid to Mars Day

Guest Blogger: Caelan Wommack, age 10


We helped Lockheed Martin bring Mars to the USA Science & Engineering Festival in Washington, DC.  In honor of Take Your Daughters and Sons to Work Day, Caelan Wommack, 10, daughter of our colleague Brian, shares her experience.

Recently I got to go with my dad to work at the USA Science & Engineering Festival.  As part of the day I got to take a bus ride to Mars!

Lockheed Martin had tons of programs for kids my age. Their reasoning was great! They encourage kids to strive in math and science as we could quite possibly be going to Mars. Everything at the festival was great, but the special Mars section was  the best.

One thing they had was remote control rovers. It was so cool. But it was hard to steer on Mars! It was fun to see where your rover was going through a computer screen.

I wanted a festival souvenir! Well I got one.  A picture on Mars where I made a #spaceface.

Another cool thing was Orion, a spacecraft going to Mars in the future. It was cool to learn about and look at a model.  I also got to virtually walk on Mars and it looked like I was really there.

Finally, there was the virtual reality bus trip to Mars. When I looked out the window of this actual school bus it looked and felt like I was on Mars.  And I heard the rover saying the temperature and the bus even shook when it was bumpy.

I loved my trip to Mars! It was amazing. I hope I can go for real next time.


Toward China’s Market Economy Status: A Weber Shandwick Report

Jim Meszaros


Powell Tate and Weber Shandwick teams in Brussels, Washington and Beijing have co-authored a report on the implications of granting Market Economy Status to China in the World Trade Organization. This is an important international trade issue which is to be decided by a December 2016 deadline.

This is a high priority geopolitical and economic issue for China, in particular. But the decision will impact how U.S. and European companies could counter unfair trade practices. It is a hotly-debated issue in Europe where EU members are divided. In Washington, the Obama administration has decided not to act for now.

The report provides a political and economic perspective from all three markets. It can be accessed here.


Encouraging Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

Natalie Jones


During the first weekend of February, Harvard Business School’s African American Student Union organized the 44th Annual H. Naylor Fitzhugh Conference. Attendees discussed many ways for organizations to spur important conversations by engaging employees in diversity and inclusion initiatives in the workplace. Here are three identified best practices:

  • Recruit: Set data-driven diversity goals to promote transparency in hiring

    It’s imperative that companies be transparent about where they are and where they’re hoping to go in terms of recruiting a diverse staff. Management (not just the D&I team) should sit down and scrutinize the numbers just as it would any other business opportunity. Once the targets are determined, providing progress updates will demonstrate to interested parties that this is a real business priority and give everyone accountability in seeing the goals accomplished. 
  • Retain: Establish employee groups to foster camaraderie

    Employee resource groups provide a setting for employees to convene with people who are passionate about elements of minority identity. Having these affinity groups accessible and active is significant for retaining diverse talent. In order to reap the full benefits of the groups, management should invest in the establishment of signature events and regular programming to bring multiple employee groups together as well as to engage the larger employee population.
  • Recognize: Invest in high-performers to prove commitment to diversity

    In order to help diverse talent thrive, organizations should coordinate workshops or retreats to engage with minority employees and seek their perspectives and candid feedback. In addition to being a tangible investment in high-performing employees, these gatherings bring diverse talent into the conversation about the company’s future success.

Leaders in corporate America have a great opportunity to promote inclusive cultures by engaging employees in efforts to ensure organizational diversity. With employee enthusiasm and involvement, these best practices can help them do so.

Natalie is one of the leaders of Powell Tate’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee, Perspectives. Her previous post on racial discourse can be found here: “Pushing for Progress on Racial Discourse during #BlackHistoryMonth.”


Pushing for Progress on Racial Discourse during #BlackHistoryMonth

Natalie Jones

As communicators, we know how important February’s big entertainment events, such as the Super Bowl, Grammy Awards and Oscars, are for promoting big brands and personalities. But this February, these events were about more than just entertainment.  Fittingly, since it is also Black History Month, these events provided an opportunity for people to engage with each other – through social media and other channels – on issues of race and culture.

Beyoncé, arguably the most entertaining music artist in the world, used her position on the Super Bowl 50 halftime stage to express powerful elements of her Black identity. Throughout her performance and during the days that followed, people discussed how the first performance of her new single #Formation brought attention to civil rights, past and present.

