Passion Intersection: Crowdsourcing and Humanitarianism

I'm absolutely fascinated by the concept of crowdsourcing. I love how it flows along the path of collaboration — input from multiple people used to create something new or better.

In my recent blog post on this topic, From Handbags to Traffic Navigation: Harnessing the Power of Crowdsourcing, I looked at some of the for-profit crowdsourcing sites that were changing our world by harnessing the expertise and experience of people both in our communities and around the world to creatively solve problems.

That post drove me to seek an intersection I was sure existed between two of my passions: crowdsourcing and making the world a better place, or in a word, humanitarianism. And I was not disappointed by what I found.

 Five Pretty Amazing Nonprofit Crowdsourcing Sites

Here are five nonprofit sites who really are working to make the world a better place and who could use your expertise, time and experience.
  • Wikipedia immediately comes to mind as one of the most successful and well-known crowdsourcing sites. Created in 2001, it is a multilingual, web-based, free-content encyclopedia project operated by the Wikimedia Foundation. Written collaboratively by unpaid and largely anonymous Internet volunteers, Wikipedia, as of February 2012, attracted 470 million unique visitors a month. 77,000 active contributors from around the world have witten/edited/collaborated on over 22,000,000 articles in 285 languages, and hundreds of thousands of them make tens of thousands of edits and create thousands of new articles every day.
  • foldit engages online gamers (a competitive bunch) and uses their pattern-recognition and puzzle-solving abilities to "see" protein folding patterns that computer programs miss. These solutions could someday help cure HIV/AIDs, cancer and Alzheimers.
  • World Community Grid is a worldwide humanitarian project that solves research problems by employing grid computing.  By splitting work into small pieces that can be processed simultaneously, this crowdsourcing effort pools and uses volunteers' excess computer processing power. Sponsored by IBM (disclaimer here — my employer), it brings people together from across the globe to create the largest non-profit computing grid benefiting humanity.

  • Help from Home is a UK-based association that has created a database to provide what they call "microvolunteering" — easy, quick, bite-sized and convenient crowdsourced volunteer-from-home opportunities. The tagline is "Changing the World in Just Your Pyjamas" and each opportunity has a "Pyjama Rating" attached to it, including my favorite "100% full-on pyjama zone".
  • Cell Slider is a collaboration between Cancer Research UK and Zooniverse which created an online interactive database of cancerous cell samples. The public is invited to help lab researchers investigate the two million images. 

    100% full-on pyjama zone

    Bonus Crowdsourcing Site

    duolingo is not a non-profit as these other crowdsourcing projects are, as they do sell their translation services. However I included it because I'm using it, it's fun, free, and a clever example of crowdsourcing, disguised as a for-profit translation service. To enable people to translate the Web for free, duolingo helps its translators learn the language for free. Language learners practice their new language skills on real-world texts from the web, while the computer provides guidance on unknown words, and helps build vocabulary and grammar skills.
    easy, quick, low commitment actions that benefit a worthy cause’ (as suggested by Help From Home)
    2) ‘convenient, bite-sized, crowdsourced, and network-managed’ (as suggested by Sparked)
    3) ‘the act of voluntary participating in small day-to-day situations that occupy a brief amount of time’
    - See more at: http://helpfromhome.org/faqs#sthash.AR6Gjt5n.dpuf
    easy, quick, low commitment actions that benefit a worthy cause’ (as suggested by Help From Home)
    2) ‘convenient, bite-sized, crowdsourced, and network-managed’ (as suggested by Sparked)
    3) ‘the act of voluntary participating in small day-to-day situations that occupy a brief amount of time’
    - See more at: http://helpfromhome.org/faqs#sthash.AR6Gjt5n.dpuf
    (Phys.org) -- A new website wants people to translate the Web for free. The reward is that the website seeks to help the same people doing the translating to learn the language, for free. Duolingo launched today as a new startup, the brainchild of a Carnegie Mellon project. University computer scientists Luis von Ahn and Severin Hacker thought up this venture in translating languages on the web by having language students themselves translate it while they simultaneously learn a new language, as a combination free language education website and crowdsourced online translation service.

    Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2012-06-duolingo-crowdsourced.html#jCp
    (Phys.org) -- A new website wants people to translate the Web for free. The reward is that the website seeks to help the same people doing the translating to learn the language, for free. Duolingo launched today as a new startup, the brainchild of a Carnegie Mellon project. University computer scientists Luis von Ahn and Severin Hacker thought up this venture in translating languages on the web by having language students themselves translate it while they simultaneously learn a new language, as a combination free language education website and crowdsourced online translation service.

    Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2012-06-duolingo-crowdsourced.html#jCp
    (Phys.org) -- A new website wants people to translate the Web for free. The reward is that the website seeks to help the same people doing the translating to learn the language, for free. Duolingo launched today as a new startup, the brainchild of a Carnegie Mellon project. University computer scientists Luis von Ahn and Severin Hacker thought up this venture in translating languages on the web by having language students themselves translate it while they simultaneously learn a new language, as a combination free language education website and crowdsourced online translation service.

    Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2012-06-duolingo-crowdsourced.html#jCp
    A new website wants people to translate the Web for free. The reward is that the website seeks to help the same people doing the translating to learn the language, for free. Duolingo launched today as a new startup, the brainchild of a Carnegie Mellon project. University computer scientists Luis von Ahn and Severin Hacker thought up this venture in translating languages on the web by having language students themselves translate it while they simultaneously learn a new language, as a combination free language education website and crowdsourced online translation service.

    Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2012-06-duolingo-crowdsourced.html#jCp
    A new website wants people to translate the Web for free. The reward is that the website seeks to help the same people doing the translating to learn the language, for free. Duolingo launched today as a new startup, the brainchild of a Carnegie Mellon project. University computer scientists Luis von Ahn and Severin Hacker thought up this venture in translating languages on the web by having language students themselves translate it while they simultaneously learn a new language, as a combination free language education website and crowdsourced online translation service.

    Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2012-06-duolingo-crowdsourced.html#jCp
    A new website wants people to translate the Web for free. The reward is that the website seeks to help the same people doing the translating to learn the language, for free. Duolingo launched today as a new startup, the brainchild of a Carnegie Mellon project. University computer scientists Luis von Ahn and Severin Hacker thought up this venture in translating languages on the web by having language students themselves translate it while they simultaneously learn a new language, as a combination free language education website and crowdsourced online translation service.

    Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2012-06-duolingo-crowdsourced.html#jCp
    A new website wants people to translate the Web for free. The reward is that the website seeks to help the same people doing the translating to learn the language, for free. Duolingo launched today as a new startup, the brainchild of a Carnegie Mellon project. University computer scientists Luis von Ahn and Severin Hacker thought up this venture in translating languages on the web by having language students themselves translate it while they simultaneously learn a new language, as a combination free language education website and crowdsourced online translation service.

    Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2012-06-duolingo-crowdsourced.html#jCp

    If you're looking to make a difference in this world, but a lack of time, transportation, money, or a desire to stay in your pajamas is a challenge, check out any or all of these sites, and join the crowdsourcing for humanity movement. You'll be in good company.