Harnessing collective intelligence about collective intelligence

Nesta’s new Centre for Collective Intelligence Design (CCID) is taking shape to address how humans and computers can work together more intelligently in order to tackle social problems. Our launch event on September 17th is coming closer and we are already working on exciting projects which will help us to grow expertise in both the understanding and practice of collective intelligence; that is, mobilising human and machine intelligence at scale. We will be building on insights drawn from previous, high-profile and well-known examples of collective intelligence, such as Wikipedia, Duolingo, WikiHouse, or Makerbot.

At the moment, we are busy researching and mapping existing projects in the field to create a more comprehensive picture of what's already out there and to identify patterns, trends, and gaps. This will help us build an evidence base to demonstrate how collective intelligence can contribute to solving the big social issues of our time. We have pulled together some of our recent favourites in the fields of agriculture, health, governance and more.

Feeling inspired? Let us know what we’re missing! Tell us where you’ve seen collective intelligence in action in the comments below.


AIME (Artificial Intelligence in Medical Epidemiology) predicts and manages disease outbreaks by combining epidemiology, public health best practices, and machine learning. AIME’s dengue fever outbreak prediction platform provides its users with an exact geolocation and date of the next dengue outbreak, three months before it happens, with an average accuracy of over 86%. AIME also provides a customizable analytics platform to understand users’ public health data, providing time charts, historic mapping of diseases, and rumor reports from social media.

Other healthy favourites: Influenzanet, MetaSUB, Epistemonikos, uMotif, PatientsLikeMe

Agriculture/Food Security

plant growing

We Farm is a digital peer-to-peer network which helps small-scale farmers in remote areas without internet access receive the information and knowledge they might need in a specific situation. It also enables them to share their expertise and innovative, low-cost solutions to a variety of issues with others. Farmers can send their questions via a simple and free SMS to We Farm, which publishes the question online and forwards the text message to selected We Farm members. They then receive crowd-sourced answers from other farmers around the world in minutes.

Other agricultural collective intelligence projects: Farm.Ink, Natural Capital Explorer

Governance and Democracy

Indian NGO Janaagraha launched I Paid a Bribe in 2010 to tackle corruption through harnessing the collective energy of citizens. People can anonymously upload reports about when, why, where and to whom they paid a bribe, or about a situation when they refused to do so. I Paid a Bribe reports the incidents to media and government officials, thereby helping to grow city, state and country-level databases of corruption in public services. Janaagraha has also opened up the source code of the tool to help other countries fight corruption.

More democratic pioneers: TrudeauMetre, CitizenFoundation, Consul, Mzalendo, Next Bengaluru. For a fully comprehensive list of examples, have a look at GovLab’s CrowdLaw Catalogue or at Nesta’s report on innovations in digital democracy.

Environment/Climate Change

iceberg breaking off

Regen Network is a global community and blockchain-based platform which aims to regenerate the global ecosystem. The project monitors on-the-ground conditions to determine the ecological state of a piece of land. At the same time, scientists, ecologists, farmers, and community members assess the impact of their ecological actions via Ecological State Protocols. Based on specific verified outcomes, organisations can allocate and distribute funds via ecological contracts. Use cases so far include recording sequestrated carbon and incentivising governments to fulfil their climate commitments.

More collective approaches to environmental issues: Cleanweb, Resilience Dialogues, Peta Bencana

Human Rights

Technological progress and the widespread possession of cheap digital recording equipment in the time of the internet have contributed to the generation of vast amount of real-time data, particularly in urban environments. Forensic Architecture makes use of this data as a new source of evidence for human rights and war crime investigations. Using advanced techniques of architectural analysis and new modes of media research, Forensic Architecture creates 3D models of sites of conflict, animations, and interactive cartographies, thereby presenting relevant information in a convincing, precise, and accessible way.

Other projects tackling human rights issues: Troll Patrol, Ushahidi

What else is out there?

Collective intelligence is not limited to directly addressing and solving social issues; crowd predictions and projects that specialise in crowdsourcing innovation and creative solutions such as Cosmic People, or projects aimed at encouraging and enabling public participation in research like Galaxy Zoo or the Citizen Cyberlab also constitute prime examples of collective intelligence. Furthermore, there are plenty of tools out there that enable collective intelligence to happen, such as Crowdoscope, Remesh, or ProFinda. Many companies like McKinsey’s QuantumBlack are also recognising the potential of collective intelligence.

Do you know about more collective intelligence projects that are helping organisations become smarter or tackling the big issues of our time (no matter if they fit in one of the categories above or not)? Tell us in the comments below, and please add a link if possible.


Eva Grobbink

Eva Grobbink

Eva Grobbink

Researcher, Centre for Collective Intelligence Design

Eva was a Researcher working in the Explorations team on the Centre for Collective Intelligence Design.

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