Social Crowdsourcing: Motivating the Crowd for Value Creation with Social Benefits: A Multiple Case Study

Research on Doing Good Fellows by Irena Asenova

Master Thesis MSc. Eng. Innovation & Business, Mads Clausen Institute, University of Southern Denmark, Sonderborg
Prepared by: Irena Asenova (

Supervisor: Assoc. Professor Marcel Bogers, Mads Clausen Institute

September, 2014  


The interest towards crowdsourcing has significantly increased over the past years, as more and more companies and organizations have been successfully implementing crowdsourcing activities in their workflow. This thesis aims to turn the attention of academics and business towards a relatively new approach in crowdsourcing, focusing on using the wisdom of the crowd to create positive social impact.  The research represents a multiple case study on two social crowdsourcing platforms – Doing Good Fellows and TimeHeores, which are both striving to develop a wide network of non-profit organizations and people, willing to donate their time and expertise online for a good cause. The investigated platforms represent the bridge between both, by providing means for facilitating and managing the relationship and the collaboration processes. The thesis explores the motivational factors of participants to engage, and investigates the effects of social identity on this motivation, through qualitative research approaches and methods.  Furthermore, it argues that social identity triggers intrinsic motivations and influences sustainable participation and value creation.   Finally, using the findings from the qualitative data analysis, this research provides a set of recommendations for managers of social crowdsourcing platforms, which could increase future participation and commitment and maximize their chances of success.          

crowdsourcing; social crowdsourcing; motivation; social identity; value creation; innovation; online community; non-profits; contributors


I would like to express my deepest gratitude to everyone which has taken part and contributed to my thesis.

Foremost, I am eternally thankful to my supervisor, Marcel Bogers, for providing me with the much needed guidance and support during the whole process. Without his patience, devotion and incredible competence as a supervisor, I would not been able to move forward with my research. For that, I am sincerely grateful.  

Furthermore, I would like to show my appreciation to all the people from both platforms whose valuable contribution has made my thesis what it is. I share a great appreciation to the founders and management of Doing Good Fellows and TimeHeroes, and namely Sajid Shariff , Darshana Dave  and Pavel, who accepted me in their platforms and shared their professional journey. To all good and positive people, which I interviewed – Viraj Soni, Aakash Goel, Alex, Georgi, Tsani, Hristo, Ivaylo, Boryana, Swati Vempati, Haripryia Eswaran and Willie Loo -  thank you for accepting this thesis as your own cause and for sharing with me your valuable experience and thoughts.  

Finally, I am giving much love and gratitude to my beloved family and friends. Their unconditional love and support guided me through this entire period and inspired me to continue my work.              



The concept of community has always been in the center of the Internet, and has served to provide individuals on the web with ways of communication, information sharing and entertainment (Armstrong & Hagel, 2000). Millions of people nowadays join virtual communities in order to satisfy their needs to socialize, learn and better experience the use of the Internet.  

The potential of virtual communities is well known among academia and business, as the interest towards understanding and utilizing this potential has been significantly increasing over the years. In terms of innovation, virtual communities have proved their power and impact, through collective knowledge sharing and idea generation. In terms of business, companies that utilize virtual communities, can create and develop stronger relationship with their customers, through building a high level of loyalty and thus increase their economic return (Armstrong & Hagel, 2008). Since the competition for customers on the web is extremely tight, attracting members to online communities is challenging; therefore, an online community has to attract members by offering them value on every visit (Antikainen, 2007). In the recent years, online communities have been utilized to foster innovation, through various approaches such as open source, open innovation and crowdsourcing. Open source has been a huge part of the IT sector and it potentially increases its dominance within this economy (Weber, 2004). It represents a source code, open to a community of contributors, which use, modify and develop its original design (Lakhani & Von Hippel, 2003).

