Last year, the small, rural town of Owego in upstate New York was devastated when the nearby river overflowed its banks. A blogger from Owego, Abbey Hendrickson, took to Twitter and her blog to promote her fundraising campaign on Crowdrise.com to help her small town recover. Her ultimate goal of $5,000 for recovery was not met.
Kickstarter, on the other hand, has been all over the news recently for funding million-dollar projects and being set to distribute more money this year than the National Endowment for the Arts, expecting to fund $150 million worth of projects. The success of Kickstarter as opposed to Crowdrise demonstrates that Americans are regularly aware of how they can support nonprofits and other fundraising campaigns. Crowdrise provides a new platform for garnering support, but it lacks the creative zest of Kickstarter. Kickstarter’s projects are creative, unique, and sometimes bizarre. The appeal is that it provides a forum for people to raise money to pursue a passion and it was generally difficult to find financing for these types of projects prior to Kickstarter.
But, let us not forget that the power of the crowd is influential in realms beyond just raising finances. In 1222, Genghis Khan, the first ruler of the Mongols, died and was buried in an unmarked grave, likely in Northern Mongolia. A project undertaken by a research scientist at the University of California at San Diego, Albert Lin, enlisted more than 7,000 people from around the world to help analyze 85,000 high-resolution images of Mongolia – a country with more than 600,000 square miles that are mostly uncharted.
In this project, users help scour GeoEye satellite images of this remote country helping researchers by identifying pertinent landmarks. In National Geographic’s “Forbidden Tomb of Genghis Kahn,” Dr. Lin visited three sites of historic influence that users helped to uncover. None have been confirmed to be the final resting place of Genghis Kahn, however, it is likely that advancements were made that would not have been uncovered without use of this technology.
On September 18, 2010, @Etsy tweeted: “Tap into yr community. Crowdsourcing isn’t about free resources: it’s an exchange of human spirit, the shared desire to help.” I couldn’t agree more. I think that it is amazing to see projects funded and aided through the collective enthusiasm and generosity of humankind. This involvement of people from all backgrounds in a collective pursuit has vast potential for other initiatives beyond those mentioned here, and I’m excited to see how crowdsourcing will evolve with technology.