2,529 crowdsourcing and crowdfunding sites
Even back in our primitive past, before fur loincloths and mammoth steaks fell out of fashion, humans have settled together. Our settlements may have evolved from cave cities carved in solid rock to the glass-and-steel impossibility of Dubai, but we still gather together for the same reasons. There’s safety in numbers, of course, but cities also give rise to communities, to culture and to business (not to mention convenient bagels).
But there are downsides to city life. Underdeveloped parts of town can easily fall prey to suspiciously well-choreographed gangs, and with so many people sharing the same space, streets can be filthy and unwelcoming. Plus, the larger the city, the more likely it is to attract the attention of Godzilla or one of his oversized radioactive associates.
This year’s winner of the prestigious $100,000 TED Prize aims to let us take control of our cities, and win back the streets through community action. "The City 2.0" is the most high-profile crowdsourced ‘city-fixing’ initiative yet. Much has already been said about projects like FixMyStreet that let users report problems and suggest solutions, but City 2.0 takes the concept to the next level.
The City 2.0 has sub-sites for almost every city on earth, and provides a community space for each, where members of the crowd can suggest, promote, or discuss their ideas. But as well as letting users do all the normal crowdsourcy things, the site also connects the crowd’s ideas with resources to make them happen. Along with community funding group the Knight Foundation (sadly not that Knight Foundation), IBM is the first company to get involved. Its Smarter Cities initiative has established a major presence on the site, offering expertise and funding for community projects all over the world.
There are already hundreds of projects up for discussion and investment, though they are spread around hundreds of cities worldwide. This means that at the moment the site looks a little underpopulated, but with time and exposure it has the potential to be a valuable community resource.
One of the early ideas that's generating a lot of discussion is the micro-park (which is, surprisingly, not where Microtasks eat their sandwiches on sunny days). With just a few well-placed benches and planters, micro-parks (also, adorably, known as parklets) transform the tiny, useless patches of ground that litter our cities into places to sit and watch the world go by.
The site’s creators describe City 2.0 as a 'real-world upgrade tapping into collective wisdom.' This emphasis on using the crowd’s greatest asset to help enrich lives on a global scale is what makes the project stand out. If City 2.0 can tap into the wisdom of the crowd, it may well fulfill its ambition to be ‘the crucible of the future.’
The TED prize is a great boost to City 2.0’s profile, and IBM’s involvement is a good sign. But many more companies will need to sign up to provide the resources needed to truly transform our cities.
However, it’s not just high-profile corporate backers that are needed. The road to crowdsourcing success is littered with great ideas that failed to find a crowd. City 2.0 needs to attract the crowd that is already out there, just waiting for the opportunity to get to work. If City 2.0 can maintain its momentum and establish itself as a global venue for community projects, it could be the most visible example of crowd power yet.
- Ville "Wili" Miettinen is the founder and CEO of Microtask. He is a serial entrepreneur and investor, with 15 years of professional experience in software engineering and computer graphics. Wili was one of the founders of Hybrid Graphics (later NVIDIA Finland), a pioneer in real-time 3D graphics technologies. He has also been involved with the evolution of various open standards. Over the last few years Wili has been active in the Finnish early-stage technology investment scene, and holds board positions in a number of companies in the industry.