What can a “crowd” often do better than the government, financial institutions, or a corporate entity? It can become a tool for genuine community empowerment, replacing accepted avenues of development whereby funding or employment typically comes through fixed economies such as the government, NGOs, corporations, or financial institutions. “Crowdsourcing,” as we know, is an enterprise… Read more »
What can a “crowd” often do better than the government, financial institutions, or a corporate entity? It can become a tool for genuine community empowerment, replacing accepted avenues of development whereby funding or employment typically comes through fixed economies such as the government, NGOs, corporations, or financial institutions. “Crowdsourcing,” as we know, is an enterprise driven by the expanded online presence of much of the earth’s population that taps the global marketplace and its associated pool of resources for solutions to challenges both personal and with worldwide relevance.
Crowdsourcing was originally defined as the ability of an individual or group to outsource work to the online crowd or mass, however, this idea has rapidly become a portal of hope for governments, companies, and communities seeking aid from further afield than standard financing footsteps and ballot measures.
This idea of crowdsourcing as a contemporary practice springs from our globally wired community, where a group occupying a small fraction of a town can become a linked network capable of great impact. The concept certainly owes a great deal to our slowly recovering economy, and the reality that organizations still seek every angle and opportunity to remain flexible while gaining valuable insight into success via competitive and less costly experimentation. But no longer simply the spawn of the recent global financial crisis, this emerging trend offers successful examples in our own discipline, from garnering finances to developing innovative projects: New York City’s High Line, the Market Street Prototyping Festival in San Francisco, and Toronto’s Projexity effort are just a few recent high-profile examples.
The High Line, possibly the most iconic landscape yet of the 21st century, began with a community group named Friends of the High Line founded by Joshua David and Robert Hammond, residents of the Chelsea neighborhood, to advocate for the abandoned elevated rail line’s preservation and reuse as public open space. Their group of interested community members has become a nonprofit financial power that ultimately developed one of the most innovative spaces in New York City.
Closer to home is the Market Street Prototyping Festival, an upcoming temporary installation event on San Francisco’s Market Street. Spearheaded by the SF Planning department, the effort bypasses standard protocol and operations of master planning and development by a government or corporate entity traditionally considered capable of handling such a massive project in lieu of an open-sourced and community-driven competition to re-invigorate San Francisco’s most vital street. This project is branding itself as a fresh, flexible and “crowd” driven approach to aid various organizations and communities in illuminating possible avenues for future success in their public space.
Projexity, a nonprofit company based in Toronto, has recognized the broader opportunity and implications of crowdsourcing and begun organizing competitions on behalf of governmental organizations, NGOs, and communities large and small that hope to find and fund projects in the private and public spheres. Most recently, together with the Toronto Region Conservation Authority, Projexity spearheaded a competition to aid one of the most underserved communities in North Toronto, garnering very innovative ideas to help them fundraise and develop a new landscape master plan for low-income, high-rise housing that could become a global paradigm for social housing.
Clearly, with all of these high-profile results, crowdsourcing is a concept that can be utilized toward great ends both by ourselves and the communities with whom we engage.
Image of the High Line by Todd Meyer; overlay by Alec Hawley.