One week later, Kendrick Lamar took the Grammy stage and delivered a fiery six-minute performance ripe with imagery from our nation’s dark history. And again, people took to social media to live tweet his performance and share thoughts on the ways he elevated the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

From the moment the Oscar nominees were announced in mid-January, the lack of Black actors in any acting category overwhelmed discussion of the impending 88th Academy Awards ceremony. So it was no surprise that Sunday night’s show was dominated by #OscarsSoWhite as Chris Rock used humor to push the dialogue about a serious subject.

These events aren’t traditionally credited with spurring conversation on serious social issues.  But whatever the impetus, the fact that the discourse is continuing to happen on varying levels is a positive sign. 

In his keynote at Harvard Business School’s 44th Annual H. Naylor Fitzhugh Conference, Deval Patrick, Managing Director of Bain Capital and Former Governor of Massachusetts, noted that we are not good at having the conversation on race in this country because the dialogue too often involves two irreconcilable camps: those who despair that “nothing is going right” and those who prefer to believe that “everything is solved.” Instead we should acknowledge the extraordinary progress we’ve made while recognizing that more work remains.

Black History Month is not just a time to remember those pioneers who paved the way years ago.  It’s also a time to make sure we continue the conversation – and recognize the progress that comes from the conversation itself.


The Era of Always-On Transparency has Arrived

Sara Friedman and Lia Weintraub

In our increasingly interconnected world, companies, government entities and nonprofits have recognized that, to succeed, they need to be more transparent about how they operate and how they impact people, communities and the environment.

The Internet and connective technology have vastly changed the communications landscape, creating expectations that information will be readily available and updated in real time, since the medium allows for instant updates. This context, combined with waning trust in institutions and heightened pressure across all sectors to achieve lasting social progress, has made it an imperative for organizations to disclose more than just financials.

Stakeholders, ranging from consumers to investors, tax payers to donors, expect to have more access to disclosures about social and environmental programs and results, and demand more opportunities to participate in the impact process, especially with respect to sharing ideas and feedback in open dialogue with organizations.

Within this new reality, trust and credibility are essential. As Howard Shultz has observed, “transparency is the currency of leadership.” Organizations must reinforce their credibility and earn stakeholder trust every day. An important part of doing just that is engaging in ongoing conversation about progress and impact.  Gone are the days where organizations can get by with just an annual report or one-time impact update. It’s time for organizations to move to a model of steadily sharing updates about how they run their operations, how they measure impact, what good they are making in the world and what they are learning along the way.

Technology has allowed organizations to be creative in the way that they pursue strategies of ongoing transparency. Live tweeting events, posting thought leadership installments on LinkedIn and leveraging annual impact reports as the start of an ongoing storytelling opportunity are just a few ways that organizations are able to interact with key audiences.

Our Social Impact team has taken a deep look into how companies, government entities, foundations and nonprofits are meeting new expectations for Always-On Transparency. In this second installment of our five-part Innovation Trends Report series, we explore transparency across sectors, provide case studies and offer expert perspectives on successful strategies for integrating Always-On Transparency into any organization’s communications practices.

We look forward to your thoughts, ideas and examples of how leading organizations are prioritizing ongoing engagement about social impact work to drive both performance and impact results. And, stay tuned for additional insights – from purpose-driven data, to conscious crowdsourcing, to inclusive global economies – on the trends that are transforming how people, organizations and systems connect to drive positive change.


Realizing Business Opportunity within the SDGs: Lessons from BSR 2015

Kate Olsen

On the ground at the BSR conference earlier this month in San Francisco, it was clear that private sector commitment to sustainability has become mainstream. 

Weber Shandwick BSR Conference 2015 LessonsSustainable Development Goals (a.k.a. SDGs or Global Goals) adopted by world leaders at the General Assembly in September with surprising speed.  In fact, the private sector was consulted and included in the Global Goals formulation, a striking contrast to the process of creating the Millennium Development Goals (a.k.a. MDGs) fifteen years ago. 

In the BSR session entitled “Implementing the SDGs: A How To Guide,” sustainability leaders from BNY Mellon, Pfizer and Microsoft shared their insights into how companies can - and should - contribute to the Global Goals, because it just makes good business sense.  

Business leaders emphasized the following themes:

Respect Goal Interconnectedness: Chris Gray of Pfizer noted that, while there are 17 individual goals, you can’t address any specific goal in a silo. Outcomes in one area are inextricably linked to the others.

