Clean Water Through Crowdsourcing

There are many organizations working to make clean water available in the less potable parts of the world, but the system isn’t always perfect. Crowdsourcing is one of the tools that some groups are using to improve the process.

From South Asia to Latin America, families are sometimes forced to skip work in order to wait for hours for the delivery of water that may or may not come. NextDrop is a service that is working to change this inconvenient paradigm by allowing utility employees to text families directly once they have opened the valves to distribute the water. The program then encourages those families to send a message back to the central control board as soon as the water begins flowing. NextDrop then messages the rest of the group to let them know that the water is flowing.

Another group is even changing the way that nonprofit companies organize and approach the problem of clean water altogether. The Peer Water Exchange (PWX) basically allows local, grassroots initiatives to submit their clean water project for review to be evaluated by the community. The platform assigns peer reviewers from different countries who score the projects and if a proposal receives a certain score, it receives funding. And, because there are a number of wonderful humanitarian nonprofits, they often are forced to compete for the same amount of limited funding, but on PWX, the competitors are encouraged to collaborate: in sourcing materials, ideas, and helping to make great projects generate that all important corporate buzzword: synergy. And, once a project is greenlighted, volunteers monitor the projects and their success.

ITT Residential & Commercial Water, which seeks to provide clean drinking water to communities, says that one of their most insurmountable problems is educating the communities that they are helping about the importance of clean drinking water. In response, ITT Watermark has reached out to the crowdsourcing universe for innovative new ideas about how to reach their communities in return for a $5,000 reward for the winning idea. The proposals are now in review and ITT will hopefully announce their winner soon.

What are some other humanitarian causes that could utilize the strengths of community to solve their problems? What other platforms are serving nonprofits and the crowd at the same time?

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