Tag Archives: Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

Crowdsourcing, Digital Volunteers, and Policy: New Workshop Summary from the Wilson Center

Post by: Kim Stephens

English: Woodrow Wilson International Center f...

English: Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars Español: Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A year ago this month the Commons Lab, part of the Wilson Center’s  Science & Technology Innovation Program, hosted a workshop with the goal of  “bringing together emergency responders, crisis mappers, researchers, and software programmers to discuss issues surrounding the adoption of… new technologies.”  The discussions included an in-depth review of crowdsourcing, specifically the use–as well as the reluctance, to use digital technology teams to aid in both message dissemination as well as data aggregation. The 148 page report from that meeting was released yesterday and is titled:  “Use of Mass Collaboration in Disaster Management” with a  focus on “opportunities and challenges posed by social media and other collaborative technologies.”

The Executive Summary states:

Factors obstructing the adoption of crowdsourcing, social media, and digital volunteerism approaches often include uncertainty about accuracy, fear of liability, inability to translate research into operational decision-making, and policy limitations on gathering and managing data. Prior to the workshop, many in the formal response community assumed that such obstructions are insurmountable and, therefore, that the approaches could not be adopted by the response community. However, it became clear during the workshop that these approaches are already being integrated into disaster response strategies at various scales. From federal agencies to local emergency managers, officials have begun exploring the potential of the technologies available. Stories of success and failure were common, but out of both came policy, research, and technological implications. Panelists shared strategies to overcome barriers where it is appropriate, but resisted change in areas where policy barriers serve a meaningful purpose in the new technological environment.

…Workshop participants identified the following activities as some of the more urgent research priorities:

  • Creating durable workflows to connect the information needs of on-the-ground responders, local and federal government decision-makers, and researchers, allowing each group to benefit from collaboration;
  • Developing methods and processes to quickly validate and verify crowdsourced data;
  • Establishing best practices for integrating crowdsourced and citizen-generated data with authoritative datasets, while also streamlining this integration;
  • Deciding on the criteria for “good” policies and determining which policies need to be adapted or established, in addition to developing ways for agencies to anticipate rapid technological change;
  • Determining where government agencies can effectively leverage social networking, crowdsourcing, and other innovations to augment existing information or intelligence and improve decision-making (and determining where it is not appropriate).
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Connecting Grassroots to Government: A Wilson Center Workshop

The Woodrow Wilson Plaza located in the Federa...

The Woodrow Wilson Plaza located in the Federal Triangle area of Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Post by: Kim Stephens

This week the Commons Lab of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars will be hosting a workshop titled: “Connecting Grassroots to Government for Disaster Management.” This event is being held in collaboration with the National Alliance for Public Safety GIS Foundation, the International Association for Information Systems for Crisis Response and ManagementESRITechChangeNetHope, and Project EPIC.  As the title suggests, the focus will be on how citizen or crowdsourced data generated from “diverse perspectives” can be effectively utilized by government response officials.  However, interestingly, the intended audience is federal officials. Their materials state:  

This roundtable will focus on US federal government’s opportunities and challenges for facilitating greater public engagement in the full-cycle of disaster management through social media, crowdsourcing methods, crisis mapping, and open innovation.

The Workshop Background Reading  material outlines the anticipated discussion framework. Specifically, they hope to address these questions:

  • Can citizens generate inputs to critical decisions? If so, with what kind of speed and what degree of accuracy?
  • What does the research show, and how are the best ideas being translated into practice?
  • How have agencies successfully navigated potential roadblocks to the use of citizen- generated information, such as privacy, procurement, or the Paperwork Reduction Act?
  • When and how is it possible to innovate through open and participatory design with citizens and communities?
The read-ahead material is quite a good resource in-and-of itself. The 13-page fully cited and sourced document provides information on the following topics:
  • Data efficiency and accuracy
  • Evaluation Frameworks (e.g. how do we understand volunteered information production)
  • Research Challenges
  • Legal and Policy Issues
    • Privacy and Confidentiality
    • Liability
    • Paperwork Reduction Act (and OMB Social Media Memo)
    • Intellectual Property
  • Models of Successful Collaboration
  • Current State of Technology and Future Development

You Can Participate

According to their event information page, even though the workshop is full,  the majority of the panel discussions will be available live via the Wilson Center webpages. They state:
People can also interact with the panelists by submitting comments and questions:

This looks like a really interesting event, and even though the focus if federal, my guess is that quite a lot of the information will translate to the local level. What will be your question for the panelist?