Frame the Value Proposition: Microsoft’s Dan Bross recommends developing a narrative that outlines business priorities and opportunities through the lens of the Goals, then aligning the right incentives for each stakeholder group to the desired action.

Simplify & Streamline: All three panelists cited the need to simplify complex challenges into clear, concise, actionable information. This will require a certain amount of translation to ensure that employees, investors, partners and other stakeholders can relate to the Goals.

Empower Champions: Anna Kearney of BNY Mellon reinforced the importance of identifying and cultivating internal champions who can help evangelize the Global Goals within the company.  She cited an informal fellowship program that has emerged as people across her company have become aware of BNY Mellon’s sustainability work and begun seeking special projects they can join outside of their core responsibilities.

If you want to learn more about the Global Goals and how your company can participate, please refer to the SDG Compass tool created by the UN Global Compact, GRI and WBCSD.


UN Global Goals: Investing in What Matters

Paul Massey

The recent United Nations General Assembly convened 193 member states and took an important step in approving new Global Goals for Sustainable Development, focused on critical areas: people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnership.

This ambitious agenda for the next 15 years recognizes that ending poverty must go hand-in-hand with efforts to build economic growth and address a range of social needs, including tackling climate change.

It’s an agenda that Weber Shandwick is energized to support – and has been supporting – in partnership with our clients. Weber Shandwick is proud to be supporting more than 150 client assignments focused on the 17 new Global Goals, spanning creative campaigns focused on poverty, hunger, gender equality, economic growth and more – some of which are featured in the short video below. 

In meeting these new goals, there is a powerful opportunity for leadership from the private sector – to bring financial resources, human capital and innovation to bear on complex social issues. We look forward to continuing to support organizations that will have a major impact on the success of the Global Goals in the decades to come.


The Potential and Progress of Networked Smart Cities

Lauren Klein

Cities are amazing. Whether its Beijing or New York, Delhi or Singapore, Sao Paulo or Paris, these metropolises of millions bring together people from a wide variety of backgrounds and perspectives and throw them together in a sea of humanity. In the best of those cities, there is incredible smarts and ingenuity in providing sustainable infrastructure, economic opportunity and improved quality of life for citizens.

But much of the potential of “Smart Cities” is still untapped. With more than half the world’s population living in cities today - and that number only set to grow - there is an incredible opportunity to source and scale innovation within and across global cities to ensure our urban centers continue to provide a vibrant, equitable, sustainable and livable environment for all residents.

Given this immense opportunity and the challenges that go along with it, our Social Impact team took a deep look at the Networked Smart Cities movement to see what role different sectors can and should play to advance this work and communicate progress. This smart cities report is the first in a series of investigations the key macro trends that are shaping the future of social impact work.

Estimates indicate the global market potential for smart cities - infrastructure development, technology integration, and e-government, energy and security services - could reach $3.3 trillion by 2025. Much of that market potential will be realized by collaborative investments in solutions and innovations that address inclusivity, sustainability and resiliency. This then requires greater capacity to identify the right partnerships, communicate complex ideas to and among stakeholders, and engage the larger citizenry in campaigns that galvanize support and action at all levels – from local communities to networked city ecosystems that connect people across geography and technology.

We explore these themes in our new report Networked Smart Cities. We invite you to take a look and let us know what you think. And stay tuned for additional reports with insights on how key trends - from improved transparency to inclusive economies - are transforming how people, organizations and systems connect to drive positive change. 


Media Decoded

We strongly believe that success in media and marketing today requires relentless curiosity and experimentation. For us, it also means a learn-by-doing mindset that puts us in the trenches and requires us to constantly re-evaluate our approach and the results we drive.

Weber Shandwick's Media Decoded

That’s why our parent company, Weber Shandwick recently launched Media Decoded, a content platform that will help us navigate the changing media landscape together. Media Decoded identifies key themes and provides perspectives on the major shifts in the digital and media landscape, as well as shares learnings from the innovators who are reshaping media. It also serves as a platform for us to test and learn new technologies and processes we recommend to our clients for their own content creation.

