I can’t add much to this powerful piece by Cameran Ashraf, but I think many of us will recognise what he describes – whether from our own experiences, or from seeing some of our own digital humanitarian friends and colleagues undergo varying degrees of this problem.
People often think our online lives are not real, that our relationships there are somehow less meaningful and that what occurs to us personally online means nothing compared to the physical. We believe our online lives and friendships have value, and that we owe respect to this magical, digital world.
The recent news of the passing (see http://blog.standbytaskforce.com/eliana-zemmer-sbtf-mapper-friend-to-many-of-us/) of our dear comrade, Eliana Zemmer, was unexpected to say the least. Eliana’s illness was sudden and tragically she did not survive. No one from our online community was aware that she had become ill or been hospitalized.
A discussion grew in response to this sad event. The fact that a community brought together to help others was so unaware that one of our own could leave this world without our knowing seemed unbelievable. The sense of guilt and anger for not knowing has both magnified and stalled the “normal” grieving process.
To ensure this doesn’t happen again within our community, the Standby Task Force’s Empathy Team has designated the 4th of every month as Eliana Day and the 5th of December as annual Hug-a-Mapper Day.
Small groups of SBTF members, three or so, will be formed to look out for each other. On Eliana Day, each member checks-in with their group via e-mail; tweet; Facebook update; text; phone call; or any 140-character post. On Hug-a-Mapper Day, coined by Core Team member Sara Farmer, the HR team will check-in with “every mapper on the planet” (or at least all SBTF members) via a group-to-group communications tool.
These days of celebration will be opened to the crisismapping community at large via info4disasters and EMsafespace. The beautiful image below was designed by ET member Rose Merritz as a logo and badge for signing-up with Hug-a-Mapper Day.
Remember Eliana by reaching out to your online friends and colleagues who have been out of touch. Check-in with your extended online community. “Hug-a-mapper”, Facebook friend or follower when you find them missing or for no reason at all.
Leesa, Christina, Donna & Rose @ ET”
Dear SBTF members, mappers
to our great great sadness we discovered last night that Eliana Zemmer, a wonderful person and incredibly dedicated crisis mapper had died recently in hospital, after a sudden illness. She was only 39.
Many of us have extremely fond memories of working on deployments with Eliana and a few of us who had known her through her online engagement wrote the following – to try and convey something of what we knew of her and how much we appreciated having got to know her even a little bit.
Eliana was a crisismapper with the Standby Task Force. Everyone who worked alongside her knew Eliana as a consummate mapper – someone who put in her heart and soul, and was always there for the rest of us, helping, learning and supporting. What only a few of us knew ‘til recently was that she was quietly generous too, helping other mappers in need even though she didn’t have many resources herself. Eliana worked on the Libya Crisis Map, Hurricane Irene Recovery Map and Somalia deployment, then coordinated the SBTF Reports Team for the Colombian Floods. A tireless volunteer and coordinator, the Libya deployment was a typical example of her work: she translated between multiple languages including French, Italian, Spanish, German and Portuguese, and was always available and keeping an eye on all the deployment volunteers.
Simply put, Eliana was a rock – patient, utterly dependable, an oasis of common sense when so many around her were losing perspective and over-reacting to the often admittedly terrible events we were covering – rare and priceless qualities. When things were especially stressful we could often release the tension by having little wry conversations in German on the side – where her gentle humour came to the fore. Eliana offered to assist info4disasters.org with first aid and other translations. She felt deeply about the importance of global healthcare. Not only did she advocate for medical needs that came to her attention, she assisted personally whenever and wherever she could. In her “spare” time, Eliana was active in developing a ready-to-post collection of “tweets” in Italian for any disaster or first aid need.
Between deployments, Eliana regularly welcomed newcomers into the SBTF chatroom, posted in multiple languages, made little parties in the Skype chat-rooms and used the squirrel symbol. A lot. Eliana was one of us, and will be missed by us all.
Meanwhile, we’d like to remember Eliana in actions as well as words, so here’s a suggestion for each of us: find a mapper that you haven’t spoken to for a while (or ever), friend them on Facebook, Skype or GooglePlus and say “hi – how are you”?
A translation of Eliana’s German obituary and links to her pages are below.
And forever somewhere in the world … are traces of your life. With a sad heart we are saying goodbye to our beloved Eliana, 4th October 1973 † 5th December 2012, who after a short difficult illness passed away peacefully in the Lord. We will accompany our beloved Eliana today, Friday 7 December, at 14.30, starting from the cemetery chapel, then on to the funeral service in the parish church of Seis followed by our final farewell in the local cemetery.
