ITU - Engaging the youth of the world to help solve its greatest challenges
Young people make up 50% of the world's population. How do you find out what they really think about the key issues that affect them? What ideas do they have on education and employment, the environment, health, cybersecurity, and citizenship and governance? And how do you compile these ideas into a single, unified declaration?
Joe Gaylord from the United Nations International Telecommunications Union, shares his experience with Crowdicity and reveals how the United Nations utilised Crowdicity to engage the youth of the world to create the UN’s first crowdsourced declaration.
This project marks a significant shift in the way the United Nations drives global discussion and harnesses external views.
Crowdicity: Tell us about the Beyond 2015 project
Joe: Beyond 2015 was a global youth summit focused on a set of global development goals. These were to be presented to the United Nations with the aim of being adopted as UN policy.
The feeling was that youth needed more representation. Young people are 50% of the world’s population, even more in the least developed countries. They are more affected by economic downturn, less likely to be politically engaged and are often marginalised. They are going to be the group that are going to implement the changes that will be called for by the post-2015 agenda. We really wanted to see the youth involved in this process of talking about the world.
Why did you choose crowdsourcing as the means of engaging the public?
We wanted to develop and stimulate an audience and create a network to drive online conversation and activities. Crowdsourcing enabled us to access young people, give them a platform where they could participate from a distance, and discuss the issues that they were already talking about in small groups.
Most important of all, crowdsourcing gave young people the opportunity to share their ideas, contribute to conversations and refine their thoughts regardless of geographical location and time. Because the focus of the summit was on how ICT could help improve lives, it made sense to use a method that was itself innovative.
And you chose Crowdicity as your crowdsourcing platform?
Yes, what we really like about the Crowdicity platform is how easy it is to get your crowdsourcing challenges up and running quickly. Crowdicity have done a brilliant job of masking the complexity of setting things up. We particularly liked the implementation of ‘funnels’ that enabled us to set-up customisable and timed ‘stages’, which helped us build granularity into our crowdsourcing challenges and drill down to better results.
Crowdicity has brought an entirely new perspective and dimension to the policy creation and has enabled us to have an insight into issues that affect young people from all over the world.
How did you recruit your crowd?
We started by getting a small group of about 20 young people using Crowdicity, so they could discuss the issues we were going to be talking about during the challenge. They pulled the agenda we gave them apart and said, "No, you shouldn’t be asking this question, this is what you should be looking at instead." Your user knows what they need better than anyone else, so rely on them.
It also gave us our group of early adopters, and half a dozen answers that were immediately posted on Crowdicity to seed the challenge. That got over the first initial gap where no one wants to be the first one to respond.
What did you do to raise the public profile of the Beyond 2015 crowdsourcing community?
We undertook a variety of strategies to raise the profile of our Crowdicity platform. Branding aesthetics matter, so we used a series of images that looked very little like a typical UN conference. We intentionally made them very youth-oriented and much more dynamic. We also had a huge social media presence and worked with the teams at Google and Crowdicity to integrate the platform into our social media channels.
You need to find your users. They are not looking for you, you need to bring it to them and Crowdicity’s sign-in and sharing integration with Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn etc. really helped with that.
Name recognition also proved important. We are a big organisation and we were able to keep saying, "This is going to be read before the UN General Assembly", which is something that gets people’s attention. We also had a series of hubs in different countries for website developers, text students, experts working for state ministries, development students, business students and civil society members.
They were having the conversations that we want them to have about Beyond 2015, but we needed to get them to talk to us, so they were buying into the project we were working on. Your users know themselves and they know their community and the active buy-in is tremendous.
When they are excited about the project they will be your best advertisers. There were young people from Tunisia setting up their own YouTube videos to advertise their content because they had that active buy-in.
So, how did you drive the outcomes you were looking for?
We asked ourselves very clear questions at the outset. Why are we doing this? What outcomes are we looking for? Where is this going? And what is the timeline? If you are clear about these at the beginning, the users will not feel confused and be able to provide clear answers.
We also wanted to know why participants were taking part, and ultimately we identified four main groups:
Contestants – they wanted to have the best idea and get recognition, for which we
Entrepreneurs – people trying to sell their product, or trying to get involved in the organisation that they represent.
Discussers – armchair experts who want to be part of the discussion at a high level.
Influencers – people who want to make sure the organisation’s agenda is reflected in the final document.
What kind of results have you seen?
The outcomes were pretty startling. The Crowdicity platform yielded more than 2,700 participants, generating over 1,000 ideas, 11,000 comments and 14,000 votes in the two month period leading up to the summit.
On Twitter there were 12,000 tweets – printed out that’s about the height of the Eiffel Tower – and reach of about 10 million. And on the main video for the project there were around 5,000 views. It is also, to our knowledge, the first ever crowdsourced UN statement.
Crowdicity’s involvement also supported funding donations through the global impact of the project, with partners providing $1m in funding over six months.
It was the first time in the ITU’s 150 year history that a document it has created has ever been formally recognised by the UN and also the first ever crowdsourced United Nations statement.
What lessons have you learnt along the way?
One important lesson we learnt quite early on was that you are not in charge of the project – this is entirely user-generated. It’s a very interactive process. We also learnt that relationships matter – how the users feel about the organisation, how the users interact with each other and finally the relationship of the brand to the organisation.
Most importantly, we realised that crowdsourcing offered an incredible opportunity to get our users excited about the projects that we were working on. Crowdicity presents a more transparent and democratic system. This allows people to see where the ideas and outcomes are coming from, which gives you far greater user engagement and buy-in. You also get more ideas to pick from, which gives far greater choice and scope and of course all the ideas are relevant to your users, and useful to the target audience because that is where they came from.
So, do you consider your Crowdicity crowdsourcing experience to be a success?
Absolutely. There were some people on the community who were convinced that no public government group would ever listen to them. This proved not to be the case.
When we had the first set of ideas, we turned them into a statement. We then brought that statement back to the Crowdicity community and said, "Do you guys agree with this?" If they suggested changes, we processed it and turned into a new statement and brought it back in front of the community to say, "Do you agree with this?" If necessary, we changed it again and brought it back to Crowdicity. Because we had tremendous support from the users on the platform, they really felt this was something they could stand behind because they knew where we were going with their material.
We produced a complete declaration, which presented 31 different clauses to the UN. Every bit of that material came off the Crowdicity platform.