Crowdsourcing can, and should, be viewed as a form of collaboration that can support fund raising, research in addition to engage your network partners.  I view crowdsourcing as a form of collaboration ‘light’ because it does not generally encourage the strong relationships and close partnership that traditional collaboration embodies.  Crowdsourcing does, however provide a valuable method to engage a broad range of participants in short activities or pieces of a broader project.  Crowdsourcing provides another tool in your toolbox of methods to encourage participation and introduction of partners to your network. 

Crowdsourcing can be used as an introduction to the benefits of collaboration.  This provides a focused objective that can be broadly shared across your network to encourage participation of your extended partners.  These extended partners may be new to your network or they may not be the close, inner circle, of strong partners.  This provides the method to broadcast a need and request response without requiring heavy participation or long involvement.  This method of introduction provides a framework for engaging and encouraging further participation.  This can provide a great introduction to power and value of collaboration to potential new partners and partners that may not engage actively in the collaborative network.

You will notice, I’m sure, that this is very similar to a Request for Information (RFI) process that has been utilized for many years in the business environment.  Crowdsourcing is quite a bit different though than the traditional RFI process because of both the type of requests and the type of responses.  These crowdsourcing requests can be as simple as one question and the process itself is more conversational.  The responses received also are more conversational and much less formal and are generally more simple responses than the traditional RFI process.  I think of the crowdsourcing method as the next generation of RFI, this is the RFI of the social networking age.

Crowdsourcing utilizes social networking tools and capabilities to quickly and efficiently move from a concept to a business benefit.  These tools support the crowdsourcing methods in an iterative, or agile method, to allow you to quickly form specific and short term collaborative networks to deliver business value.  Crowdsourcing should be thought of as the ‘agile’ RFI process.  This process provides two benefits, a quick turnaround from concept to business value and a quick method to engage extended partners in your network. Crowdsourcing becomes another tool in your collaboration toolbox that can and should be used to engage your extended network in short efficient bursts to deliver value to the network.

And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

How do you incorporate the different methods of communication to support your collaborative network needs and objectives?  Do you have a formal maintenance communication plan that your partners have participated in developing?  How does the informal communications methods impact and support the formal communications?  Have you developed an evaluation plan for your communications methods, a type of continuous improvement process for your communication methods and communications plans?