Media Decoded houses insights and analysis from our staff as well as high-profile media change agents. At launch, we had bylines and interviews from a variety of notable influencers, including:

  • Fred Wilson — founder of Union Square Ventures, early investor in Twitter, Tumblr, etc.
  • Garance Doré — author, photographer, Vogue columnist and fashion influencer
  • Gabe Rivera — Mediagazer and Techmeme founder
  • Jamal Edwards — UK amateur-turned-mogul who launched Ed Sheeran on YouTube
  • Vivian Schiller — former head of news partnerships for Twitter and CEO of NPR
  • Doc Searls — co-author of Cluetrain Manifesto and Harvard fellow
  • Gretchen Rubin — best-selling author of The Happiness Project, host of top 10 iTunes podcast Happier with Gretchen Rubin

Our intent with Media Decoded is to bring the best insights from our staff, partners and media innovators to the forefront. We want to shed light on the most interesting, most material subjects and encourage sharing and discussion around them. We would also love to hear from you. If you would like to contribute to the platform or have an area of focus you’d like to see us “decode,” please leave a comment below. 


3 Tips for Amplifying an Industry Issue

Greg McCarthy

America's Strength PanelThis year the U.S. Navy announced that it soon would be unable to maintain an aircraft carrier presence in the increasingly volatile Persian Gulf due to increased demand, a strain on sailors and ships and adecreased budget. To bring this critical national security gap to the forefront of the conversation about overall defense strategy, Powell Tate’s defense team and the America’s Strength Campaign hosted a panel discussion for a packed room of representatives from the media, military, defense industry, think tanks, and congressional staff.

America's Strength Panel

Bryan McGrath of the Hudson Institute and founding managing director of The Ferrybridge Group moderated the dynamic conversation between three panelists: Retired Admiral Mark Fitzgerald, former commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa; Retired Vice Admiral Peter Daly, CEO of the U.S. Naval Institute; and Dr. Robert Farley, Professor at the University of Kentucky’s Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce.

Three key strategies contributed to the success of this panel discussion, and can be used to amplify issues across all industries and subject areas:

  1. Enlist subject matter experts with varying perspectives. Each panelist came to the conversation from a well-informed yet different personal experience, which ensured that blanket statements were challenged and the issue was explored in depth.

  2. Make the subject accessible to the media, and in turn, a national audience. The complexities of defense spending and the appropriations process, combined with the intricacies of aircraft carrier shipbuilding and maintenance, can be hard to digest. Through the use of personal stories and strong anecdotal evidence, the experts were able to make a complicated situation approachable. Panelists stayed in the room after the discussion ended as well to give the media one-on-one access for additional context.

  3. Continue the conversation beyond the event. Live updates on Twitter ensured that members of the media and defense industry who were unable to attend the event received key takeaways in real time.

To stay updated on the aircraft carrier gap and other significant issues within the defense industry, follow us on @WSGlobalDef


Altering the Face of Beauty

Julie Heinrich

Here was the moment Carrie Hammer had been dreading: the model line-up.

Carrie had recently designed a new line of stylish clothing for working women, and she needed to choose the models. But when one of the models in the line-up turned out to be 12 years old – yes, 12 – Carrie decided there had to be a better way to go.Credit: instagram user daniellesheypuk

She decided to launch her clothing line on the bodies of women who were most likely to actually wear them, women she also deeply admired – role models, not runway models. She started calling friends who were successful women in business, law and other fields. One of whom, Danielle is “leggy and blonde” and a successful psychologist. She also happens to use a wheelchair, making her the first woman to ever appear on the runway in this fashion. 

Carrie shared her story at the Social Innovation Summit, held in Washington D.C. earlier in June. The summit brings together innovators in technology, investment, government, international development and business to explore solutions and partnerships that are disrupting history and generating positive societal benefits. Not only has Carrie’s show generated hundreds of emails and social media posts from girls with disabilities, touched by her decision, it has also impacted the fashion industry more broadly. Soon after Carrie’s show, three different clothing lines launched with models in wheelchairs.

Stories like Carrie’s catch my attention because I too spend a lot of time thinking about how women are portrayed and perceived. We have the pleasure of working extensively to empower women and girls, through our work with clients like the United Nations Foundation and the Nike Foundation. We also support a women’s empowerment portfolio that includes partnerships with the Tory Burch Foundation, the Cherie Blair Foundation, and Vital Voices (the Global Ambassadors Program), made possible by funding from Bank of America.

Carrie and the Social Innovation Summit remind us that if we wish to project a stronger, smarter image of women and implement meaningful change that catches fire and inspires others, our solutions must be unique, unexpected and authentic. Inspiration is everywhere…if you know where to look.

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