COVID-19 / Crowdsourcing
In the Internet age, crowdsourcing has become a new and powerful dynamic. We crowdsource open software, product designs, and all sorts of creative projects using this new connected ‘wisdom of the crowd’. We crowdfund financial investments circumventing traditional lending institutions. We choose the distributed, decentralized model of collective action of this century, moving away from 20th century centralized and hierarchical constructs.
‘Crowdsource’ definition from dictionary.com: to utilize (labor, information, etc.) contributed by the general public to (a project), often via the Internet and without compensation.
The United States is crowdsourcing its response to COVID-19. This is the first time, as a country, that we are creating a real-time reaction to a crisis. The main player, the Federal Government – led by President Trump, has decided to, in his words, “play backup” to the states and the governors. In a time of national crisis, when the health and the security of the American people are at risk, is when the Federal Government traditionally leads a response. At least until now.
In the absence of a coordinated national leadership, the governors of the 50 states have had frequent conference calls. Sub-groupings of these governors are collaborating on collective actions. They are sharing data and resources to protect their respective state populations. The governors are crowdsourcing solutions. As of this writing, 42 states have mandated, some more completely than others, “stay in place” and “social distancing”. Public health officials and medical scientists credit this effort with what looks to be the beginning of flattening the curve.
The governors took the lead and gave us, their citizens, directions to stay inside, and to forego all external to home activities. We are doing just that! We the people are crowdsourcing the solution. We the people are leading the politicians. Collectively, the 300 million of us who are doing our part, are flattening the curve. We are the short term “cure”. We are. The size of this crowdsourcing is unprecedented.
And we are crowdsourcing many other things with people from around the world:
- religious services
- humor – with a seemingly endless supply of creative talent
- helpful hints on all topics: cooking, home-schooling, the making of masks and hand-sanitizing lotion
- the design and manufacture of PPEs for health care workers on the front lines
- the feeding of these same overworked heroes
- free educational courses.
The list could go on for another page.
After 9/11 millions of us bought and proudly wore FDNY hats, t-shirts and sweatshirts. We came together to honor the first responders who ran to the towers. We united together and honored those people who stepped up and did their jobs. We felt they were doing that for the nation, for all of us.
The Great Recession was brutal, and we all suffered individually. There was support from stressed governments and families, but we struggled. There were no real collective and collaborative activities of any magnitude. We took care of family, business and loved ones. No crowdsourcing.
WWII is the last time that the country stepped up collectively to fight and defeat a common enemy. We all did our part, but completely in physical space with the radio as the only media… and which only provided one-way communication. The Internet has given us this fantastic ability to crowdsource together. This may well be looked back upon as the moment in history that humanity utilized technology for the very first time to globally create collaboration in real time. This crowdsourcing is history!
We have also created wonderful events together. The nightly 7 p.m. NYC cheering, banging drums, blowing horns show of support for all those heroes risking their lives to care for the sick. How can an American not be moved by this display of national unity?
A college president I know is sewing masks for these medical workers, even while taking her whole institution on-line for a semester. It makes her feel good to do her part. My stepson has been called back to the restaurant where he worked to prepare and deliver Easter meals to the local hospital here in Florida. He said. “Yes” with no knowledge if he will be paid or not. Selfless actions are shared with millions every day. This makes us feel good… and to want to do good.
We have made our Declaration of Interdependence. We are crowdsourcing our humanity. We are feeling that WE can make a difference in a historically unprecedented way. Anyone who has ever questioned the magnificent potential of the Internet now has a powerful example of why it is a social / cultural / national / global / political and evolutionary force that will be ever more central in this decade and beyond.
This crowdsourcing is a marker, a reference point and most importantly a shared experience. This new shared experience means that we can do it again: faster, easier and with more cohesiveness. Do we need governments? Yes. But now we know it is up to US. We the people. Crowdsourcing has fully, completely arrived!