Crowdsourcing represents an interesting attempt to generalise the open source methodology to non-technical areas. The basic idea is to tap into the the vast store of knowledge and wisdom among the general population by providing a mechanism to funnel the best ideas to those who can build on them.
Recently there have been some interesting examples in very different domains that suggest crowdsourcing is beginning to enter the mainstream.
For example, Harvard University is hoping to use crowdsourcing to move closer to a cure for Type 1 diabetes:
This Challenge is asking InnoCentive Solvers to formulate well-defined problems or hypotheses aimed at advancing our knowledge about Type 1 Diabetes and ultimately eradication of the disease. This is a somewhat unusual Ideation Challenge in the sense that the Solvers are not expected to provide a solution to any problem. Rather, they have to define problems or areas requiring further exploration and research. Ideal problems are those whose eventual solution will greatly expand our knowledge of Type 1 Diabetes and advance our ability to cure/manage the disease. Once formulated, the proposed problems will form the basis of new research projects pursued by scientists at Harvard University and elsewhere.
Still being an Ideation Challenge, it has the following distinct features:
The Seeker guarantees paying at least $5,000 in total awards with the size of individual award ranging from $2,500 to $10,000. This means that your submission does not necessarily need to be perfect – it just needs to be better than others for you to win an award.
That's pretty radical – throwing open medical research, traditionally reserved for only members of the scientific elite, to all and sundry. Perhaps more logical is this project looking for input in order to improve IT in California:
We are seeking innovative ideas to ensure that we do the best job of implementing IT to serve the people of California.
3 Questions to Consider:
What new services or improvement to existing online services should we be providing? You can see the existing services here.
As an entrepreneur, how would you like to partner with the State to bring innovative IT solutions?
The State of California has a number of systems using older technologies. How can we best leverage innovative IT solutions to modernize our portfolio
This is so obviously a sensible idea that it's amazing it hasn't been adopted more widely; after all, people who use IT services are probably best-placed to come up with ways to improve it, unlike consultants that observe them from a purely abstract viewpoint.
Finally, and in many ways most interestingly, here's a brand-new venture seeking to bootstrap a business idea that began as a Facebook group: