Crowd4SDG is a Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Action supported by the European Commission’s Science with and for Society (SwafS) programme.

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), launched by the UN in 2015, are underpinned by 169 concrete targets and 232 measurable indicators. Some of these indicators have no established measurement methodology. For others, many countries do not have the data collection capacity. Measuring progress towards the SDGs is thus a challenge for most national statistical offices.

Based on shared expertise in crowdsourcing for disaster response, the transdisciplinary Crowd4SDG consortium of six partners is researching how applications of artificial intelligence and machine learning can enhance citizen science projects involving non-traditional data sources such as social media, in order to provide effective monitoring of SDG targets and indicators by citizens.

The Crowd4SDG partners are also rigorously assessing the quality of the scientific knowledge and usefulness of practical innovations occurring when teams develop new citizen science projects aimed at tackling the SDGs. This research occurs through regular hands-on innovation events during the course of the three-year project.

These events involve both online and in-person coaching, following a novel innovation cycle called GEAR (Gather, Evaluate, Accelerate, Refine). The GEAR cycle starts with online selection and coaching of citizen-generated ideas, during an Open Seventeen Challenge (O17). The most promising projects are accelerated during a Challenge-Based Innovation (CBI) Workshop. Top projects are further refined at annual SDG conferences, to optimize their impact.

Launched in May 2020, in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, the Crowd4SDG project partners immediately set about applying their hands-on research and innovation methodologies to improving the quality and quantity of data about Covid-19 available to scientists and decision makers. A long-term focus of the Crowd4SDG project is on SDG 13, Climate Action, to explore new ways of applying citizen science for monitoring the impacts of extreme climate events and strengthening the resilience of communities to disasters, climate-related or otherwise, a challenge that has gained heightened importance in the Covid era.

A wide range of stakeholders, including UN agencies, government authorities, the private sector, NGOs, academia, innovation incubators and maker spaces are actively involved in advising the project and exploiting the scientific knowledge and technical innovations that it generates. In particular, the project partners are using direct channels they have to the United Nations and National Statistical Offices (NSOs) to provide recommendations on best practices for generating citizen data and encouraging grassroots innovation for the SDGs.

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