Moving in the right direction.

Recent weeks have brought plentiful of optimistic signals that we’re actually begining to think again. (This is usually what many seem to appreciate about the times of crises.) And this entire thinking-thing does not only happen to one group! With its random blessings it makes people from all different sectors rethink how they’ve been “doing their business” for the past years or even decades. Those who have been touched by the generous hand of thoughtfullness are the ones we are now crazy to get a word from.

At least we fed the hippos.

One of the latest TED talks that is being shared all over the Internet is a brilliant (and hilarious in this beautiful Italian way) talk by Ernesto Sirolli entitled: Want to help someone? Shut up and listen! (ht @NoemiSalantiu)

So first, please, be so kind to shut up and listen…

Let us crowdsource you then.

What Ernesto Sirolli says, we like to listen, we may even laugh at ourselves, and we are happy to learn from this and many similar stories. And in many ways we seem to be learning the lesson: “We don’t have the answers – people do.” Brilliant! Then why don’t we simply ask you for the answers, choose the best solution and implement them? Oh, and don’t forget about the prize in cash that usually goes with it. It’s clearly a win-win!…

We’ve already witnessed the development of challenge.gov (USA) and platforms alike. Thanks to tools like that governments and nonprofits have crowdsourced amazing and inspiring solutions to many more or less complex issues.

Let’s take for example the Sustainable Urban Housing: Collaborating for Liveable and Inclusive Cities competition run by the Ashoka Changemakers and the Rockefeller Foundation in partnership with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, US State Department, the American Planning Association, and the Government of Brazil. One of the winning projects was a “system that transforms waste into manufactured materials for housing, helping cities’ healing process. The core innovation consists of a patented technology that combines waste with organic resins in order to produce renewable construction materials, which are then used to build sustainable and affordable houses through a construction process that we also developed and tested.” How cool is that?

A different crowdsourcing competition (run by the European Commision) is closing this week.

competition poster

As we read on the EC website:

“Europe is facing a unique set of challenges, ranging from an ageing population’s battle against chronic disease to young people’s inability to find suitable employment. To that end, the European Commission is dedicated to finding solutions that meet both our social and economic needs.”

Is it only mean or does it really sound wrong? Reading it instantly reminds me of one professor from my graduate studies who never gave a single lecture – he made us do presentations for the entire term. And sure, we did get something for ourselves out of this, but it clearly wasn’t a fair deal…

Take one step further.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am a crowdsourcing-believer. I am strongly convinced that opening to the society in search of solutions is a move in the right direction, as long as it is done in a fair way. But ever since I met Edgeryders, I know this is only a half step, preserving the strict we-they distinction (WE can learn from THEM, but don’t you ever think about an actual peer-type cooperation). Edgeryders are a community, primarily constructed as a think tank, as part of a project run by the Council of Europe. The idea was to get together young people from all over Europe and ask them to write public policy recommendations regarding the situation of youth in Europe and their transition into the adulthood. But the Edgeryders weren’t just any people. They were (and still are) citizen experts on how to make a sustainable and meaningful living in today’s economy and their societies. They are, as you can read on the website, “reinventing the world we’ll all live in tomorrow.”

How is this different from regular crowdsourcing?, you may ask. The major difference, at least to my mind, is that you don’t ask for random solutions and high-handedly make a decision on which one to choose and invest money in. You provide a space for a new community of citizen experts and ask them about their recommendations (their actual involvement is already there). And as the community grows, it becomes an independent, highly specialist body that strengthens societies, and that can become your partner in reshaping the world.

THIS is a win-win.

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