The phenomenon of crowdsourcing emerged from the need of companies and organizations to utilize the potential of virtual communities, by outsourcing their projects to a vast and educated crowd for little or no cost (Schenk & Guittard, 2009). Nowadays, crowdsourcing is one of the most discussed approaches within the open innovation community. 
Researchers and management are striving to understand and lever the huge potential of the collective brain in order to broaden the scope of open R&D (Ebner, Leimeister & Krcmar, 2009). Moreover, the great capabilities of crowdsourcing allow for utilizing it to create positive social impact, through engaging the crowd in donating their knowledge and skills to benefit non-profits, in their fight with social challenges. However, this relatively new approach to crowdsourcing is still less studied by academics, despite its enormous potential for development in the future. More and more platforms for social crowdsourcing initiatives emerged in the past years, and the interest towards this innovative way of contributing to society is growing significantly.  This calls for further understanding of the mechanisms and opportunities behind social crowdsourcing. Why people engage in such activities and how such platforms are managing and utilizing the wisdom of the crowd, are among the important questions, that need to be answered in order to successfully develop and exploit the future benefits from social crowdsourcing.   

The aim of this thesis is to turn the academics and business attention to the potential of crowdsourcing for social benefits. Multiple case studies approach, subject to which are two crowdsourcing platforms – Doing Good Fellows and TimeHeroes, was used in order to investigate this phenomenon from participant and managerial perspective. The research focuses on understanding the motivation of participants to join and donate their time and skills online to create a positive social impact. Previous studies suggest that participants, part of the crowd are engaging in such activities for various reasons, depending on the type of crowdsourcing and the gratification they receive (Brabham, 2008).

Additionally, the thesis is the first to investigate whether the social identity of participants affects motivation and participation in social crowdsourcing platforms. How the feeling of being part of a community influences the motivation of the individual and whether this has some effects on the participation in the platform are part of the investigated issues in this research.  

Thesis Structure  

The thesis is structured in five chapters, each outlining a different part of the research process.
Chapter I Introduction - introduces the topic, defines the scope and research questions
Chapter II Methodology and Research Design – outlines the design and methods used in the research in order to answer the proposed research questions
Chapter III Case studies – construe the instances of the research
Chapter IV Findings – describes the outcomes of the research
Chapter V Conclusions – finalizes the results of the study and offers directions for future research         

Research Gap  

Despite the growing interest from business and academics towards crowdsourcing, studying this phenomenon so far is in its initial stage. Existing research on the topic is still not enough to provide clear understanding of the complexity of crowdsourcing and its future directions and potential.  

To present, researchers like Howe, (2006), Rouse (2010), Schenk and Guittard (2011), Brabham(2008, 2010) have been elaborating on the concept, through case studies and empirical approaches, aiming to define the term and scope of this new approach.   Furthermore, Lakhani and Wolf (2005), Bonaccorsi and Rossi (2004), Lakhani et al. (2007), Brabham (2008) and Hars and Ou (2002) have all focused on exploring the motivational factors of participants in crowdsourcing activities, particularly in open-source projects.

Because of the relatively new concept, crowdsourcing for social benefits has not yet been a target for academic investigation. Although, theories about motivations for participating in paid and non-paid crowdsourcing initiatives exist, they concern only certain types of crowdsourcing: open source, ideation contests, user innovation.

In regard to motivation and crowdsourcing, another concept, about social identity, has not been previously discussed in academic literature. Only, researchers Piyathasanan, Patterson, De Ruyter and Mathies, (2011) suggest a relationship between social identity and crowd’s motivation and argue that both influence creativity and value creation for the firm. However, no further research on this proposition has been conducted. Moreover, according to the author of this thesis, the aspect of social identity has not been regarded in the light of social crowdsourcing initiatives.

This thesis aims to provide additional theories and propositions in order to fill all of the aforementioned gaps in existing literature on crowdsourcing.    

Research Goal and Questions

Crowdsourcing is a relatively new concept, which is still in the process of defining. Since the concept is growing rapidly over the last years, the academic field is constantly building their interest towards understanding its mechanisms and potential. 
Studying the process of crowdsourcing is the foundation of the outcomes of crowdsourcing itself” (Geiger et al., 2011).

The aim of this research is to contribute to the growing studies on the crowdsourcing phenomenon and provide a foundation for further investigation. Although, some researchers focused their investigation on crowdsourcing and the motives of the participants to engage in such activities, there is still a huge gap in the academic literature on crowdsourcing activities for social good. Why do people donate their time and skills online for social benefit? What are the mechanisms of such platforms and what drives them to develop successfully over time? These and other questions need to be answered in order to understand and use the potential of such platforms for creating a global social impact.  
Considering the presented problem, the thesis is going to elaborate on the following research questions:
RQ1: What motivates participants to engage in social crowdsourcing platforms?
RQ2: How social identity affects the crowd’s motivation in social crowdsourcing?
 §  How can both influence participation and value creation in social crowdsourcing platforms to achieve success and sustainability in the future?


