Collective Intelligence for Sustainable Development: Getting Smarter Together

Getting Smarter Together

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Collective Intelligence for Sustainable Development: Getting Smarter Together

May 13, 2021

Authors: Kathy Peach, Aleks Berditchevskaia, Geoff Mulgan, Gina Lucarelli, Mirko Ebelshaeuser.

Getting Smarter Together is the first report in our publication series Collective Intelligence for Sustainable Development. It analyses and compares the methods and tools used by over 200 global organizations from both the private and public sector sharing examples cutting across all aspects of Agenda 2030. The study discovered 15 methods that are being used most frequently, and often in combination, from crowdsourcing to web scraping and remote sensing. The study also found that Artificial Intelligence is also increasingly being used in parallel, mainly to increase the speed and efficiency of data processing at scale.

This research presents six key ‘use cases’ - practical ways in which people are using collective intelligence approaches for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): 

  1. New forms of accountability and governance: where eyewitness video and crowdmapping are being used to document violence or human rights abuses, with a view to holding perpetrators to account.
  2. Anticipating, monitoring and adapting to systemic risks: where a combination of web-scraped data, crowdsourced observations from volunteers, and location information from crowdmappers are helping organizations to improve their capacity for early warning and monitoring of, and response to, natural disasters, conflict and epidemics.
  3. Real-time monitoring of the environment: where citizen science and in-situ or remote sensing methods (such as satellites) complement existing ways of monitoring the state of environments – from air quality to deforestation – to fill data gaps in environmental monitoring.
  4. Understanding and working with complex systems: where collective intelligence is helping policy makers and development organizations to visualize the dynamics of complex systems, uncover insights that have previously been hidden and understand the different needs or experiences of diverse or changing populations.
  5. Inclusive development and technologies: where crowdmapping, citizen reporting and mobile phone surveys can be used to engage people whose voices are often not counted, helping to deliver on the SDGs’ promise to ‘leave no one behind’. This use case also looks at methods to develop fairer artificial intelligence (AI) systems.
  6. Distributed problem solving: where organisations are tapping into people’s problem solving capabilities to make progress on issues where there is a lack of established solutions and practices, or when new and locally-appropriate solutions are in high demand.