Saturday, 10 July 2010

Spending Challenge - HM Government using crowdsourcing

The UK government is using a simple online webpage to gather ideas on how to save money. It is called the Spending Challenge. You can input your idea, some words about how it can be implemented, add a tag or two and then post it. You can read through others' ideas, add tags and ratings. The system allows you to search by tag, new ideas, most commented or highest rated.

This is crowdsourcing at its most pragmatic. I doubt they spent more than £1000 setting up the system. The addition of a rating system gives it power and meaning. Especially as anyone can rate any idea - not just those in power.

In the same month this is launched I've worked with a variety of public sector teams who range from denying the existence of technology, denying they have permission to use anything remotely interfacing the public (or their staff) unless there are controls, or want to create their own thing. Probably worse, some are still working at the level of theory and concept for social movements, mobilisation and networking, running workshops and developing programmes to spread the word of change. By the time they've spent a fortune on their programme, a huge part of the UK population will have been mobilised using simple techniques such as this Spending Challenge one.

I feel that so often we get lost in the theory and concepts, and the need to develop eloquent (and controllable) solutions, that we overlook the most simple mechanisms, complemented with speed and pragmatism.

Well done HM Treasury for getting the Spending Challenge social movement underway.


Simon said...

I doubt you have actually tried to use the site to put forward an idea or to see what other ideas have been produced.

The software and its implementation was poor. The site was unavailable for long periods and is still very slow. The security aspects had not been considered and people started to hijack posts to redirect users to their sites or satirical videos.

The lack of moderation meant that people were posting ideas and suggestions that were, at best, unpalateable and at worst, illegal.

The lack of features on the website and the nature of the contributors meant that there were thousands of duplicate ideas and no method of debate and refinement of ideas. In the end there were just comments that are often just personal attacks or rants.

I'm all for crowdsourcing, but it has to be done properly. As it stands at the moment, the whole exercise is giving crowdsourcing a bad name.

Sarah Fraser said...

I agree Simon that it is not a brilliant piece of software. It is, however, a good attempt at getting going without spending too much of the taxpayers money in the process.

Maybe we have to get used to the fact that the crowd may have opinions different to our own or to what may be perceived as the prevailing wind of thought. I think the point of crowd sourcing is people can say what they want.

Some sorting into topics on their site would be good though...