Leveraging the Crowd for Humanitarian Action

By Gabriella Anesio

Posted on

The realm of humanitarianism can be greatly aided by crowdsourcing through multiple means. Crowdsourcing enables Open Innovation, which bolsters collaboration, connectivity, and creativity. By tapping into external networks, Open Innovation enables humanitarian organizations to access a vast pool of diverse talents, ideas, and solutions from beyond traditional boundaries.

Tapping into this global crowd, thus, empowers humanitarian action to benefit from accelerated ideation, novel approaches, cost-effective solutions, and the ability to rapidly adapt to evolving challenges and risks. As Wazoku believes in changing the world one idea at a time, and with the Wazoku Crowd representing a diverse pool of Solvers from all walks of life, this article unpacks the use of crowdsourcing in humanitarianism, using a couple of inspiring stories from Wazoku’s customers.

International Rescue Committee

The International Rescue Committee (IRC), a global humanitarian aid, relief, and development organization, launched its first crowdsourcing campaigns with Wazoku Crowd this year. Having already launched two Open Innovation Challenges, there are many more planned for the future.

One of the Challenges already launched and currently under evaluation centered around discovering innovative ways to make refugee camp toilets safer for women and girls with regard to three primary dimensions: lighting, locking, and alerting when someone is in need of maintenance. Having tried to solve the issue within the humanitarian field for a long time, the IRC decided to turn to a global crowd of problem-solvers for help.

The second Challenge that is live and open for solution submissions – ‘Innovative Packaging for Last Mile Medical Supply Delivery’ – is seeking proposals for innovative and affordable packaging that will protect and track supplies at every stage. Improving access to medical supplies and ensuring adequate healthcare is a key issue for the ground teams in Sierra Leone, specialist for the IRC Khadija Saidi commented: “A loss factor of 12% across our distribution cycles can be attributed to theft, spoilage, and tampering due to inadequate packaging: significantly impacting healthcare delivery. Much of the country has limited options when accessing public healthcare, so any benefit will result in real outcomes.”

Crowdsourcing has provided a unique avenue for the IRC to source unique perspectives from a pool of designers, engineers, CEOs, PhD students, start-ups, scientists, and business leaders, enabling the creation of novel solutions that align with the specific needs of women in refugee settings. Through this collaborative approach, the IRC-Wazoku partnership, supported by SeaFreight Labs, underscores the potential of crowdsourcing as a transformative force in delivering humanitarian action – with the value lying not necessarily in the number of responses, but in the variety of respondents and responses needed to tackle persistent and complex problems, such as in this case.

Habitat for Humanity

Habitat for Humanity, a global non-profit housing organization, operates in over 70 countries around the world and decided to partner with Wazoku in 2020 to make the most out of the platform’s Open Innovation capability.

To give just one example out of numerous Challenges that Wazoku and Habitat for Humanity have worked on together, in 2021, an Open Innovation Challenge was launched by Habitat for Humanity Kenya, aiming to find solutions for retrofitting existing houses across Africa in order to reduce the spread of malaria. The winning Solver, located in India, created a working prototype of a screened frame that keeps mosquitos out, even as doors open. Leveraging open innovation in this case garnered a cost-effective and scalable solution that could prevent hundreds of millions of cases of malaria each year if implemented. You can read about this story and more of the humanitarian action that Wazoku has enabled in our Habitat for Humanity report.

Whilst there is so much societal value in crowdsourcing with regard to helping fix unique and pressing challenges, an abundance of individual value comes with this too. To be able to transform your ideas into tangible solutions that can have a real impact on the world is truly empowering and gratifying. As Jesus, a winning Solver from Mexico, mentioned, “One word: Validation. Before working with Wazoku and Habitat for Humanity, I didn’t know the real value of my work or knowledge. I thought I had interesting ideas, but I was unaware that I could solve problems and earn something by doing it.”

The beauty of crowdsourcing is also that all knowledge is useful and needed in order to solve these complex, global challenges. So if you’ve ever had a random thought about an app that could promote sustainability, a solution to fight online gender-based violence, or a blueprint to enable online voting, likelihood is that your niche knowledge would be of tremendous value to Wazoku Crowd and all of its partners seeking Solvers for their toughest challenges.

By Gabriella Anesio

Gabriella is a Marketing Associate at Wazoku. She’s a massive fan of any and all music (except country music...) - you’ll never catch her without her headphones.