Crowdsourcing without profit: the role of the seeker in open social innovation

Publication Type:
Journal Article
R and D Management, 2019, 49 (3), pp. 298 - 317
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Crowdsourcing has increasingly been studied as an open innovation (OI) mechanism by which organizations (seekers) engage with an external crowd of potential solvers. Previous crowdsourcing research has focused on solvers and their individual motivations, providing few insights as to why and how seekers use crowdsourcing, and how these choices affect the value that might be realized from these efforts. Prior research has also emphasized profit‐seeking firms, despite the use of OI practices by public sector organizations to achieve societal benefits. This paper examines the organizational and project‐level choices of government agencies that crowdsource from citizens to drive open social innovation, and thus develop new ways to address societal problems, a process sometimes termed ‘citizensourcing.’ Using rich data from 18 local government seekers that use the same intermediary, we develop a model of seeker crowdsourcing implementation that links a previously unstudied variance in seeker intent and engagement strategies to differences in project team motivation and capabilities, in turn leading to varying online engagement behaviors and ultimately project outcomes. Our study compares and contrasts governmental and corporate crowdsourcing to reveal that the non‐pecuniary orientation of both seekers and solvers means that the motives of government crowdsourcing are fundamentally different from corporate crowdsourcing, but the process in our sample more closely resembles that of a firm‐sponsored community rather than government sponsored contests. More generally, we show how seeker organizational factors and choices shape project‐level implementation and success of crowdsourcing efforts, as well as provide insights for OI activities of other smaller, geographically bound organizations.
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