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How Social Distancing Is Making Us Good at Crowdsourcing. Like, Really, Really Good

BY ALISON LLOYD | 4 min read

Contributing author >> Eloise Young

Social Distancing Then and Now

Just over one hundred years ago people across the globe were dealing with the Spanish Flu pandemic that affected about one third of the world’s population. At that time, social distancing and quarantine measures meant complete isolation from the outside world.  Citizens who were confined to their homes had no way to connect to the rest of society, except through their living room windows - or, if they were lucky, through pen and paper. But in today’s efforts to combat COVID-19, social media and the internet connects us all, whether we are in Iceland, New York City, or on a mountain top in New Zealand. This is the power we have at our fingertips, the power we can harness right from our own living room. Crowdsourcing in the time of COVID-19 is not just a tool used by industry and organizations, but is becoming an invaluable resource for the everyday person looking for solutions to their new and unique problems. Has crowdsourcing become a necessity in this new, socially distanced world?


Today, social networking and the resultant virtual communities have broken down the walls that once confined us. Current social distancing regulations have forced us to be more innovative and to look at personal and global challenges in new and creative ways. In a time when the “new normal” seems to shift hourly, we find ourselves trying to navigate new processes and find actionable solutions to our unique challenges. Examples range from sourcing limited grocery items to solving imminent global health care challenges. Social distancing is encouraging us to turn to our online communities for solutions, and we are getting really, really good at it.


Harnessing the Online Community in the Time of Covid-19

Today COVID-19 is presenting us with new and unique challenges in almost every aspect of our lives, and crowdsourcing is providing some of the solutions.  

At one point Chrissy Teigen, an American model, television personality, and author, was faced with the challenge of finding some romaine lettuce. Respecting the social distancing protocol, Chrissy crowdsourced a solution through Twitter: “I’ll make a banana bread for anyone that has romaine lettuce. The trade will be made 6 feet apart and we will place the goods on the floor. no funny business. @chrissyteigen.” Her plea drew lots of attention on social media, which resulted in YouTube comedian Chris Klemens coming through with the goods. Chrissy and Klemens agreed to make the trade in a parking lot, with the help of a remote-controlled toy. Chris got his homemade banana bread and Chrissy got her romaine lettuce, while both respected the social distancing protocol.


Out of stock items at the grocery store is something that everyone is facing these days. More and more people are baking at home for both nourishment and to pass the time.  “The coronavirus lockdown has turned us into a nation of bakers,” writes Daisy Jackson, a contributor to the Manchester Evening News.  Yeast is an essential ingredient in making bread, and it is currently almost impossible to find.  Again, crowdsourcing has helped to find a work around. Sudeep Agarwala, a biologist at Ginkgo Bioworks in Massachusetts, posted a tweet that not only explained the simple process of growing your own yeast at home but also described it as a nurturing, meaningful experience - which is something we can all use a little more of right now.  Agarwala says, “Hug it while you binge Netflix. Cuddle it while you yearn for human touch once again.” His simple message generated over 20,000 tweets at the time of writing and provided many people with a solution to their yeast shortage. 


The Personal and Global Rewards of Crowdsourcing in the time of COVID-19

Industries and organizations continue to use crowdsourcing to navigate the numerous health and health-related issues that face us today.  HospitalityHelps is helping to address the shortage of beds that has arisen due to COVID-19.  The community of hospitality operators recognized that the current downturn in their industry can be used to alleviate a problem in the healthcare system.  Field hospitals and the sheltering of healthcare professionals that go to help wherever they are needed are just two examples where bed shortages are a concern.  The site allows groups to either post a need for beds or post availability of beds, so that the organization can connect the need with availability.  To date they have pledged over one million beds. 


To help the World Health Organization (WHO) get its COVID-19 messages out in all languages, the United Nations (UN) has launched a global challenge. The challenge’s powerful call to action is “You have the power to change the world. The UN needs your help to stop the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).”  By tapping into the global community, this challenge is yielding many different and creative ways of getting critical public health messages out to people everywhere. The successful candidates will be shortlisted and will have the satisfaction of knowing that their work will “reach everyone, everywhere.” 


Call to Action

Living in the time of COVID-19 has given us countless examples of how social distancing is making us better at crowdsourcing.  However, there are infinite possibilities yet to be explored. Whether it is finding innovative ways to feed our most vulnerable, to educate our children, or to still participate in that beneficial yoga class, we are finding solutions together through the crowd. 


You can be an active member of the community, be a part of the solution, and give back to your local or global community.   If you need inspiration for getting involved, visit our collection of COVID-19 related opportunities at   If you have an opportunity that you want posted there, complete this form.  Nonprofit organizations can post their COVID-19 challenges for free.  Click here to learn more. 




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