Seis, 5 December 2012.
We will never forget you: your son Saber, your parents Francis and Tamara, your brother Dimitri, your godmother Waltraud and on behalf of all the other relatives and acquaintances, we would like to thank the physicians and nurses from Bozen Hospital for the loving care.
“Und immer irgendwo… sind Spuren deines Lebens. Mit traurigem Herzen nehmen wir Abschied von unserer lieben Eliana Zemmer 4. 10. 1973 † 5. 12. 2012. Die nach kurzer schwerer Krankheit friedlich im Herrn entschlafen ist. Wir begleiten unsere liebe Eliana heute, Freitag, den 7. Dezember, um 14.30 Uhr von der Friedhofskapelle ausgehend, zur Trauerfeier in die Pfarrkirche von Seis mit anschließender Verabschiedung im Ortsfriedhof. Seis, den 5. Dezember 2012
Wir werden dich nie vergessen: dein Sohn Saber, deine Eltern Franz und Tamara, dein Bruder Dimitri, deine Patin Waltraud, und im Namen aller übrigen Verwandten und Bekannten.
Danken möchten wir den behandelnden Ärzten und dem Pflegepersonal vom Krankenhaus Bozen für die liebevolle Betreuung.”
from the SBTF
Kofi A. Annan: International Volunteer Day, 05.12.2003:
…At the heart of volunteerism are the ideals of service and solidarity and the belief that together we can make the world a better place.
…But far away from the spotlight, there are millions of generous individuals who, around the clock and around the world, roll up their sleeves and volunteer to help in any way they can.
…Volunteers do not ask, “why volunteer?”, but rather “when?”, “where?” and “how?”. These dedicated and courageous individuals are important partners in the quest for a better, fairer and safer world.
These volunteers are you, each and everyone of you. We cannot thank you enough for giving your time and skills to SBTF.
Some facts and figures.
In the last few weeks we sailed past the 1000 member mark . Totally outstanding considering SBTF has only been active since ICCM 2010. The SBTF googlegroup has 1466 members.
Each week, 10-15 members enter the SBTF. Our youngest member is 15 years and our eldest is an amazing 88 years. This just goes to show you can volunteer with SBTF at any age!
We have volunteers in 95 unique Countries, you can say we really are worldwide, speaking a total of 58 different languages.
107 members names begin with the letter “A”, (Thanks Svend-Jonas for this fact!)
Out of the 1013 members on the Ning page 521 have a Twitter account!
We have volunteers with various backgrounds making us multi skilled and knowledgeable on a vast amount of subjects. 34 members work with the UN, we also have an ex Airfield Manager and an ex “Hat” fashion model!!!! (Sorry Patrick!)
To celebrate all you do in the name of volunteering for Standby Task Force Jaro Valuch has created a fantastic video. Than you Jaro and Om for the work you have put into creating this celebration video.
…… and thank you all, each and everyone of you for being part of this wonderful family of volunteers.
Cross-posted from iRevolution.net.
Our mission as digital humanitarians was to deliver a detailed dataset of pictures and videos (posted on Twitter) which depict damage and flooding following the Typhoon. An overview of this digital response is available here. The task of our United Nations colleagues at the Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), was to rapidly consolidate and analyze our data to compile a customized Situation Report for OCHA’s team in the Philippines. The maps, charts and figures below are taken from this official report (click to enlarge).
This map is the first ever official UN crisis map entirely based on data collected from social media. Note the “Map data sources” at the bottom left of the map: “The Digital Humanitarian Network’s Solution Team: Standby Volunteer Task Force (SBTF) and Humanity Road (HR).” In addition to several UN agencies, the government of the Philippines has also made use of this information.
The cleaned data was subsequently added to this Google Map and also made public on the official Google Crisis Map of the Philippines.
One of my main priorities now is to make sure we do a far better job at leveraging advanced computing and microtasking platforms so that we are better prepared the next time we’re asked to repeat this kind of deployment. On the advanced computing side, it should be perfectly feasible to develop an automated way to crawl twitter and identify links to images and videos. My colleagues at QCRI are already looking into this. As for microtasking, I am collaborating with PyBossa and Crowdflower to ensure that we have highly customizable platforms on stand-by so we can immediately upload the results of QCRI’s algorithms. In sum, we have got to move beyond simple crowdsourcing and adopt more agile micro-tasking and social computing platforms as both are far more scalable.