Literature review

Presented in the following chapters, the review of the existing literature, aims to provide further understanding and base to the proposed research questions. The topics, covered by this review intend to provide the reader with the scope of the thesis and will serve as a supplementary ground in building the findings and results of this research.  

Definition of Crowdsourcing

The term crowdsourcing was first used in 2005 by Jeff Howe, editor of Wired Magazine¹, who used the term to explain the growing interest of businesses in using the internet to outsource some of their work to individuals online.  Later on, in 2006, Howe gave the first definition to the term in his article “The Rise of Crowdsourcing”:

"Simply defined, crowdsourcing represents the act of a company or institution taking a function once performed by employees and outsourcing it to an undefined (and generally large) network of people in the form of an open call. This can take the form of peer-production (when the job is performed collaboratively), but is also often undertaken by sole individuals. The crucial prerequisite is the use of the open call format and the large network of potential laborers."

 In his article, Howe discusses innovative projects like iStockPhoto, a virtual marketplace where amateur photographers (including students, engineers and artists) share their work for around 99% cheaper than professional photographers. With the rising force of the internet age outsourcing is replaced by this new strategy of businesses and institutions to tap the potential of the vast crowd of both non- and professionals over the network (Howe, 2006).

Since Howe first gave the definition of crowdsourcing, this innovative process has come a long way and the interest for using the talent and expertise of the crowd has significantly increased. Along with this growing popularity, researchers like Daren Brabham, (2008;2010), turned their attention towards studying this phenomenon to a further extent in order to understand the mechanism behind crowdsourcing as well as the needs of the industry and the drives of the crowd. In his article from 2008, “Crowdsourcing as a Model for Problem Solving: An Introduction and Cases” he defines the term as “online, distributed problem-solving and production model” and marks the beginning of the academic research on the subject. Furthermore, he also expresses his inclination toward the idea of adopting this new model for non-profit use, to solve crucial social and environmental world issues in the future (Brabham, 2008).

The need of further and more accurate explanation of the term, made researchers contribute with different definitions, striving to narrow and specify the broad understanding. A popular attempt among researchers has made Enrique Estellés-Arolas and Fernando González Ladrón-de-Guevara (2012). Their paper “Towards an Integrated Crowdsourcing Definition” (2012) represents a systematic review of the existing academic literature on the subject, where they analyze existing definitions of crowdsourcing, scope the boundaries of the term and present a formalized definition to provide a theoretical base for crowdsourcing:

"Crowdsourcing is a type of participative online activity in which an individual, an institution, a non-profit organization, or company proposes to a group of individuals of varying knowledge, heterogeneity, and number, via a flexible open call, the voluntary undertaking of a task. The undertaking of the task, of variable complexity and modularity, and in which the crowd should participate bringing their work, money, knowledge and/or experience, always entails mutual benefit. The user will receive the satisfaction of a given type of need, be it economic, social recognition, self-esteem, or the development of individual skills, while the crowdsourcer will obtain and utilize to their advantage that what the user has brought to the venture, whose form will depend on the type of activity undertaken".
As a result, their definition encapsulates and frames previous interpretations of the term, which were used separately in previous studies about crowdsourcing.

Crowdsourcing falls into a common paradigm along with other relatively recent concepts – open innovation, open source, outsourcing and user innovation.

In 2003, Chesbrough presented the concept of open innovation, where companies shared their knowledge and expertise to help each other in their innovation processes. This was done, by strategies like joint ventures or buying patents (Chesbrough, 2003). Resembling crowdsourcing, open innovation is the strategy of the firm to reach for external knowledge and resources. However the difference lies in that open innovation is a in and out process of knowledge sharing between firms, instead of “buying” the knowledge from the crowd.  

Another concept sharing similarities to crowdsourcing is open source innovation. This is a practice where all users have access to a rough outline of software, which they collaboratively work on and improve (Brabham, 2008). Since the software is open to everyone, no ownership rules of the product apply. Users simply maintain and improve the product, and get the benefits of distributing and utilizing it free of charge.

