This spring, the Faculty of Social Sciences has carried out a crowdsourcing project of exceptional breadth in the Finnish university field. In the first half of May, a platform was launched on the otakantaa.fi website, where feedback can be provided on the draft Code of Conduct drawn up by the Committee for Wellbeing and Equality and the topic discussed constructively. The platform includes a survey on experiences of the realisation of equality at the Faculty.
The idea for crowdsourcing was based on the need to integrate a code of conduct into the everyday life of the Faculty community. The Faculty of Social Sciences is composed of scholars with a critical mindset who wish to influence matters affecting themselves. The Code of Conduct may be overlooked if it is considered patronising administration or unsuitable in its wording. To prevent this, the aim was to utilise the expertise of the Faculty community in democratic innovations that boost inclusivity.
In January, the Centre for Social Data Science operating in the Faculty began organising the crowdsourcing under the direction of Professor Krista Lagus. The slogan ‘A fair and safe Faculty – Together’ was chosen as the theme of the project. A team of researchers composed of Lagus, University Lecturer Maria Valaste, Vice Dean Hanna Wass, who oversees matters related to equality, and several research assistants found it important that the crowdsourcing be open to the entire Faculty, from students to professors and from porters to administrative staff. Another key principle was to carry out the project in an academically ambitious and technically high-quality manner.
To increase awareness of the crowdsourcing project, the researcher team designed a multi-channel marketing strategy. A Finnish-language article published in the Helsingin Sanomat daily in late April, in which Vice-Dean Hanna Wass described the project and its background, served as the initial impetus. The project was presented more widely to staff and students in an equality-themed day organised at the Faculty in the beginning of May. In conjunction with the release of the discussion platform, the researcher team distributed posters promoting the project across Faculty premises. The project was also advertised on the Faculty’s mailing list and social media accounts.
The researcher team considered it a risk that a discussion platform open to all could be subject to external harassment. As a result, moderating shifts were agreed to enable immediate responses to inappropriate messages. However, no such messages have been posted. Instead, the discussion has involved only members of the Faculty community. If anything, inspiring participants has become a challenge. As of the beginning of June, 74 members of the Faculty community have responded to the survey on the platform, while the discussion area has 51 comments. This is why a decision was made to keep the platform open until the beginning of the period of summer peace. The members of the researcher team also actively initiate discussions and ask further questions on the platform.
At the end of the crowdsourcing process, all data collected will be carefully analysed, respecting the anonymity of the respondents, and utilised in the Faculty’s equality efforts. Extracts from public comments in the discussion area can also be published on the campus info screens or in other visualisations of the material. Seeing your text in a public space may engender a more profound feeling of being heard. In fact, the crowdsourcing project is part of a more extensive process of establishing practices that promote equality. In an environment seen as safe, it is easier to identify and address structural deficiencies, as well as take initiatives to rectify them.
A sense of belonging to a reciprocal and respectful community supports wellbeing and functional capabilities in work and studying. However, inclusivity can be advanced only collaboratively. Based on the experiences gained at the Faculty of Social Sciences, crowdsourcing has proven to be a viable tool that could be utilised more broadly in University administration.