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What crazy things can you do in Brazil with the crowd?
editorial

What crazy things can you do in Brazil with the crowd?

On Monday, in a packed convention hall in Sao Paulo, Brazil, over three hundred practitioners, eager entrepreneurs, and curious bystanders’, watched, listened and scribbled intensely as the 1st International Conference on Crowdsourcing, Communities and Co-creation got underway. The full agenda accommodated a line-up of crowdsourcing professionals who presented their business models, provided real-world examples and shared insights into the must-knows and the dos and don’ts of crowdsourcing.  [Image: Carl Esposti, Founder of Crowdsourcing.org with the team from the new Brazilian crowdsourcing blog Open The Crowd (left to right) Caio Cansian, Diego XimenesLuca Antunes, Carl Esposti, Eduardo Migliano:]


The conference itself was the idea of Shaun Abrahamson and Marina Miranda from Mutopo when a few months ago, following calls for assistance and participation, Marina’s large network of connections in Brazil, the US and in Europe started to quickly produce: sponsors, a venue, speakers and then ticket sales.

Crowdsourcing and crowdfunding have been increasingly on the agenda in Brazil over the last twelve months and this was Brazil’s first chance to gather in one place to meet face-to-face to look for the answers to the one question that appeared to capture it all -- the central issue -- “what crazy things can you do in Brazil with the crowd?” As Shaun Abrahamson opened the conference he quote Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, “While the last five years have been about getting connected, the next 5 years are going to be about all the crazy things you can do now that all those people are connected”. There seems to be a lot of crazy things you can do, for sure!

The conference speaker line-up was made up of an interesting mix of characters, a diverse group of people that either knew each other from prior events or from online dialogue. A small number were meeting for the first time and bonded quickly through their common interest and shared purpose: an open-minded German guy by the name of Bastian Unterberg, a young CEO and the Co-Founder of Jovoto, a lover of Brazilian Samba and on a mission to buy an authentic “pandeiro”;
Carl Esposti, a Brit with an Italian surname living in California, with a passion for classifying in great detail all types of crowdsourcing models and crowd initiatives; and, the Brazilian left-wing socialist, Reinaldo Pamponet, who thinks we need a “total restructuring of the economic system”. As Pamponet said quoting Caetano Veloso (the famous Brazilian composer): “From up close nobody is normal”.

Not only did the conference physically house approximately 300 visitors (give or take 20-30) in Teatro Vivo in Sao Paulo, amassing ordinary and not so ordinary people (including me) to talk about the power and possibilities of the crowd – but also the conference was viewed via a live-stream video by large numbers of people across continents who watched and Tweeted to the tune of over 750 Tweets. The dialogue online and at the conference was a healthy exchange of new perspectives and ideas, providing a window into the possibilities that crowdsourcing can deliver for Brazilian and international participants alike.

“Feedback was consistently positive”, said Miranda Marina, Managing Director of mutopo in Brazil and the driving force behind the event, continuing she said, “attendees really appreciated that the sessions were steeped in real-world experience and weren’t just all about crowdsourcing theory.” “Visitors appreciated the opportunity to learn more about a number of landmark international cases and to reflect on the application of these use cases and others for the Brazilian market.”

One thing that was very noticeable to the international visitors was that the conversations about crowdsourcing centered mostly on the subject of projects and platforms that supported open collaboration, and open innovation. Lukas Biewald, Co-founder of the San Francisco based company, CrowdFlower, in discussion with Carl Esposti, mentioned that very few of the conversations centered around the using crowdsourcing labor-on-demand platforms to funnel micro-task work to highly distributed work forces. It seemed that while this was one of the more established models elsewhere, in Brazil the use of this model perhaps held less appeal, in comparison to other models that seemed, on the surface, more innovative or in Brazilian parlor, crazier and therefore more exciting.

A popular use case presentation was Bastian Unterberg, Co-Founder of Jovoto, a German non-conventional creative agency which congregates creative excellence through mass collaboration. Unterberg used one of Jovoto’s most well known use cases, a solution to reduce the waste from disposable paper cups – 58 Billion a year to be precise. Unterberg was also keen to invest time while in Brazil to make many good new connections. To quote from his presentation “collaborative atmospheres became contagious”, “it’s is all about motivation -- happy talent delivers great results”.

The other topic that visitors were keen to understand was the subject of Crowdfunding. Brazil’s foremost venture into crowdfunding, or at least the one everyone remembers as the first that was notable. It resulted from a group of music fans in Rio de Janerio raising $13,000 in September 2010 to bring one of their favorite bands to the city to perform. Following this early success, a couple of months later the group of friends launched Queremos, a website that uses crowdfunding to promote concerts. This was followed by the launch of a Brazilian Blog, by Diego Reeberg, all about the subject of crowdfunding and the January 2011 launch by Reeberg and his team mates of Catarse.me an apt name for a crowdfunding platform which is a term used to describe the point of euphoric achievement when a goal is reached…...the money equivalent of a Eureka moment.

