Groundcrew, for large-scale public coordination

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Groundcrew, for large-scale public coordination

United States
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

About You
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45 Trumbull Rd

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Your idea
Will you launch your idea as a business or non-profit?


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What is your idea? What makes it innovative? Why is it important?

Think about the moment you come home from work.

The easiest thing to do is to sit down and watch TV or browse the internet. It would be much harder to actually engage in your local community, by volunteering, working on a project, or doing something local and fun.

With Groundcrew, we're going to change that. We're working to make community engagement as easy, and as straightforward, as watching TV. This means new tools for organizers, and new tools for citizens to help them get involved. With these tools, getting involved locally is as simple as sending a text message or pressing a button on your phone.

Here's how it works. Using our web interface, worthy projects, organizations, and businesses can build "squads" of real-world helpers/participants. Organizers can view data from their squad in real-time, using text messaging and GPS; they can see who's available at any moment; and they can give assignments—either mass assignments or systems of individual assignments—to help people work together.

Once a pool of organizers exists within a community, it becomes much easier to get involved. Rather than turning on the TV or browsing the internet, you can announce that you're available by using an application on your phone or sending a text message. In short order, you'll be doing something that takes your schedule and your interests into account, and that is guaranteed to be local, social, valuable, and fun.

Isolation and social disconnection will be less prevalent. It will also be easier to make almost anything happen. When anyone has an idea worth organizing, it gets sent to the pool of organizers and—provided there are squad members available with the appropriate interests and skills—the idea can be realized immediately. Organizers can also respond to individual or group needs or to live reports. Ultimately, this is a new paradigm for organizing life in our cities, both economically and personally, using mobile technology.

What will be the impact of your idea?

When we started, we asked ourselves what missing technology would help most in planning, executing, and incentivizing good works. Our answer, Groundcrew, will affect individuals, communities, and the world, and bring us good works, coordination, and joy.

Individually, each of us could use help making our dreams come true. From planting a flower garden to gathering thousands, Groundcrew lends us organizers and participants. When we are more available to one another, we become more secure, more connected, and more powerful.

Books like Putnam's "Bowling Alone" document the loss of social capital in our cities and towns, but Groundcrew can bring it back. This social capital can make up for shortfalls in municipal budgets and local businesses. From citizen journalism to public works, actions can be performed by coordinated volunteers when other resources aren't available.

Most importantly, Groundcrew encourages exactly those good works which the money economy leaves out. Participants gain points for causing positive experiences, and the system supports sharing resources—cars, tools, extra homes—with those who've done good work. This leads to a lifestyle of sharing and access and makes positive action pay. We all know hard-up people we could help and friends we could care for, but we prioritize what pays the bills. Since Groundcrew brings real rewards for helping others, we can each afford to do more. Those who do the most good of all get the most support.

People: We are looking for ideas from people who can make them happen.

Development has been underway for almost two years, and several events have already been coordinated using Groundcrew technology. We have an SMS service up and running, several private testers, and 500 test users. Our founder hails from Dartmouth and MIT, has worked in many top research labs, and has assembled an all-star team of advisors and associates. He focused first on development and beta testing, and is only just now starting to raise money and to hire. Although we are pre-funded, several people are ready to jump in full-time, including accomplished UI designers, marketers, system administrators, and business development people. A number of high-profile individuals have been involved as advisors, contractors, and supporters, including Jane McGonigal (SXSW keynote speaker, game designer), Katrin Verclas (mobile tech expert), Ze Frank (internet celebrity and branding expert), and many more.

How much will it cost to launch your idea?

We seek to raise $500,000 from grants and investors in the next few months. Backend development is mostly complete, so this is for user testing, interface improvements, business development, SMS costs, and community support, and development of additional mobile clients. One particularly exciting expense: we're hiring community organizers in multiple cities to run free workshops with local non-profits, helping them begin to develop squads and to adapt their volunteering for larger crowds and more enjoyable tasks. We're also involving ourselves in large-scale arts events involving thousands of participants.

In the long run, our community presence will be supported by business uses. We are in dialogue with a number of potential customers, from field service companies (bike messengers, carpet cleaners), to large-scale participatory marketing events (city-wide, Nokia-branded games), from local newspapers who want a squad of citizen reporters, to large non-profit and entertainment events (walk for hunger, lollapaloza) involving massive coordination. These medium-to-large-scale customers are more than willing to pay for coordination.

We are interested in and will pursue other revenue models, from selling to municipalities directly, to offering participants options for ad-hoc mobile contracting and paid work. The degree of preliminary interest, however, indicates that business and large-scale coordination use is sufficient to get started in the near-term.