Crowdsourcing and Public Participation: mapping out the relationship between the two concepts

There has been plenty of talk recently about the prospects of using crowdsourcing as a means to create better policy and to engage citizens in the policy making process.

I’ve noticed that a lot of proponents of this approach seem to be unaware of the particular challenges that public participation initiatives by their very nature often encounter, which the “successful” crowdsourcing examples that are often referenced in this context rarely ever have to deal with.

I’ve posted a couple of articles trying to map out the relationship between the two concepts, where they differ and how the might complement each other:

Crowdsourcing and Public Participation (September 9, 2009)
Crowdsourcing and Public Participation II (January 3, 2010)

Would love to hear your thoughts (either here or on our blog). Thanks!

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Interesting posts…always feel free to copy and past over here as full blogs too.

My thoughts:
-That 1 million pound prize is pretty insane. That’s really cool.
-I’m with you in that I think the biggest issue is usually not the technology. I think biggest issues are more around getting people to care, to engage, and to behave.

Keith Moore

I appreciated every aspect of this discussion on Crowd Sourcing and Public Participation on so many different levels. To name just a couple, there seems to be evidence of a maturing thought process from the ideas expressed on September 2009 to those documented on January 2009 concerning the two approaches. This proves to me that with a determination to draw out the qualities that help to make both strategies produce the most efficient, collaborative, consensus building outcomes demonstrates that the process is one worth undergoing.

Secondly, I note that the very terminology used in this process of examining the value and the power of public participation is one that strikes me. Crowd sourcing versus Public Participation. In reviewing these terms, I must admit that there is a broader community that tends to use a different language to communicate ideas, and that by the virtue of this fact, public participation and or crowd sourcing to include various diverse groups presents upfront challenges. However, to even take the time and effort to invest in a thorough analysis (like they have done in the UK) to learn how to achieve full participation, to me lies an opportunity to inspire collaborations to participate in a transparent process. Hence, thanks for bringing this rather bold and somewhat challenging discussion to the fore. I say, stay the course, don’t let up, and recognize that the process in itself brings on new participants that we must be prepared to engage.

Tim Bonnemann


I was going to post the full article but had a hard time formatting it here (lots of lists and blockquotes that looked a bit odd). Is there a cheat sheet on additional formatting options anywhere? Thanks!

Tim Bonnemann


Thanks! The terminology can be tricky at times, especially when people use the same words but refer to entirely different concepts. Here’s a definition of public participation by IAP2 co-founder James L. Creighton that describes what I’m referring to in my post:

I’ve also posted how just the term “participation” is used differently by different people: