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Social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia, and platforms like Ushahidi, highlight the rise of the civic economy – one in which value is placed more on relationships between stakeholders using that platform rather than on the value of the actual commodity being exchanged.
Speaking at the NetProphet conference in Cape Town, SwiftRiver’s Director of Products Jon Gosier compares this new value-based economy to bartering marketplaces in India or Africa. The relationships between the barterers in these places determine whether they’ll interact and do business with each other to create the market in the first place.
Analysing this economy and its associated value in an online context is the core function of SwiftRiver, a data-mining platform that is part of disaster crowdsourcing platform Ushahidi. SwiftRiver aims to help companies make the data mining process more efficient by adding context to that data: who is exchanging it, why they’re interacting, what the context of that exchange is, and which individuals within the crowd companies should listen to.
As with a bartering marketplace, the commodity usually being exchanged on these online networks is not money, but rather another currency such as information or reputation.
Using Ushahidi as an example, Gosier says that timely, reliable information replaces money as the value exchange. But beyond this, it is the interrelationships between the various stakeholders using Ushahidi that act as a multiplier to the overall value.
For example, victims of a location-based disaster use the tool to find out information, and volunteers also use it to see where those victims are that need help. In turn, funders use it to see which causes to support, and news producers use it to source up to the minute information which is in turn consumed by the wider public.
In this way, a feedback loop is created where the people involved draw value from the platform, but their interrelationships are what reinforce and increase that value.
SwiftRiver also looks at what makes crowdsourcing work. With 1.7 billion people online, people are participating, sharing ideas, entrepreneurs are sharing their thoughts on business. But what motivates them do this?
Gosier says it’s about two main things:
1. Concurrency – the simultaneous, interconnected action that happens with and around people; and
2. Quid pro quo – the concept that someone will exchange something of value that someone else wants.
If these two elements are fully understood, businesses can monetise the intangible value of a crowdsourcing platform by exploiting the value of relationships between stakeholders.