Innovation Methodology

The Crowd4SDG project organizes three one-year cycles of innovation, aimed at coaching teams of young social entrepreneurs through the steps of building a citizen science project. Each project tackles a challenge related to Climate Action and involves crowdsourcing tools that can generate data relevant for tracking progress towards the SDGs.

The innovation methodology used follows a “GEAR Methodology” to coach teams through the innovation process required to develop new citizen science projects. Each GEAR cycle includes several phases of online coaching and in-person support: Gather, Evaluated, Accelerate AND Refine. The first two phases are promoted as a global competition for ideas, called the Open17 Challenge, on the social network Goodwall.

The best teams then benefit from a Challenge-Based Innovation Workshop (CBIW), which focuses on building a working prototype for the project, using crowdsourcing tools developed by the Crowd4SDG consortium partners as well as other relevant crowdsourcing tools.

The most promising projects are invited to participate in the Geneva Trialogue, an opportunity to meet sponsors and potential partners amongst the International Organizations in Geneva. 

Each phase of the GEAR methodology filters projects based on their novelty, relevance, feasibility, and appropriate use of crowdsourcing tools, and helps participants advance towards practical deployment.

Recognising that this simple methodology could be used more widely and adapted to local linguistic needs and sustainable development challenges, Crowd4SDG is developing a set of assets for running independent innovation challenges based on the GEAR cycle and its components, called CBIWx. 

The citizen science projects developed in the three GEAR cycles of Crowd4SDG aim to address the nexus between Climate Action (SDG 13) and several other key SDGs: sustainable cities (SDG 11 in 2020), gender equality (SDG 5 in 2021), and peace, justice and strong institutions (SDG 16 in 2022).

Next GEAR cycle

The next GEAR cycle is on climate justice. The Gather phase will launch on 1 August 2022. 


In this phase of GEAR, a call for CS projects through the O17 Challenge, on a specific SDG theme is launched and widely publicized, notably through related EU support actions such as EU-Citizen Science. This phase lasts ten weeks, including a two-week period where a committee selects a set of 50 participants from a pool of 250 applicants based on a series of objective criteria. 


In the second phase of GEAR, the selected participants take part in the O17 Challenge 5-week coaching programme, to develop their CS ideas in virtual teams towards compelling pitches. This phase aims to challenge participants with real-world constraints that their CS projects would face if deployed. A panel judges the pitches in the final week of the coaching programme.


In the third phase, between 10 and 20 participants, corresponding to 2-4 projects selected from the O17 Challenge, are chosen based on both the quality of their projects and specific soft skills demonstrated during the coaching sessions. They are invited to participate in a two-week intensive Challenge Based Innovationworkshop at CERN. Other participants are encouraged to develop their projects locally in satellite events held in parallel with the Challenge Based Innovation workshop at CERN, using similar methods.


In the final phase, two participants representing the most promising projects from the Accelerate phase are invited to present themselves during a two-day international event on SDGs held in Geneva or Paris. Representatives of various stakeholders (UN agencies, National Statistical Offices, academic CS experts, private sector, and NGO representatives) provide the projects with concrete feedback. In this phase, Crowd4SDG partners work with regional incubators for technology and social innovation to deliver the projects with substantial opportunities for subsequent development.