Crowdsourcing is the process of getting ideas, data or services from a large group of people, and especially from an online community and through information and communication technologies (ICTs). The iResponse project followed a case-based approach to address societal-environmental challenges in urban sustainability through the use crowdsourcing. The cases are on 1) Sustainable water drainage; 2) Improved air quality; and 3) Effective urban planning. Crowdsourcing is a powerful tool to obtain detailed spatio-temporal information. However, challenges and social concerns need to be taken into account in the design of methods. One of the objectives was to develop two ICT-based tools to address urban environmental challenges based on citizen participation; 1) co-design inclusive urban stormwater solutions, and 2) to retrieve data to better estimate emissions from residential wood combustion.
Methods based on citizen participation were tested in the cases by the use of existing tools. Participation was found to be one of the biggest challenges both regarding stakeholders and citizens. The cases have allowed us to drive some conclusions; 1) the communication strategy is one the most crucial steps in a participatory process; 2) A dissemination based on a broad spectrum of methods may be more successful that a plan around one unique media; 3) Success participation needs to be defined for each project.
In the air quality case, a prototype tool for collecting data and ideas regarding wood combustion was designed and tested. We highlight as lessons learned; 1) feedbacks in designing processes contribute to the improvement of the original idea, 2) testing is a crucial step in making a prototype operational; 3) having a crowdsourcing tool does not mean that you have crowdsourcing, neither participation. Following stakeholder feedbacks, we developed a webcrawling method, defined as the process of extracting and combining in a systematic way contents of interest from the Web. We implemented the webcrawler and retrieved the geographical position of the dwellings being sold or rented out in a classified advertisements website. We have gathered data during one year and classified them based on the type of dwelling and residential heating installation. The data is treated and combined with existing information to provide a comprehensive spatial distribution of wood burning potential. This work allowed us to develop an emission model for Norway to obtain high-resolution emissions from residential wood combustion.
In the stormwater case, we explored and developed crowdsourcing approaches that could enable an improved urban stormwater management. This contributed to better understand of data sources, and how crowdsourcing can be relevant to develop multi-functional nature-based solutions. Location-based crowdsourcing through Public Participation GIS at city and neighborhood scales ware carried out. We also developed, involving multiple actors, a prototype platform to co-create multi-functional blue green solutions by enabling peoples inputs into different phases of the project design. It builds on findings on crowdsourcing approaches used in water management, their prospects and potential challenges. This will be further used in real-life cases.
The social concerns with crowdsourcing was assessed during the project along with reflections on solutions to overcome them. Representative samples from five Norwegian cities were selected to map citizens? knowledge and concerns on the use of digital media, crowdsourcing and participation. 35% reported to have heard of crowdsourcing, 25% had tried to influence spatial planning where 40% believed that their participation had some impact. Considering that the Norwegian government aims at increasing the amount of digital communication with citizens, it is notable that 69% report to communicate seldom or never digitally with authorities, and 40% expected that they would communicate more or less as often as today in the future.
We developed recommendations, applying the RRI framework, for the use of crowdsourcing for urban environmental research in a socially responsible way. The recommendations can be summarized as; 1) Fit-for-purpose, consider carefully if the crowdsourcing method is adequate for the aim of your study; 2) Collaborate and include co-creation, involve diverse stakeholders for input, managing expectations; 3) Communicate, be transparent, responsive towards the crowd, and flexible to implement ideas; 4) Value increase by combining data from different sources and methods; 5) Responsible process, reflect on data privacy, security and open data standards; 6) Impact across borders and long the way, short to long-term, knowledge transfer, awareness, from social to scientific impact. The iResponse project has broadly disseminated along the way and the most relevant material is available on www.iresponse-rri.com/results.
The main iResponse outcomes is the achieved advance in the state of the knowledge on crowdsourcing in urban environmental research. Initiatives and projects have built on the iResponse outcomes, and supported by the RRI framework. A unique model for emission from residential wood burning was developed supported by the Norwegian Environment Agency. Mitigation measures to reduce air pollution in Nedre Glomma, where iResponse results we used, were evaluated with the municipalities. A iResponse study in Sogn Hagekoloni has allowed to raise funding to implement blue-green solutions in stormwater hotspots. We has contributed to raising the knowledge and awareness on RRI in the environmental research community and practitioners. New collaborative efforts were born from iResponse outcomes, e.g., with the International Cryosphere Climate Initiative, the International Water Association, and local community groups and organizations.
The iResponse project will develop and study social responsible ICT-based crowdsourcing tools for environmental research and decision-making processes based on citizen participation and engagement (crowdsourcing). Two crowdsourcing tools will be developed in the project following the principles of responsible research and innovation (RRI); 1) an interactive platform to assess citizen acceptance and involve them in co-creation of water drainage solutions and 2) an application (mobile app/web) to collect data about wood consumption for house heating for estimating emissions. Three main case studies in urban environment will be carried out to test and evaluate the two developed crowdsourcing tools and an existing one, a public participatory map based questionnaire for urban planning (Mapita). The case studies will address different research questions and learning cases regarding the urban environment and citizen participation; 1) sustainable water drainage, 2) air pollution and 3) effective urban planning. The ITC crowdsourcing tools will enable citizens to influence urban planning by expressing their preferences, providing observations or user information. Different participatory ways are therefore foreseen with the use of the different crowdsourcing tools, involving different concerns and challenges. Social concerns will be mapped out and addressed, and possible solutions to overcome them will be proposed based on implementation and testing processes. The project aims at designing tools in a liable way towards responsibility, transparency and openness to the public, without compromising the quality of the research and user needs. In the last phase of the project, recommendations for the development and use of crowdsourcing as tools for environmental research and decision-making (including urban planning) will be elaborated as good practices within the ICT sector.