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.

Recent Authors

Jim Meszaros

Executive Vice President

Paul Massey

President, Powell Tate; Global Lead, Social Impact

Pam Jenkins

President, Global Public Affairs, Weber Shandwick

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