In the meantime, a big big thanks once again to all our digital volunteers who made this entire effort possible and highly insightful.
Cross-posted from iRevolution.net
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) activated the Digital Humanitarian Network (DHN) on December 5th at 3pm Geneva time (9am New York). The activation request? To collect all relevant tweets about Typhoon Pablo posted on December 4th and 5th; identify pictures and videos of damage/flooding shared in those tweets; geo-locate, time-stamp and categorize this content. The UN requested that this database be shared with them by 5am Geneva time the following day. As per DHN protocol, the activation request was reviewed within an hour. The UN was informed that the request had been granted and that the DHN was formally activated at 4pm Geneva.
The DHN is composed of several members who form Solution Teams when the network is activated. The purpose of Digital Humanitarians is to support humanitarian organizations in their disaster response efforts around the world. Given the nature of the UN’s request, both the Standby Volunteer Task Force (SBTF) and Humanity Road (HR) joined the Solution Team. HR focused on analyzing all tweets posted December 4th while the SBTF worked on tweets posted December 5th. Over 20,000 tweets were analyzed. As HR will have a blog post describing their efforts shortly (please check here), I will focus on the SBTF.
The Task Force first used Geofeedia to identify all relevant pictures/videos that were already geo-tagged by users. About a dozen were identified in this manner. Meanwhile, the SBTF partnered with the Qatar Foundation Computing Research Institute’s (QCRI) Crisis Computing Team to collect all tweets posted on December 5th with the hashtags endorsed by the Philippine Government. QCRI ran algorithms on the dataset to remove (1) all retweets and (2) all tweets without links (URLs). Given the very short turn-around time requested by the UN, the SBTF & QCRI Teams elected to take a two-pronged approach in the hopes that one, at least, would be successful.
The first approach used Crowdflower (CF), introduced here. Workers on Crowd-flower were asked to check each Tweet’s URL and determine whether it linked to a picture or video. The purpose was to filter out URLs that linked to news articles. CF workers were also asked to assess whether the tweets (or pictures/videos) provided sufficient geographic information for them to be mapped. This methodology worked for about 2/3 of all the tweets in the database. A review of lessons learned and how to use Crowdflower for disaster response will be posted in the future.
The second approach was made possible thanks to a partnership with PyBossa, a free, open-source crowdsourcing and micro-tasking platform. This effort is described here in more detail. While we are still reviewing the results of this approach, we expect that this tool will become the standard for future activations of the Digital Humanitarian Network. I will thus continue working closely with the PyBossa team to set up a standby PyBossa platform ready-for-use at a moment’s notice so that Digital Humanitarians can be fully prepared for the next activation.
Now for the results of the activation. Within 10 hours, over 20,000 tweets were analyzed using a mix of methodologies. By 4.30am Geneva time, the combined efforts of HR and the SBTF resulted in a database of 138 highly annotated tweets. The following meta-data was collected for each tweet:
- Media Type (Photo or Video)
- Type of Damage (e.g., large-scale housing damage)
- Analysis of Damage (e.g., 5 houses flooded, 1 damaged roof)
- GPS coordinates (latitude/longitude)
- Link to Photo or Video
The vast majority of curated tweets had latitude and longitude coordinates. One SBTF volunteer (“Mapster”) created this map below to plot the data collected. Another Mapster created a similar map, which is available here.
The completed database was shared with UN OCHA at 4.55am Geneva time. Our humanitarian colleagues are now in the process of analyzing the data collected and writing up a final report, which they will share with OCHA Philippines today by 5pm Geneva time.
Needless to say, we all learned a lot thanks to the deployment of the Digital Humanitarian Network in the Philippines. This was the first time we were activated to carry out a task of this type. We are now actively reviewing our combined efforts with the concerted aim of streamlining our workflows and methodologies to make this type effort far easier and quicker to complete in the future. If you have suggestions and/or technologies that could facilitate this kind of digital humanitarian work, then please do get in touch either by posting your ideas in the comments section below or by sending me an email.
Lastly, but definitely most importantly, a big HUGE thanks to everyone who volunteered their time to support the UN’s disaster response efforts in the Philippines at such short notice! We want to publicly recognize everyone who came to the rescue, so here’s a list of volunteers who contributed their time (more to be added!). Without you, there would be no database to share with the UN, no learning, no innovating and no demonstration that digital volunteers can and do make a difference. Thank you for caring. Thank you for daring.