User innovation was first presented in 2005 by von Hippel and relates to users, which modify existing products to fit their needs. These users often are presented with a problem of difficulties concerning the usage of a certain product and are motivated to improve its design or functionality (von Hippel, 2005). Although user innovation and crowdsourcing share the notion of users as external sources of knowledge they differ in the way that innovation is driven. Crowdsourcing is firm-driven and it can involve the whole process of developing an idea or product, while user innovation is always user-driven and refers only to improvement of already existing products. (Schenk & Guittard, 2011).

The concept of outsourcing is not new to the business world. In order to reach a desired outcome with lower costs and external resources, companies often outsource. This form of business strategy is very similar to the new crowdsourcing approach; nonetheless researchers claim that outsourcing is the predecessor of crowdsourcing.  The difference between both approaches lies within the target of the outsourced activities, as outsourcing is targeting other firms; crowdsourcing is addressing the crowd (Schenk & Guittard, 2011).

Figure 1 is illustrating the relationship between the discussed concepts. Figure 1 - Crowdsourcing Scope. Source: Schenk & Guittard (2011, p 13.) Crowdsourcing is solely internet based, providing the freedom to be widely implemented in various cases and ways. There are different types of crowdsourcing activities presently existing in the wide world of internet: creative crowdsourcing, crowdfunding, wisdom of the crowd, microwork, crowdsource workforce management and price contests. All these types of crowdsourcing combined together cover the majority of ways in which the online crowd can be reached and used to benefit the business and social environments (Howe, 2008).

As crowdsourcing is significantly developing during the past years, and the interest towards its potential is growing fast, more and more applications and purposes for this concept are found and utilized. In order to somehow classify those purposes, researchers like Howe (2008), Schenk and Guittard (2009) and Bradbam (2010) have presented in their academic work their classification of crowdsourcing typologies (Fig. 2). The figure below outlines the typologies, presented by the aforementioned researchers, along with - official informative website, containing information, documents and reports on crowdsourcing.                                         

2. Crowdsourcing Typology.

In terms of marketing, crowdsourcing adds significant value to the business. Examples of such crowdsourcing activities show, that achievements of such are far more successful than those which are done internally within the companies (Brabham, 2009).  This is the reason why more and more companies and institutions are turning their direction to crowdsourcing. With a far less resources and costs, these companies can achieve a greater value for their products and services. Furthermore, the potential of the crowd provides even more efficiency in results and diversity of solutions and ideas, due to its heterogeneous character.

Social crowdsourcing Over the last years, crowdsourcing, as unlimited resource of external knowledge and innovation has gained significant importance (Sharma, 2010). Social crowdsourcing is a relatively new approach of crowdsourcing, which focuses to benefit and address social aspects and problems.  The main characteristic of such crowdsourcing activities is that participants in such platforms are playing the role of freelancers e.g. the outcomes of their work is not monetary rewarded by any means (Brabham, 2008). Simply, their aim is to provide their knowledge and expertise free of charge to contribute to a cause/project with social benefits. Benefitting from social crowdsourcing are usually non-governmental organizations and institutions and non-profits, focused on creating a social impact. Through crowdsourcing non-profits have ability to tap the collective knowledge and skills of the crowd to their advantage and realize their goals and missions.

There are various ways through which non-profits can benefit from crowdsourcing.  Using the crowd can provide growth of their followers and donors and further on utilize their collective strength to generate innovative ideas and solutions to commonly encountered social problems (Achen, LaCroix, Hurvitz, Cravens, 2012).

