In 2010, we posted an article introducing the crowdsourcing concept. In the article, Jen Street referenced a couple of examples of crowdsourcing and posed the question: “Is this another shrewd attempt at exploiting the poor by handing off elementary level tasks and providing little pay to workers or is this an inventive idea for a next generation look into unknown markets?” While her question was valid at the time, there was no way for Jen to know that the definition of crowdsourcing was soon to change.

Crowdsourcing is no longer considered to have an all-encompassing definition and definitely no longer is limited to “elementary-level tasks.” New “crowd” terms are popping up constantly, one of them being “crowdpurchasing.”

Crowdpurchasing is similar to the basic concept of Group Purchasing Organizations in that crowdpurchasers leverage their collective purchasing power to buy the products and services they need. Crowdpurchasing platforms are popping up everywhere. Groundswell is a non-profit with a mission to encourage sustainable living by helping individuals gather together to purchase clean energy. Crowdbuy is a platform for consumers that states plainly: “The bigger the crowd, the bigger the savings.”

Referring back to the question Jen posed in 2010, the motivations of companies who are using crowdsourcing are unique to the companies themselves. Crowdsourcers are generally motivated as the concept allows them to elicit large numbers of solutions via cheap labor. Benefits also include access to a wide array of talent and potentially better results than older methods.  Large companies aren’t the only ones utilizing crowdsourcing either. The small business, government, and non-profit sectors have also jumped on the bandwagon. 

Laura Kornish, an Associate Professor of Marketing at the Leeds School of Business at Colorado University, writes about crowdsourcing application in her article “Crowdsourcing Innovation: How to Make Sure You Spot the Best Ideas” for Fast Company:

“In traditional product development practice, there is a separation between gathering data from customers about their needs--via interviews, observations, focus groups, and surveys--and proposing new product concepts. The classic example of this separation is, ‘People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!’ (Theodore Levitt’s example from Harvard Business Review, 1960) In that view, managers guiding innovation should consult the users for what needs to happen, not rely on the users themselves to dream big about how it can happen. Crowdsourcing in innovation allows us rethink this separation. We can ask the crowd directly to provide the solutions, then work backward to infer what is on their minds.”

Is there still concern surrounding this new approach? Of course! Crowdsourcers should still be concerned with the make-up of their crowd. Are they truly a representative group? They should also still be concerned with potential ethical and legal concerns including the status of independent contractors and below-market wages.

To find out more, visit , a hub of information on new crowdsourcing opportunities, crowdsourcing news, and crowdsourcing advice for individuals and businesses.
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Maddy Miller

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