I have just spent some time in Zambia to work as Consultant for the World Bank inside their regional pilot program on Climate Change and Resilience. I was hired as Crowdsourcing Expert with the goal to explain to civil society and international organizations working on the ground how they can use Crowdsourcing for emergency early warning systems and in general to increase their relationships with local communities in relation to problems related to climate change and environmental problems.
I did a 2 days workshop where more than 46 people participated and we had great discussions about how they saw crowdsourcing affecting their work and how they would like to use it. The ideas that came out of the workshop were amazing and incredibly inspiring on how NGO and civil society would like to get more close to the local communities and how local communities can shape NGOs projects in the field.
The most incredible thing on the other side is that this workshop was organized by DMMU, the Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit inside the Government of Zambia, in order to enhance their online platform on Emergency Preparedness and Response information Systems related to environmental disasters in the country, namely floods, droughts and epidemics.
I think that initiatives like this one are the best answers to whom has never used crowdsourcing and yet feel the needs to say it is useless. Fortunately there are people that really have experience in the field and that don’t spend their life writing about others’ people problems from their nice apartments, but actually do try to solve those problems through viable and realistic solutions. Luckily those people still feel it is worth to try to get local communities close to institutions and to have direct communication channels in place.
The workshop I have given, and the subsequent meetings with ICRC, WFP, the Local Network for Climate Change and other local NGOs have showed to me ones again the crowd is really powerful: emergency early warning and response systems struggle to be able to have a direct channel with the local populations, to reach them and feed them with information but also to be fed with information in order to be effective. Software like Ushahidi or FrontlineSMS are just tools that can create magic in the right hands: give them to the people and they will show to you what can be done!
Of course there will always be problems to face, things to pay attention to and risks. This is why the more we use them the better we get, the more we learn, the best we do.
Here there are the slides I used for my workshops, please feel free to comment!
Thanks to Patrick Meier, Jaro Valuch and Ankit Sharma for their precious comments.