I was recently invited to give a 5-minute talk on the SBTF in action. This was for the Frontiers in Development conference organized by USAID just a few weeks ago. They have just made the video public. In this presentation, I describe the SBTF’s recent projects in Libya and Somalia, and with USAID’s Credit Authority Program. Huge, huge thanks to all Mapsters (SBTF volunteers) who made these three groundbreaking projects possible!
On Monday, July 2nd, the Digital Humanitarian Network (DHNetwork) received a request for activation from UN OCHA’s Coordinated Assessment Support Section. OCHA is responsible for leading the development of some of the first information products when a crisis hits. These products define the initial situation at a multi-sectoral level helping guide the delivery of goods and services during the first weeks of an emergency. The deployment aimed to collect secondary data to include in the materials used in conducting these initial analyses for South Sudan. The data would be provided as a starting point for further data collection to an OCHA assessment team visiting South Sudan.
On Tuesday, July 3rd, the DHNetwork proposed that the SBTF be the Solution Team for this activation request. The SBTF was subsequently activated in partnership with OCHA. This was an interesting deployment for the SBTF, since it was essentially an exercise in crowdsourcing the curation of information – finding data online and providing it in a standard format to render it easily usable by OCHA. Volunteers were asked to search for data on population, displacement, returnees, refugees, security incidents, schools, water sources, health facilities and economic constraints – all aggregated at the county and state levels. The screenshot below (of OCHA’s online data repository) shows how little was available to the OCHA team prior to their field visit:
As requested by OCHA, the SBTF activated volunteers within 48 hours. A team of volunteers then worked for 3 days, trawling the internet for reports, articles and anything they could get their hands on, and collected a total of 1767 unique rows of data and 15,271 unique pieces of information records (see map below, generated by David Litke):
The morning after the volunteers finished, the OCHA team emailed us the following:
“It’s morning in Geneva (and Juba), and we just wanted to touch base with all of you out there working around the clock to collect all of this information for our team in South Sudan. We continue to be blown away by how much information you are gathering–and the detail of it!–and want to again extend our thanks and sincere appreciation for your hard work.”
Another OCHA colleague also wrote to indicate that this deployment was not only about delivering a product, but also about the future of Volunteer and Technical Communities (V&TCs) collaborations:
“The lessons learned from this deployment will go beyond the case of South Sudan and will benefit the entire humanitarian community, as it will help OCHA identify how partnering with SBTF can contribute to informing a more effective humanitarian response in the future.”
So with this in mind, what have we learned? Two key lessons stand out for us. First, it is clear to us that crowdsourcing curation of information can be very helpful to humanitarian preparedness and response. Specifically, the value added of crowdsourcing in this deployment was to have many creative minds looking for alternative sources of information that the OCHA team might not have thought of. A few hours before the end of the agreed deployment, volunteers received the UN Information Management Working Group Digital Atlas for South Sudan. This extensive UN dataset contained much of the information OCHA required for their field mission in South Sudan. The identifcation of this dataset late into the deployment made the volunteer team wonder why it had not been made available at the start of the deployment. Therefore, our first lesson learned is that it is crucial for any activator of an ‘information curation’ type deployment to perform an initial search of existing sources of information that exist within their organization in order to identify any gaps and outdated information for which they would need SBTF’s crowdsourcing capabilities. This would ensure that volunteers are building on previous efforts rather than duplicating them and provides more value to our volunteers’ work and the overall objective of the deployment.
Second, the lead time for non-emergency deployments should be at least two weeks. The SBTF and other V&TCs are very keen to support preparedness activities by humanitarian actors. However, volunteers can’t be expected to mobilize quickly and drop other commitments for a non-emergency deployment. It is unnecessary, and may burn out volunteer goodwill for actual emergency situations. It is also worth noting that this activation occurred during July 4th (major public holiday in the US).
The volunteers involved enjoyed working with the OCHA team, and appreciated their efforts in keeping in touch. The team is also curious to see what the outcomes of this information curation process are. We look forward to an evaluation from OCHA that address how useful this was to their team in the field and what tangible results it contributed to.
The deployment is now over, but SBTF volunteers are still looking at ways to support OCHA’s South Sudan team. A group of SBTF volunteers is going to put together a training exercise and challenge to analyse the data collected and come up with some good summaries, graphics and maps to visualize the story of South Sudan. We look forward to sharing the results of this exercise.