Crowdsourcing platforms for social good

There are several popular social crowdsourcing platforms out there, with thousands of participants and contributors all over the world. Examples of some of the biggest social crowdsourcing platforms are,, 
is a popular, web-based platform for design and innovation, where creative thinkers can join their efforts together in generating, designing and developing new ideas to create a social impact. The foundation of the platform, are the knowledge sharing and collaboration between participants, providing a dynamic environment for finding solutions to significant global challenges (  The process of collaboration is divided into several steps to better organize the activities involved with generating and applying innovative ideas to create a social impact. At the end of the process a showcase of the outcomes works as a boost of motivation for everyone on the platform, as they see the realization of their collaborative efforts in the real world.
is a web-based platform, founded in Kenya in 2008, for designing strategies and developing software solutions whose mission is to “the change the way information flows in the world and empower people to make an impact with open source technologies, cross-sector partnerships, and ground-breaking ventures” ( It has thousands of contributors, developing open source software tools that help solving different social problems. Ushahidi also developed iHub – a technology hub that accommodates more than 14,000 members, creating a technology community for whole East Africa.  
In addition to the previously mentioned platforms, there are several others out there, constantly developing in utilizing crowdsourcing activities for improving contemporary social life.  


Motivation as a phenomenon has been broadly studied over the years by scientists, researchers and philosophers from many different science fields such as psychology, philosophy and biology. Different theories and studies about evolution, learning and psychoanalysis all state that motivation is one of the main causes of behavior. (Smelser & Baltes, 2001)

Motivation is essential to human development as it moves, directs and supports people to engage into a given action (Ryan & Deci, 2000). Motivation as a phenomenon is the main driver for learning and development of human society. The factors that are unlocking motivation can be of a very different nature and affect each individual in a specific way.  Motivation can derive from strive for self-development or the human inborn curiosity and need to learn.  Such factors are stimulating the internal motivation of an individual and according to several researchers are more powerful and effective and bring more satisfaction and excitement for a given task than external motivations, like fear or dependence (Ryan & Deci, 2000).

One of the foundation theories on motivation is made by Abraham Maslow (1943). He proposes that fulfillment of certain needs act as a motivator for the individual. He has presented his hierarchy of needs (1943), where he divides them into basic (physiological, safety, belonging, self-esteem) and growth (self-actualization) needs and argues that the motivation of a person, rather comes from within the individual and its needs.

3 Maslow's hierarchy of needs

Types of motivations

Studies on motivation distinguish two essential types of motivation, depending on the factors and reasons behind performing a given action (Ryan & Deci, 2000; Benabou & Tirole, 2003; Teo, Lim, Lai,  1999). The difference between these two types of motivations lies within their origin as they  are affecting the individual in different ways and are considered both important when studying the effects of motivation on individuals and their actions. (Sansone & Harackiewicz, 2000). 

Intrinsic motivations  

A motivation is considered intrinsic when an individual is motivated to do a task by the task itself or to fulfill specific needs (Benabou & Tirole, 2003). He has personal interest and motives to perform an action and as a result he receives a level of satisfaction and enjoyment.

Intrinsic motivations are said to be autonomous – i.e. the factors behind these motivations are internal and rely only on the individual as the main driving source.  The individual performs actions entirely volitionally, not pressured and controlled by other external factors (Gagne & Deci, 2005). Because of that, the factor of free choice and autonomy is considered to be essential to enhance and sustain intrinsic motivations.
Intrinsic motivation can be described as natural motivation, where an individual improves his knowledge and skills by engaging in playful, exploratory and curiosity-driven behaviors and enhance its cognitive, social and physical development. (Ryan & Deci, 2000).

Extrinsic motivations  

As person grows and becomes part of the society, his responsibility to follow certain rules and norms is affecting his intrinsic motivations and the individual is less and less free to behave intrinsically. Then another type of motivation (extrinsic) comes, driving the individual to act, in pursuance of not the satisfaction of the task itself, but of other task-related values and outcomes (Ryan & Deci, 2000). Extrinsic motivation come from outside an individual and can be in the form of a reward, external evaluation, fear of punishment or competition.

Researchers Ryan and Deci (1985) present an important theory about self-determination, explaining how individual’s psychological needs and growth potential form the foundation of self-motivation and personality integration and which conditions are responsible for these processes. Based on this theory, Ryan & Deci (1985) developed a sub-theory about organismic integration, where they distinguish between the different types of motivations and subdivide extrinsic motivations into four different forms, depending on the causality locus and regulatory processes of each form (fig. 4). Figure 4  The Self-Determination continuum (Source Ryan & Deci, 2000)

Looking at the continuum, outlines, that the path to self-motivation goes from amotivation (the lack of motivation), through the different forms of extrinsic motivations and finalizes with intrinsic motivation as the highest form of self-determination. An interesting observation is that not all extrinsic motivations share the same characteristics – they differ in the level of autonomy and control as well as the factors that are causing them (Ryan & Deci, 2000). For example, a person can do a certain task or activity because of the extrinsic value, result of the task or he can do it simply to avoid some sort of punishment or to comply with an external factor. This example shows that extrinsic motivations can vary significantly in nature, leading to variation in the level of commitment and determination of the individual to act a certain way.  

