Five lessons in collaboration from Copenhagen

This week the world’s brightest minds in collaboration gathered in Copenhagen for Crowdsourcing Week Europe, sharing their tales and offering up key insights for anyone wanting to make the most out of the crowd economy...

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Never one to miss out, Virgin hopped on its bicycle and headed for the city’s IT University to get amongst the action. The slick, futuristic setting played host to three days of fascinating talks on everything from smart cities to the future of the sharing economy.

So what did we learn? Here are our top five insights from the week...

1. Europe loves collaboration. One of the week’s first speakers, Sean Moffitt of Wikibrands, started his talk by underlining the love that the continent has for crowdfunding, by pointing out that six out of the top seven top crowdfudning cities in the world are based in Europe – with just Melbourne representing activity elsewhere.

London was once again leading the way, a point that was later backed up by Barry E. James of The Crowdfunding Centre, who presented an interactive map of all the live crowdfunding projects currently being undertaken across the world. Despite the fact that 14 are started each and every day in New York City, it still couldn’t topple London as the crowdfunding king.

2. Collaboration can save your city. There were many ambitious plans laid out at Crowdsourcing Week Europe, none more so than by smart cities expert and Fab Lab director Tomas Diez, who announced his intentions for Barcelona to become self-sufficient in 40 years’ time.

"When I was a child people thought that by the 2000s cars would be flying and that hasn’t happened, actually our relationship with the planet has probably worsened during that time," explained Diez. "However we now have the internet which is connected to tools such as 3D printers, that is just the tip of the iceberg. These things can allow us to act right now. Fab Labs are places with machines and people who can help you to make almost anything, from a computer to an entire house."

3. It can result in the digital birth of a nation. Without doubt, the most inspirational talk of the week came from Kushtrim Xhakli of Digital Kosovo, who told the gathering about his challenge of getting Kosovo recognised as a nation. Not by international governments (of which 110 already do so, including 56% of United Nations members) but by Internet companies.

“This initiative helps overcome the virtual barriers which currently exist by encouraging a range of Internet properties from shopping websites to travel to add Kosovo to their sites,” explained Xhakli. “Using Digital Kosovo advances Kosovo’s digital presence across major websites around the world, so that citizens of Kosovo can take advantage of all the Internet has to offer in the same way as all global citizens.” Through collaboration the movement is pinpointing areas of focus, helping to change minds and registering wins as Kosovo is listed on sites, most recently success stories have included Facebook and Dropbox.

4. If you want to crowdsource, do it the Lego way. If you ever wanted a demonstration of the utter joy that can come through collaboration, then you need only to look at how Lego do it. Troels Lange Andersen of the Lego Group kicked things off by telling us the wonderfully simple sum of “something awesome +Lego = a great idea.” That something awesome might be Minecraft, Batman or even the Sydney Opera House.

To find these great ideas the brand has mobilised a hungry group called ‘Lego Ideas’, with a current membership count of 132,000 – 75% of which regularly return to the platform. The group submits ideas for new products, which then have to gain support from fellow members before being reviewed and put into production. The results have seen some of the best-selling pieces of Lego of all time, allowing Lego to replace 60% of products every year and become the biggest toy company in the world.

5. The crowd still isn’t truly open to the entire crowd, yet. One of the more passionate talks of the week came from Babou Olengha-Aaby of Mums Mean Business, who made some cutting points about the inclusivity of crowdfunding platforms. "If crowdfunding is going to be as disruptive and as game-changing as we all say it is then it can’t start at $5. That would exclude 1.3 billion people in the world," argued Olengha-Aaby. "We have to come to the starting point of $1, everyone can get together $1, even the poorest people out there."

This idea touched upon a theme which was fairly constant throughout many of the week’s talks. Crowdfunding has the capacity to have a wonderfully positive impact on so many more groups than it currently is. Be it female entrepreneurs or start-ups in Africa, more needs to be done to make the crowd more inclusive.

Thubnail from gettyimages.

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