And our work may not be done yet! Souktel, a mobile services organization connecting aid agencies with communities who need help, contacted SBTF co-founder Patrick Meier to offer their support with follow up SMS-based data collection for South Sudan. Souktel’s mobile-based data collection solution combined with SBTF’s crowdsourcing capabilities could help fill some of the information gaps that are identified after OCHA’s field mission. Stay tuned for more news on a possible SBTF-Souktel-OCHA partnership…
[Cross-posted from Helena's blog.]
This week I spoke at the Understanding Risk conference in Cape Town on a panel that explored successes and difficulties in the application of crowdsourcing for development and disaster risk reduction, together with colleagues from Humanitarian Open Street Map, the Public Laboratory, Ushahidi, Idibon and the World Bank. I focused on the particular challenges of conflict sensitive crowdsourcing. Disaster risk management practitioners are often concerned with the additional challenges of disaster response in conflict and post-conflict settings. I shared four case studies in Somalia, Syria, Libya and Sudan. Only one of these (Somalia) relates to a natural disaster, but together they illustrate some of the core questions around conflict sensitivity and crowdsourcing.
Somalia: UNHCR asked the Standby Task Force (SBTF) to crowdsource the location of shelters in the Afgooye corridor in Somalia, where a large number of people were displaced during the drought in 2011. Tagging shelters helped with population estimates to support UNHCR’s logistics planning. Volunteers had access to satellite imagery of the corridor courtesy of Digital Globe. An application developed by Tomnod presented them with squares of imagery where they tagged anything that looked like a shelter (following a set of guidelines). Tomnod’s crowdrank algorithm then determined what tags were trustworthy.
Syria: The SBTF was asked by a big humanitarian response organization to carry out a similar exercise in Syria – using the crowd to map health facility locations. However, the source of information would be local informants, who would also report on functionality. After careful consideration of potential security implications for informants and political repercussions for the organization, the deployment was cancelled.
Libya: The Somalia and Syria projects were both simple “ask the crowd to find a location” exercises. Crowdsourcing can also be a tool for collecting more complex, contextual information in a conflict setting to aid response. In 2011, UN OCHA asked the SBTF to put together a map of Libya that would collect information to help put together a picture of what was happening on the ground at the very start of the picture. UN OCHA believed that curating information from traditional media, social media and selected NGO workers and journalists on the ground would support humanitarian preparedness. Volunteers also collected information on responses, putting together a first draft of the “3Ws” (who, what, where) – a traditional UN OCHA information product for humanitarian response. A number of organizations, including OCHA, WFP, UNHCR and the Red Cross, reported that they found the useful. UN OCHA explained that the map “reduced information overload, produced an output that was manageable and digestable and led to better planning and decision making”.
Sudan: Crowdsourcing to report on a complex situation has been less successful in Sudan. UNDP has for the past few years collected information on conflicts, threats and risks, using local focus groups to generate localized, geo-referenced accounts of community perceptions. The perceptions are used for planning by both Government institutions and the UN. But organizing focus groups takes time and requires access to remote locations, so the information is inevitable always somewhat dated. UNDP designed a pilot to extend this information collection system to include information crowdsourced through SMS reporting, updating on the same topics focus groups discuss. At a time when information is highly sensitive, the pilot has faced a number of hurdles and is yet to be operationalized.
These four examples suggest that complexity is not the main hurdle to crowdsourcing in conflict settings; ethical questions are. Applying the “Do No Harm” principles – a benchmark of conflict sensitive programming – helps unpack some of the ethical questions these projects raise. Do No Harm stipulates that the highest priority should be placed on the safety of the general public. In the case of crowdsourcing, any activity that could potentially endanger affected populations that are the source or target of information during a disaster response operation must be carefully considered. Where information is sensitive, anyone involved in providing or collecting data can become a target for repercussion. The safety considerations are different for people local to the conflict (Syria) versus crowd members operating remotely (Somalia). There is a difference if the crowd is the workforce processing information (Somalia) as opposed to the source of the information (Syria). This concern about safety accounts for the different outcomes of the Somalia and Syria deployments.
Even where safety is not a pressing concern, Do No Harm requires that we ask questions around neutrality. Specifically, any crowdsourcing activity should assess whether it is building on what connects groups and avoiding anything that increases divisions. The Libya map, with its focus on contextual data already publicly available, passes this neutrality test. Work on a crowdsourced early warning system in Sudan is more complicated – debates between different actors on data ownership and verification of reports highlight the potential effects of data on connections and divisions in a fragile setting.
These are only some initial thoughts. Crowdsourced solutions to data collection and processing are growing in many fields, including disaster risk management. As these solutions are adopted into the mainstream, deployments in conflict and post-conflict settings are also likely to grow. Our thoughts on conflict sensitive crowdsourcing will need to develop alongside.
