Crowdsourcing meets the needs of vulnerable families

April 28, 2020


A short time ago, our Accelerator Lab portfolio of experiments was rolling with our efforts on young people and waste issues. Yet the lockdown due to the rise of coronavirus COVID-19 in Ecuador has obliged us to redirect our efforts.

The health emergency is felt throughout the world, but what are some of the particularities of this crisis for us? Ecuador faces many challenges; there are just 1.4 hospital beds for every 1,000 people.

The lockdown is an effective measure to prevent the virus from spreading but there are those who cannot afford to stay home, because they depend on their daily livelihoods for their family’s survival. These are a few of the pressing conditions that made us speed up our search for answers, so we began by mapping citizen initiatives to bring in more connectivity and collaboration, despite social distancing.

Peer sharing

International and national solutions multiplied quickly. We organized them by categories as a joint effort with the Accelerator Lab network. It became a peer sharing and consultation platform where we could pick up ideas and adapt them to meet our needs.

In times of hoarding and shortage of products such as facemasks and disinfectants, homemade formulas and DIY patterns for facemasks were shared. We started talking with NGO’s and civil society organizations involved in food donations to collectively map out locations of vulnerable families, such as waste pickers, pregnant women and mothers with infants under one year old, and families in rural communities.

We were approached by citizens who wanted to help, send a food basket, or donate but they didn’t know how or where. It quickly became clear that while big donations were reaching institutional collection centres, distribution to vulnerable families was a big challenge. We needed a way to organically match citizen needs to those who could help.

Citizens collaborate

We came across an NGO called Fundación San Francisco Global, who had recently been named as the President’s Office civil society counterpart to institute the first public innovation lab in the country as part of Ecuador’s first Open Government Action Plan. Fundación San Francisco Global had focused their efforts on adapting open sourced crowdsourcing where citizens could share their needs and find collaborators. In the twinkling of an eye, we partnered with them and began to co-design and imagine the functionalities of this collaborative citizen platform in the course of a weekend.

We jointly named the platform “Colaboratorio Ciudadano” (Citizen Collaboratory), based on the principles of solidarity, grassroots organizing and crowdsourcing. It hopes to bring together many initiatives that need to be articulated in a single platform. In a moment of confinement, this tool has the purpose of reaching out to the community outside our households’ perimeter.

The Citizen Collaboratory will include a map where citizens can crowdsource their needs and their geographic locations in real time such that other users can join and collaborate in different ways; donating food supplies, helping out their elderly neighbour with their groceries, swap goods or services or even share ideas on innovative solutions to the health crisis.

Collective intelligence

The Collaboratory will register the locations of small businesses, agro-producers and entrepreneurs so that citizens can shop locally. Users will be able to donate to a pool fund so that food donations can be acquired through local producers. Citizens will be able to rate initiatives as a communal prioritizing mechanism to indicate which needs require urgent action. Collective intelligence at its finest!

The platform will be open to the public through a transparency section so that all citizens can keep track of what’s happening. In times like this where misinformation and so called “fake news” are aplenty, the Collaboratory will have an informational section with up-to-date official data.

Within UNDP, the Collaboratory initiative doesn’t stand on its own, as we are joining efforts with our country offices Inclusive Economic Development and Risk Management Area, where a partnership with the Ministry of Production, Foreign Trade, Investment and Fisheries is looking at digital transformation strategies to help small businesses adapt to the current crisis. We hope to publish the first prototypes of this partnership on the platform to attract further support from citizens and partners.

Stay tuned for the launch of the Citizen Collaboratory! We are seeking more partners to strengthen our work and platform, please do contact or if you have some ideas to share with us!