Motivation in Crowdsourcing

To date, much of the crowdsourcing research has focused on motivation as a crucial factor in explaining why customers participate in crowdsourcing generally (Piyathasanan,  Mathies, Patterson & Ruyter, 2013). It is argued that understanding what motivates people to participate in crowdsourcing activities holds the key to the future success of every crowdsourcing platform (Howe, 2008).

This is the reason why researchers like Brabham (2008), Lakhani and Wolf (2005), Bonaccorsi and Rossi (2004) have been studying the motivational factors of participation in crowdsourcing. Case studies with several existing crowdsourcing platforms have been conducted by the aforementioned researchers – iStockPhoto, InnoCentive, Threadless. They all have outlined different factors, affecting the motivation of individuals to participate. For example a study on iStockPhoto made by Brabham (2008) suggests that, key motivational factors concern the reward and money, improving skills and competences, fun, interest, recognition and network expansion. Again Brabham (2010) researched the motivations of the crowd at Threadless, and found similar results. Money reward and improvement of skills were argues to be the main reason for participation along with the love of community and addiction. In open source projects, like F/OSS, motivations are more intrinsic and community based. The participants stated that the main reasons to contribute are enjoyment of the work done, improving programming skills, and obligation to contribute to open source and enhance reputation within the community (Lakhani & Wolf, 2005).

The diversity of the findings of these studies proposes that in different crowdsourcing settings, motivational factors can vary significantly. The variance of backgrounds, cultural belongings and individualities call for careful analysis of the different reasons that stimulate the desire of people to engage in such activities.

Social identity

Social identity refers to ”that part of an individual’s self-concept which derives from his knowledge of his membership of a social group (groups) together with the value and emotional significance attached to that membership” (Tajfel, 1978).

This implies that belonging to a certain community brings both intrinsic and extrinsic motivations, which shape the positive behavior of an individual towards this particular community environment. In addition, being part of a community creates connections through which individuals define themselves internally and inside the social group (Tajfel & Turner, 1979). Within the group, individuals shape themselves through characteristics of the community, by integrating some of those features in their own perception of identity. This can be explained by the need of a person as a social being to be a member of a certain community and to be accepted and appreciated among other members. As a result, one’s motivation to express himself and be recognized within the group is leading to a positive effect on his behavior.

Social identity theory (SIT) suggests social classification, which has two main purposes. Firstly, to provide the individual with cognitive techniques to define others, in order for him to be characterized as part of a particular category and second, to enable him define himself within this social environment (Ashforth & Mael, 1989). However, more recent research suggests, that the main principle of the SIT is that the level of identification of an individual to a certain community defines his behavior within that group membership (Brown, 2000).

Business Models and Value Creation

Although, the business model as a phenomenon is not new to the economic world, the growing force of the Internet, in the 90’s, raised continuing interest towards studying and applying business model concepts up until present days (Zott, Amit & Massa, 2011). This enormous interest, towards business model strategy, has resulted in great amount of researchers, working on studying, defining and clarifying the term.  According to the research made by Zott, Amit and Massa (2011), thousands of publications, in both academic and journalist outlets, in the period from years of 1995 to 2010 have mentioned the term business model. However, surprisingly less of those publications are focusing on providing definitions to the term. A well-known and cited definition of the term business model has been developed by Amit and Zott (2001):

“The business model can be defined as depicting the content, structure, and governance of transactions designed to create value through the exploitation of business opportunities.”

They further elaborated and evolved the definition to connect those transactions to activities:

“a system of interdependent activities that transcends the focal firm and spans its boundaries”
 (Amit & Zott, 2010).

The key goals of the business model are to address e-business concepts, strategies for value creation, competitiveness and firm’s performance, and innovation and technology management (Zott, Amit & Massa, 2011). 

