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Crowdsourcing is a centrally managed activity whereby an undefined crowd of people is invited openly (through a public call to anyone) to make individual or collective contributions towards predefined outcomes. These contributions come in the form of ideas, concepts, or developed solutions and designs.

The process is subsequently open and can be referred to as open design in accordance with the definition of Meninchinelli and colleagues (see above). Crowdsourcing can be viewed as a subset of collective intelligence. Maher et al.[1] describe a continuum of collective intelligence between collected and collective intelligence. The latter is characterised by the collaborative generation of solutions as well as synthesis of individual solutions.

The results of crowdsourcing activities are mostly used to advance proprietary outcomes. In some cases the outcome may be fully revealed after a fixed period for means of commercial exploitation. This would result in a crossing of the lines between crowdsourcing and OSH.

Crowdsourcing has received significant attention in management literature as an opportunity for firms to exploit lower communication and coordination costs of integrating customers in R&D activities. Outsourcing isolated tasks to a crowd can yield benefits through the generation of creativity from diverse perspectives or critical expert advice. Often it is also intended to elicit loyalty from specific customer segments.

A related crowd-based concept is crowdfunding which gained considerable momentum and attention in recent times. Here many people chip in to finance a particular activity.


  1. Maher, M. L.; Paulini, M.; and Murty, P.. 2011. “Scaling Up: From Individual Design to Collaborative Design to Collective Design.” In Design Computing and Cognition ’10, 581–599. Springer, Dordrecht. doi:10.1007/978-94-007-0510-4_31.