Wikipedia: the most accurate online encyclopedia in the world in which people have invested hundreds of millions of hours. Without receiving a dime in return. Avaaz.org: an online activism platform that has more than 21 million members, a million more than one month ago, who together fight injustice in the world. AirBnB: a platform that was set up by three guys who wanted to earn a little extra, that allows you to rent out your house or an extra room to tourists and that was set up in 2009 and now has more than 5.5 million addresses in all countries of the world. Kickstarter: a platform through which, without the intervention of the usual financial establishments, more than 2 million people in 2012 alone made more than 300 million euros available for the financing of more than 18,000 projects.
Are above examples impressive? Absolutely. Are they unique? Increasingly less so. There is more to come. We cannot deny that we live in an era in which, partially thanks to the Internet, those of a like mind have the means, at little or no cost, to come together and make a difference. Faster than ever before and free of physical or psychological limitations. The value of feeling good about yourself, doing the right thing, having a wonderful experience, or creating enlightening or inspiring memories increasingly motivates us more than the value of money. The quote ‘the only limit is your imagination’ seems truer than ever. What is the secret behind these successes? What can we learn from the current successes and failures? Where is all this taking us? How can we make it even better? And even more interesting: what’s next? Democracy? Education? Science? Health Care? And is there still a place for large corporate organizations in the future? And if so: what role will they play? Or will we, world citizens, being taking care of ourselves in the near future?
Now that the initial whirlwind has generated its first successes and demanded its first victims it is time to take stock of the situation. To analyze what we have learned and to map the opportunities and the threats. To determine what went right and what is still going right. Because in this day and age of latching onto every hype and grumbling about the past, it is a pity that we tend to forget to take our lessons from the past in order to improve the future. Which would allow us to make the most of the options we have now and will have in the future. And that is the challenge that I am taking on with Crowd Expedition. Crowd Expedition is a full-time ‘trip’ that will take at least two years, during which I, together with a team of professionals and trainees, will analyze the best and worst practices of organizations such as Wikipedia, Avaaz.org, Linux and TED, whereby international experts in, among others, sociology, marketing, mass psychology, philosophy, experience economy, history and user experience design will share their views on the most recent developments, universities will loan me their researchers and students, and five founding partners will compare their acquired knowledge to how things actually go in practice in order to find out what the future of their businesses looks like – after which the results will be made available to any and everyone. These will be brought together in, among others, a documentary and a book offering a model and method that we will all be able to learn from.
Why am I doing this? Because I feel like we are living in a candy store: unlimited possibilities, countless flavors, an unclear vision, and so much to choose from. Time to find out which candies and which flavors will allow us to make the optimum mix and create maximum value when working together on a worldwide basis. To provide people with tools and advice and to allow these collaborations to follow the best possible course, while continually focusing on creating added value for all parties. And to make the most of it. Without having to hide away in a corner with a stomachache when it is all over and done and without having to decide never to touch another sweet.
Time to set out on an expedition. Are you joining me?