Takeaways from the Crowdsourcing Week D.C. Summit


Takeaways from the Crowdsourcing Week D.C. Summit

By Michael Contreras

For some, crowdsourcing is simply the latest buzzword to describe contingent work. However, for those who gathered at the Impact Hub last Thursday in Washington, D.C. at the CSW Summit, crowdsourcing is an effective way to do business. The crowdsourcing ecosystem activates and connects the global workforce, and solves issues that require diverse thinking and perspectives. As a crowd innovation specialist, I was amazed by how others used crowd-based approaches to help achieve their respective missions. Here is a rundown of my takeaways from attending #CSWDC.

1. Crowdsourcing is Big

Crowdsourcing is shaking up how big business operates. Well-funded multinational organizations are now tapping into the crowd. New technologies have allowed these groups to communicate and collaborate with a global workforce. Thought leaders from the companies below discussed how they have adopted crowdsourcing to improve their operations:

Booz Allen Hamilton

Despite hiring thousands of experienced consultants to solve complex consulting challenges, the Virginia-based firm recently opened an Innovation Center that fosters open innovation to help solve its clients’ most significant problems.

General Electric

Working at the forefront of innovation for over a century, GE is now harnessing the power of the crowd to maintain its status as a worldwide innovation leader. It recently announced Fuse, a platform designed to run technical innovation challenges, and a slate of services called GENIUSLINKTM that is powered by the crowd.


As the international leader for aeronautics and space exploration, NASA has revamped its innovation model to incorporate the crowd. While landing a job at NASA was once deemed nothing more than a pipedream, contributing to the agency is no longer such a long shot. NASA has tapped into the crowd to not only conduct data analysis but has also utilized it to develop innovation challenges. Look no further than its ‘Space Poop Challenge.’

2. Crowdsourcing is not Just for Innovation

At SensisChallenges, we leverage crowdsourcing to spur innovation through specific audience targeting and solver activation. We believe the crowd can be used for so much more than just innovation. Below are three examples of crowdsourcing initiatives that do not involve open innovation but are nonetheless paving the way for a better future:

Humanitarian Efforts

Among the many powerful speakers who presented at Crowdsourcing Week D.C., we were particularly struck by human rights leaders Joe Schmidt and Clara Tsao, who have successfully used crowdsourcing to combat humanitarian crises.

·       Joe Schmidt and his nonprofit Freedom United has launched crowdsourcing campaigns around the world in an effort to end modern slavery. There are an estimated 45.8 million slaves worldwide, and his crowdsourcing model is helping to reduce this staggeringly high number.  

·       Clara Tsao, a Presidential Innovation Fellow at the White House and CTO of the Countering Violent Extremism Task Force, is implementing crowdsourcing tactics to flag potential terror threats. More specifically, she is relying on data scientists to comb through social media (a common channel for extremists to communicate and mobilize), to discover trends, and assemble predictive models for potential threats.

Investigative Journalism

As news consumption rapidly shifts to digital platforms, traditional newspapers are often unable to support investigative journalism initiatives. Many newspapers have shut down altogether. In response, investigative journalist Christina Wilkie has led an effort to crowdsource investigative reporting projects. For example, she recently completed a crowdsourcing campaign to uncover errors in President Trump’s donor list.

Machine Learning Speech

Artificial intelligence is just beginning to scratch the surface of its potential. However, AI’s ability to express itself accurately, and effectively is still minimal, at best. There are several well-documented examples of AI communicating erroneous and even obscene information, but DefinedCrowd is hoping to improve machine learning through crowdsourcing. By crowdsourcing language tasks, AI technologies will be able to learn at a significantly faster rate, since it will be fed data from a multitude of sources.

As a strategic partner for the CSW DC Summit, SensisChallenges is extremely proud of its involvement in bringing together such a brilliant, diverse, and enthusiastic group. Kudos to Crowdsourcing Week for pulling off such a successful event at such a critical time. Washington, D.C’s crowdsourcing and innovation industry is having a moment, after having recently been named a top-10 U.S. metropolitan area for innovation.

Please enjoy a video highlighting the event provided EditMate, a digital platform that converts raw crowdsourced videos into polished user-generated branded content. I met founders Scott Stratford and Rachel King at the event, and they were generous enough to share this video featuring crowdsourced footage attendees uploaded during the event. More to come!

Thank you to everyone who attended and supported this successful event. As Crowdsourcing Week continues its North American tour with a summit in Seattle this fall, we hope it returns to D.C. for a follow-up event!