2,358 crowdsourcing and crowdfunding sites
This holiday season has been one punctuated by disaster and crisis, from the Hurricane Sandy ravaged streets of New York and New Jersey to the horrendous tragedy that took the lives of 20 children and another half dozen adults at Newtown, Connecticut's Sandy Hook elementary school.
In response, we've seen people coming together more than usual during what's normally a time of celebration. But these gatherings aren't just happening in living rooms, churches, schools and community centers. More than ever, we have taken to social media and crowdsourcing platforms over the past six weeks to express our shock, outrage, sadness and most of all, our need to do something.
In the hours after the news broke of the massacre in Newtown, a plethora of fundraising campaigns sprung up on Indiegogo to help the victims' families, first responders and others. Hurricane Sandy campaigns now have their own dedicated section of the site.
Other platforms like Razoo, Crowdrise, Crowdtilt and When You Wish also have their own Sandy Hook crowdfunding campaigns up and running, and crowd-based fundraising efforts for ongoing Hurricane recovery can be found on just about every social media platform.
People opening up their wallets in response to catastrophe is nothing new, but crowdfunding platforms certainly seem to be making the process much more efficient and immediate.
What seems to be unprecedented in the response to the Sandy Hook shootings is the use of platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Change.org and the White House's own public petition site by the crowd to organize and coalesce around a unified demand for action from lawmakers.
Until now, the petition sites have been dominated by calls for action on fringe issues like secession and legalization of pot that tend to inspire a passionate and loud minority. But today on the White House "We the People" petition site, a passionate and vocal majority has found its way to the crowdsourcing mechanism of the most powerful office in the world. In mere days, petitions calling for new gun control laws and condemnation of the Westboro Baptist Church (which has threatened to picket funerals in Newtown) have been catapulted to the top of the list of most popular petitions, eclipsing the previous #1 on the issue of allowing Texas to secede.
This is in addition to the myriad photos, quotes, hashtags and calls for action on Facebook and Twitter, which have also helped to drive the crowdfunding and petition campaign in turn.
Here in the United States, our current Congress -- which is scheduled to conclude just as soon as they figure out whether or not they'll be able to save our economy from hurtling over a fiscal cliff of their own making -- has been the least productive in our nation's history. They've accomplished far less than the notorious "Do nothing Congress" of Harry Truman's day.
Ironically, one thing this congress did accomplish was increased democratization of capital through the JOBS Act. But the proliferation of platforms and technology that enable crowdsourcing in everything from disaster response to fundraising and political organizing amount to the better democratization of democracy itself.
In other words, the crowd is rising. The sad events of the past two months have stirred a slumbering beast, which has awoken to find new and powerful tools at its disposal. Today we use these tools to help and to demand action from our leaders in the face of tragedy. Tomorrow, new and better crowd-based tools may begin to replace inept leaders themselves.
Here's to a brighter, crowd-powered 2013.
- Eric Mack is Managing Editor for Crowdsourcing.org. He has covered business, technology and politics for more than a decade for major outlets including CNET, CBS, AOL, NPR, Wired, and the New York Times. You can contact him at email@example.com. Find him on Twitter and Google+. Also be sure to follow Crowdsourcing.org on Twitter.