It dawned on Reeberg when they received a beautiful video from the musical group A Banda mais Bonita da Cidade  (The Most Beautiful Band of the City). This video had a huge viral spread in a short time through social networks. In a few days, millions of people watched the video with the song Prayer (Oração). And only after that the mainstream media has discovered the phenomenon. "It made me wonder. What is, in fact, the mainstream media?" He called to the guys, some of them he knew personally from the school, and offered the possibility to finance a CD by crowdfunding. The band agreed but invented a original way transforming each music in a unique project. In 34 days, A Banda mais Bonita da Cidade gathered enough money to record 11 of 12 tracks. To date 7,229,246 people have watched the original video on YouTube  .“With Catarse we were able to cut out the middleman”, explained Reeberg. “We have 65 successful projects which means 65 empowered people”.



 

The future looks bright for Brazil, executives like Romeo Busarello, from Tecnisa, who presented one of the conferences morning sessions, are building their strategies based on very optimist forecasts that project that over the next 5 years, GDP growth with hit 5% and interest rates will fall to closer to 5% (believe or not, 5% a year would be welcomed compared with the absurdly high interest rates levied in Brazil today.

It also means that over the next five years many more people will enter industry and the connected networks. “We have a lot of problems here. Where there are problems there are also opportunities for business”, added Busarello. “For the first time we have more money than ideas”. Searching for solutions in the crowd will become a necessity for any entrepreneurs that is looking for new business ideas. However, this notion was rejected by Reinaldo Pamponet from ItsNoon,  “It is not true that we have more money than ideas”, he objected . “There are always a lot of ideas. The issue is that we are not used to searching for the ideas in the crowd. We're used to looking at the world through our own eyes but crowdsourcing opens the possibility of seeing the world through the eyes of another”.

The way Pamponet sees it, from a social perspective; he believes that crowdsourcing as a disruptive model can be very transformational. He argues that the challenge for all Brazilian’s is, “We Brazilians need to ask ourselves what our role will be and what part we have to play with it?” Even though many think of Brazil as an environment of high unemployment with rates at the levels prevalent in the United States or Europe, in Brazil unemployment rates are actually decreasing, the fact is that the power and the supply of talent is shifting increasingly to the crowd, whether as workers, consumers, creatives or buyers.

Camiseteria, shared the success of it’s model that boasts a Brazilian community of 260,000 t-shirt lovers with over than 20,000 designers. “We don’t have to think about fashion trends because we have a real-time relationship with our customers. They give us ideas and feedback and we produce what they want”, said Fabio Seixas, founder of Camiseteria. Camiseteria, leveraging Jovoto’s experience has learned that the best moderator for the crowd is the crowd itself. On an open competition platform the “the first step is to invite the community to select their favorites. The clients then get to pick from the short-list selected by the community better enabled with the inputs of the community”, explained Bastian Unterberg.

The same power of the community brought a huge success to the Red Bull Street View  campaign, developed by Guga Ketzer, creative director of Loducca Ad agency. It a simple project considered a great Brazilian initiative. The project the team decided to create a virtual street art museum using Google Street View as a platform. The project which began with contributions from within the agency has since spread virally and to date, they have over 6,300 cataloged artworks and they have received more than 500,000 page views on the site. “We found that the tool was far more powerful than we previously thought it could be”, said Guga Ketzer. Even though Red Bull brought the campaign to a close at it’s planned end-point, the site still receives more than 25,000 visits per month. Once the crowd has got hold of the project only the crowd will decide what happens next.

Shaun Abrahamson pointed out that the “social network” has become the infrastructure that is driving new forms of “social production”. He stated, “We need to understand what’s being driven by technology and what’s being driven by people. More than this we need to understand how decision are being made. When we work with the crowd unpredictable things can happen.” “Who would have imagined that the crowd would adopt the Vuvuzela and with it make the sound that would totally transform the World Cup in South Africa? Everything was very well prepared, but the crowd decided to use that little piece of plastic to make itself heard. Those small plastic pipes changed a lot of things”.

So, while I learned a lot from the conference it raised more questions for me than it addressed! Clearly we are living in exciting times and I wonder, as many do, where all this is headed! As Lukas Biewald reminded us the crowd has the potential to disrupt the supply of labor in the same that cloud computing is changing both the delivery model as well as the financial constructs for the delivery of computing. In the same way that clouds are always in motion I’m anxious to discover what crazy things we can do with the new disruptive motions that are affecting the way we hire and the way we work.

 

By Flavio Gut, Crowdsourcing.org's correspondent in Brazil.


Flavio's experience includes executive editor of Agêncita Estado and newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo, and reporter at Agência Folha, Agência Estado, and Jornal da Tarde.  He can be reached at flavio@crowdsourcing.org


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