Can crowd-sourced solution campaigns save the world? Yikes, I need a better name for the concept, but here’s what it means: an original body that sets up the framework and partnerships to drive a social solution.
The betacup and WeCanEndThis.com are two campaigns I’ve been following. Each brings together corporate, nonprofit, media, technology and design partners to sponsor and facilaite a public, crowd-sourced solution to a social issue. WeCanEndThis.com challenges us to eliminate hunger in America, while the betacup (kicking off April 1) will challenge us to solve the problems brought by disposable cups.
I’m eager to see if either of these systems will produce real change (the betacup contest ends June 1 and WeCanEndThis.com in March 2011). But while I wait, I’m going to speculate on the pros and cons of this hybrid model.
- More minds. These are tough, tough challenges. Giving inventors, academics, policy makers, community leaders, social media bigshots, entrepreneurs, number crunchers and the rest a platform to pitch and mold ideas satisfies the numbers game; more minds produce more ideas.
- Specific talents. instructables provides the betacup community a specific platform through which to document ideas and collaborate, while CSRWire is a bullhorn to recruit more problem-solvers.
- Resources. WeCanEndThis.com gets resources (money, expertise, distribution channels, in-kind contribution, clout) from Pepsi and Tyson Foods. Starbucks is the betacups’ sponsorship darling.
- Name recognition. By drawing in organizations that are known and credible, both these campaigns can make do with less time and effort to introduce validate themselves. If they’re solid enough for Starbucks and Pepsi to back them, they have my immediate attention. (I will evaluate later, but the connection is made.)
- Leeway. Because both the betacup and WeCanEndThis.com were created exclusively to facilitate a specific social solution, they don’t have a history to conform to or a bureaucracy to steer.
- Lack of ownership. Which partner is strong enough to help create consensus or push harder when it’s needed? Ownership is dispersed, which can make for a stale campaign as partners get fatigued throughout the campaign.
- Temporal knowledge. Who’s the keeper of the campaigns’ products? The winning solution will live on, but what about the learning that came from creating and running a community-based solutions campaign? Who’s responsible for asking for stakeholder feedback–and then utilizing it?
- The wrong crowd. Do these types of social media based platforms speak to the policy makers, scientists and academics who could most benefit from a cross-pollination of ideas? Are the comfortable using these tools and formats? I’m in the dark about this one. Just a hunch, here.
What do you think? Do crowd-sourced solution campaigns have merit? Where am I off-base, too casual or too cavalier? Have you seen similar campaigns produce solutions? Let us know in the comments below or email me, olivia[at]causecapitalism.com.
Image credit: Rob Cottingham, Noise to Signal.