Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Myoo Uses Crowdsourcing For Sustainability Solutions

A windmill, a solar-powered dome, and dryer hidden behind a piece of art are just some of the dozens of ideas that people have for air-drying their clothes instead of tossing them in the dryer. These ideas have been uploaded as part of a new crowdsourcing contest: The winner takes home $4,500 in prizes and corporate sponsor Levi's gets new insight into how its consumers think about saving water and energy. Behind the challenge is Myoo Create, a new company that works with brands to launching sustainability-focused crowdsourcing challenges that engage consumers and spur innovation.

Launching in April of this year, Myoo Create (that's "me + you") has ties to another crowdsourcing company, Jovoto, who hosted the recent Starbucks Beta Cup challenge that ended last week. Jovoto works with companies on business-innovation focused ideas, running contests that range from product naming to brand development. But as more companies came to Jovoto with more challenges related to environmental and social change, they saw the need for a distinct community, just as Myoo Create was launching. So Jovoto shared their platform and technology with Myoo Create in a fruitful, timely partnership. Myoo Create also benefits from funding provided by Adventure Ecology, a company best known for its sailing endeavors on the plastic-bottle boat Plastiki.

Although there are other corporate-sponsored crowdsourcing sites like Innocentive, which recently launched a challenge to contain the Gulf oil spill, and can offer up to $1 million in prizes, Myoo Create is the first community dedicated specifically to sustainability-related challenges. Crowdsourcing has been heralded as a way to help companies tap marketplace solutions faster, but it's especially valuable when it comes to helping companies solve challenges around waste, packaging or materials, where consumers often want change to come more quickly, too, says Myoo Create's Rebecca Petzel. "Myoo Create allows organizations to increase the pace and effectiveness of innovation towards sustainability by harnessing the global brain."

An example of how Myoo Create works can be seen in its current challenge issued by Levi's, which went live June 1. The fashion retailer came to them after surveying their supply chain and realizing that over 50% of the environmental impact of their jeans happens after they've left their stores--during the phase when consumers were washing and drying their jeans. This was no longer a message about Levi's products, it needed to be a message that urged consumers to modify their behavior. Myoo Create helped Levi's workshop their concern into a challenge that was engaging and entertaining for its audience--find a better way to air-dry jeans--and Levi's wrapped it into a larger campaign named Care to Air.

boukie1984's concept for Levi's hides clotheslines behind The Climb-Line

On the outset, this challenge might seem too frivolous to advance any kind of social change; besides, a standard clothesline has worked just fine for most jean-washers throughout history. But Petzel says that the contest is not just about producing an actual air dryer product, it's also to get Levi's fans thinking about the issues. "We've had people come to us and say, I'm not sure we need to redesign the clothesline, but we need to be reminded to air dry, so thank you for that,'" she says. Plus, many of the solutions make air-drying more attractive, addressing an all-too-real challenge that many people face in their neighborhoods: Clotheslines are actually outlawed by many homeowners' associations.

Although she agrees that this challenge is on the lighthearted side, Petzel says to watch the site for Myoo Create to address much more complex issues to come. Some ideas Myoo Creates are really interested in are supporting the fashion industry's Better Cotton initiative and coming up with solutions for removing the excessive hanger waste in clothing stores, she says. "The process of getting a garment off a truck and onto shelves is a really wasteful process and no one has been able to find a solution."

Myoo Create works much like any other online community: Users create profiles and upload their work so it can be shown publicly. The way the community is structured, Myoo helps to engage its members in an open-source, constructive way that encourages sharing. Members can comment on other people's solutions, and Myoo's platform allows people to improve and re-upload their submissions based on feedback. Members can vote up their favorite ideas, and those who comment frequently can be named Most Valuable Community Member, receving up to $500 for providing help to the community.

The Bamboo Mat Air Dry system for small spaces, designed by kavish_sekhri

One issue that's important for a crowdsourcing process to address is ownership. At Myoo Create, users upload their work as a non-exclusive agreement that allows their work to be shared and distributed. Creative Commons is used on Myoo Create's site, but for each challenge they have to address the needs of their clients on a case-by-case basis to find different agreements that legally work for each of them. Winning ideas can be put into production by the company or sometimes its up to the creative to actually implement it. But Myoo Create's users are also unique since the motivation behind most people's contributions isn't fame or prizes but the fact that they can use their skills to help. "We are empowering creatives on a whole new scale by allowing anyone a voice at the table to help shape better organizations," says Petzel.

Myoo Create's entrance into the market also represents a changing shift in the conversation between consumers and brands. A study by the consumer research group Cone showed that not only do consumers want to have an active role in determining their favorite brands' decisions, they expect them to listen to them. This becomes especially critical around sustainability issues where about 80% of consumers say they have ideas for companies to improve their policies, says Petzel. "The numbers highlight the opportunity for Myoo Create, and an open, innovative crowd-sourcing community 100% dedicated to helping organizations open up about the tough challenges facing us all."

Crowdsourcing also drives brand loyalty. According to the same study, consumers said they would be 60% more likely to buy a company's products and services if the company incorporated their ideas. By getting the word out that these companies are trying to improve their sustainability efforts, it makes consumers get the sense that a company wants to change and want to be a part of it. Perhaps most importantly, consumers can also hold companies publicly accountable to actually implement new policies, says Petzel. "We make it far more attractive and viable for organizations to commit to tackling their sustainability challenges."


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