[Guest post by Timo Luege - I’m passionate about information, communication and how they can be used to make the world a better place.
My two main areas of expertise are:
• Communication through digital media
• Media relations during disasters
Over the last thirteen years I have worked for the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement, the UN, German national public radio and a wire agency Social Media 4 Good] on June 29 – 2012
On June 1st, USAID launched its first ever crowdsourcing project. Yesterday, they shared their lessons learned during a webcast, in a power-point and a case study. Here are the main takeaways.
The USAID project was a little different from what many people have in mind when they think about crowdsourcing; it did not involve Ushahidi, nor did it have anything to do mapping data submitted by beneficiaries. Instead it was a clean-up operation for data that was too messy for algorithms to comprehend.
USAID wanted to share the locations of regions around the world where it had made loans available. The problem was that these locations were not captured in a uniform format. Instead, different partners had submitted the information in different formats. In order to show all loans on a map, USAID needed a uniform data structure for all locations.
Combined human-machine approach
Before sharing the data with the volunteers, USAID had already tried to clean the data with scripts. This meant that only the datasets remained, that were too difficult to be treated automatically.
I like that USAID did not simply outsource all the data to the crowd, but used human intelligence only for the cases that were too hard for the algorithm. This demonstrates that human capacity is seen as a valuable resource that should only be requested and used where it can have the highest impact.
Humans more accurate than algorithms
After the project, USAID asked the GISCorps to take a random sample of the machine-generated records as well as the human-generated records and compare their accuracy. According to analysis, the volunteers were more accurate than the machines, even though most volunteers weren’t GIS experts:
While 85 per cent of the records cleaned up by the volunteers were accurate, only 64 per cent of the records treated by the algorithm were correct. The volunteers were also much faster than expected – instead of the predicted three days, it only took the volunteers 16 hours to go through the data.
Comparatively little room for “creativity”
As one of the volunteers involved in the clean-up operation, I think that one of the reasons for the high accuracy rate was that the project was very focused and didn’t leave the volunteers a lot of room to be “creative”. USAID asked us to do something very specific and gave us a tool that only allowed us to operate within very restrictive parameters: during the exercise, each volunteer requested five or ten datasets that were shown in a mask where he could only add the requested information. This left very little room for potential destructive errors by the users. If USAID had done this through a Google Spreadsheet instead, I’m sure the accuracy would have been lower.
My takeaway from this is that crowdsourced tasks have to be as narrow as possible and need to use tools that help maintain data integrity.
Walk, crawl, run
Prior to the project launch, USAID ran incrementally larger tests that allowed them to improve the workflow, the instructions (yes, you need to test your instructions!) and the application itself.
If you ask people in 24 time zones to contribute to a project, you also need to have 24 hour tech support. It is very frustrating for volunteers if they cannot participate because of technical glitches.
It’s a social experience
This was emphasized a few times during the webcast and I think it’s an extremely important point: people volunteer their time and skills because they enjoy the experienceof working on a joint project together. That means you also have to nurture and create this feeling of belonging to a community. During the project duration, multiple Skype channels were run by volunteer managers where people could ask questions, exchange information or simply share their excitement.
In addition, USAID also invited volunteers from the Washington DC area to come to their office and work from there. All of this added to making the comparatively boring task of cleaning up data a fun, shared experience.
You need time, project managers and a communications plan
During the call USAID’s Shadrock Roberts said that he “couldn’t be happier” with the results, particularly since the costs of the whole project to the agency were “zero Dollars”. But he also emphasized that three staff members had to be dedicated full time to the project. So while USAID didn’t need a specific budget to run the project, it certainly wasn’t free.
To successfully complete a crowdsourcing project, many elements need to come together and you need a dedicated project manager to pull and hold it all together.
In addition to time needed to organize and refine the technical components of the project, you also need time to motivate people to join your project. USAID reached out to existing volunteer and tech communities, wrote blog post and generated a buzz about the project on social media – in a way they needed to execute a whole communications plan.
Case study and presentation
USAID published a very good case study on the project which can be downloaded here. It is a very practical document and should be read by anyone who intends to run a crowdsourced project.
In addition, here is the presentation from yesterday’s call:
PPT credit Shadrock Roberts/Stephanie Grosser – USAID
The entire case study was presented by Roberts, Grosser and Swartley at the Wilson Center 7/28/2012. The event was livestreamed:
Event video courtesy of the Wilson Center