June 29, 2011

How nonprofits can use crowdsourcing to work smarter and save money

Greenfunder funds socially responsible projects and businesses.

Target audience: Nonprofits, social enterprises, NGOs, foundations, businesses, educators. This is part one of a two-part series on crowdsourcing.

By Lindsay Oberst
Socialbrite staff

Lindsay OberstHigh-quality work at a low cost. That’s what crowdsourcing can achieve for nonprofts that wish to save money while pursuing their mission.

Crowdsourcing refers to harnessing the skills and enthusiasm of those outside an organization who are prepared to volunteer their time contributing content or skills and solving problems, sometimes for free, sometimes for a fee. An offshoot, crowd funding, describes the collective efforts to pool their money together on behalf of a cause, project or business. Kiva (loans to entrepreneurs), Crowdrise and Kickstarter (raise funds for creative projects) and Greenfunder, which launched in May as a site to raise funds for socially responsible projects and businesses, are among the burgeoning number of crowd funding sites. (See a few others in our roundup of 24 tools for fundraising with social media.)

Crowdsourcing, a bit of a catch-all term, can be used to gather information, solicit advice, save money or get stuff done. It can also help to inform decisions, demonstrate inclusiveness and bring a whole new meaning to collaboration.

We’ve seen the rise of community crowdsourcing with the advent of social media, but it’s always been part of the way society works. And nonprofits have always been at the forefront of crowdsourcing long before the term was coined in 2006. The idea simply fits in with the way small organizations work.

Here are a few quick, low-key ways crowdsourcing works

Say you’re a nonprofit looking to improve your services. You ask your Facebook fans and Twitter followers — people who have chosen to connect with you — how they think you can become better. They feel included in the process and want to answer, and then your organization has a solution to its problem. That’s what crowdsourcing can do — it can get a job done.

Or take blog posts. Studies show that people respond better to posts with images, so your organization seeks to include a photo along with the information you provide on your website. Where can you find images? Two good starts are Socialbrite’s Free Photos Directory and Flickr’s directory of Creative Commons photos, with 160 million photos available under various licenses. Both can be used to find free photos that you can use for your website, blog posts, reports, presentations and more — just give the photographers proper attribution. Continue reading

July 23, 2010

Crowdflower: Toward a world of crowdsourced labor

Crowdflower: Toward a crowdsourced world from JD Lasica on Vimeo.

JD LasicaOne of the most interesting start-ups that keeps popping up on my radar screen is Crowdflower, which connects nonprofits and companies with people around the globe looking to work on crowdsourced tasks.

It’s a fascinating glimpse at future contract labor models and at how work relationships are becoming more distributed, global, ephemeral and efficient.

Crowdflower takes simple tasks and breaks them down, using a global network of workers to determine, say, if a tweet about a brand is negative or positive, or if a piece of content violates a site’s community guidelines.

The person might spend 2 minutes on a task, an hour, or more. “The advantage is that the person doesn’t have to drive to work, they don’t even have to sign up for a website. They can just come to a job post, accomplish a task and get paid — in minutes,” says Crowdflower CEO and founder Lukas Biewald.

I spent three minutes chatting with Lukas at an extremely noisy rooftop party at South by Southwest Interactive. The video won’t win any awards for aesthetics — I was being jostled while holding a Kodak Zi8 hi-def camcorder — but it’s evidence that when you meet interesting people, it’s good to have a handheld recorder in your pocket.

Watch, embed or download the video on Vimeo

One mind-blowing angle: You’d be surprised at the number of people willing to perform tasks, such as in a Facebook game, in exchange for virtual currency that can buy them more trees in Zynga’s Farmville or more weapons in Mafia Wars. “People don’t realize how much this virtual money means to people,” he says.
Continue reading

February 16, 2010

Helping Haitians via mobile, crowdsourcing & social media

New platform revolutionizes the way emergency response takes place

Guest post by Katrina Heppler

Bravo to the thousands of volunteers worldwide who are assisting with translating Creole mobile text messages to help people in Haiti following the devastating 7.0M earthquake that struck the nation Jan. 12.

You may not have heard of Mission 4636, but this is where a lot of the most remarkable relief work is taking place. Mission 4636 is a short code emergency response communication system that enables earthquake victims in Haiti to get life-saving aid by sending a free mobile text message. It’s a joint-project of Ushahidi, FrontlineSMS, CrowdFlower and Samasource.

Mission 4636 — named for one of the SMS short codes for Haiti relief efforts — is an outstanding example of global collaboration and the power of human ingenuity to help people and save lives through technology. A huge “hats off” to them as well as to the many organizations that have also come together to make Mission 4636 successful: inSTEDD, DigiCel, local radio networks, local NGOs and the many emergency responders.

In the video interview above, Brian Herbert of Ushahidi, Robert Munro of FrontlineSMS, Lukas Biewald of CrowdFlower and Leila Janah of Samasource share background on how they came together with the support of other organizations on the ground in Haiti to deploy a critical emergency communications system to help save lives and provide emergency resources to people following the earthquake. This is a massive effort across multiple non-profit and for-profit companies and individual volunteers from around the country and globe (more than 14 countries have been involved in translation).


In the weeks after the tragedy, text messages to the dedicated Haiti emergency short code 4636 increased about 10 percent each day – with about one text a second coming through. Technology and people power are playing a critical role in getting information to military and aid workers on the ground. Beyond the immediate help for people in need in Haiti, the program will build computer centers so Haitian refugees can do valuable digital work, get paid, and bolster the economy around them. Continue reading

October 13, 2009

An app to support refugees working in Africa


CrowdFlower & Samasource tap the cloud to fight poverty

JD LasicaA new free iPhone application, Give Work, released today lets iPhone users use their phones to provide work to refugees in Africa.

The project, a collaboration of Samasource and Crowdflower, lets you support refugees working in a datacenter in Dadaab, Kenya — the world’s largest refugee site — through “micro-donations” of time, time, not money. (We wrote about The Extraordinaries pioneering the micro-volunteering movement yesterday.)

Samasource’s Refugee Work Program trains refugees in technology-based skills and then puts those skills to use by connecting the trained refugees to stable, dignified work. CrowdFlower built the Give Work iPhone app, based on its crowdsourcing technology, to enable users to directly provide meaningful, paying work to refugees in the Samasource program. Continue reading

October 8, 2009

Samasource to host GiveWork Gala in SF


The Bay Area nonprofit Samasource will host the first GiveWork Charity Gala on Nov. 12 at the University Club of San Francisco, bringing together writers, luminaries, and some of the most influential women entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley.

The event will feature a live auction, with items for bid including a conversation with Nobel Prize laureates George Akerlof and Myron Scholes, a secret challenge with “The 4-Hour Workweek” author Tim Ferriss, and a date with Bollywood actress Vida Samadzai (Miss Afghanistan 2003).

The gala aims to raise funds for Samasource, a nonprofit social enterprise that creates computer-based work for women, youth and refugees living in developing countries. Continue reading