An interesting definition, developed by Voelpel et al. (2004), states that

“The term business model can be defined as the particular business concept (or way of doing business) as reflected by the business’s core value proposition for customers; its configured value network(s) to provide that value, consisting of own strategic capabilities as well as other (e.g. outsourced/allianced) value networks and capabilities to continually sustain and reinvent itself to satisfy the multiple objectives of its various stakeholders.”
(as cited in Chanal & Caron-Fasan, 2008). Considering that any crowdsourcing platform solely relies on its contributors and value networks to progress and sustain itself over time, the definition provided by Voepel et al. (2004) seems to be relevant to the aspect of crowdsourcing.  Furthermore, developing a value creation model for crowdsourcing environment is essential in understanding how to motivate participants to continuously and effectively participate in community activities (Chanal & Caron-Fasan, 2010). Any crowdsourcing platform needs to focus on what value they propose to their contributors in order to attract, stimulate and retain them in the future.
The perception of value provides a way of overseeing customers’ behavioral patterns and level of loyalty – when the perceived value of doing a certain activity increases, it boosts the chances of engagement of an individual in the future (Piyathasanan,  Mathies, Patterson & Ruyter, 2011).  

Furthermore, according to previous research, for crowdsourcing is relevant the concept of social value, which refers to the extent to which individuals have perceived a sense of community, and epistemic value (or called self-fulfillment) in other words the extent to which individuals have been satisfied their arouse curiosity or a desire for knowledge or skills improvement (Piyathasanan,  Mathies, Patterson & Ruyter, 2011).


Research design

The thesis is going to follow the path of an exploratory research of the factors, influencing the sustainability of participation in social crowdsourcing organization.  In the field of research design and methodology, various authors recognize that in practice it is not feasible to use a single approach, but rather recommend the use of combination of both (McGivern 2006; Saunders 2009). Therefore, the secondary data represented in the literature review enabled the researcher to form the research questions on the basis of knowledge and understanding of key theoretical frameworks and existing relationships identified by previous studies in the field. Thus a review of background documents, articles, research papers, research work, websites, media sources, viewpoints and statistical resources related to the scope of the current study will be conducted in order to observe the previous trends and the current problematic reality.  For qualitative research, the tendency is to use induction as the supplemented information may be new and help to build new theory (McGivern 2006). The methodological design of the thesis is going to use qualitative research approach and combine the methods of grounded theory (Strauss & Corbin, (1994); Charmaz, (2009)) with Yin’s (2009) concept of multiple case studies. Considering the fact that there is an existent gap in the academic literature on social crowdsourcing, the aim of the researcher is to suggest new assumptions, based on the results of the qualitative research. This approach was chosen, based on the fact that in qualitative studies, the researcher aims to establish a closer relationship with the individuals, been studied and share their views and experience (Bryman & Bell, 2005). Thus, this approach enables him to better understand the environment and factors, subject to the research (Bryman, 2008).   Qualitative data is going to be collected along the research in order to help answer the posed research questions. Since this thesis is going to take the form of a multiple case study, which explores the factors responsible for the motivation of participants to engage in crowdsourcing platforms, the research will rely on qualitative data collections such as informal discussions with participants and management, as well as more formal data collections in the form of semi-structured interviews. A base on grounded theory, as a method of qualitative research, will be used by the researcher, in order to provide new perspectives and contributions to the existing literature on crowdsourcing and more specifically crowdsourcing for social benefits. Grounded theory represents a set of inductive methods for conducting qualitative research, which lead to theory development (Charmaz, 2009). It is focusing to point out, identify, name and explain themes that capture the complexity of social and organizational phenomena (Dougherty, 2002).  This method was chosen, because of the nature of the thesis. Since the aspect of social identity has never been studied in regard of social crowdsourcing, this thesis is going to use the existing theory on both phenomena as a background research and with the help of qualitative data, collected from both case studies, is going to investigate whether a relationship between both exists in the researched contexts. Furthermore, the findings are going to provide ground for further research on the particular problem.  

Multiple case study approach
  A case study approach represents a research strategy that can be done using either qualitative or quantitative evidence, as well as a combination of both, so data collected and used can represent singe or a combination of diverse data resources (archival reports, interviews, observation, fieldwork etc.), (Yin, 2009).  In his book about case study research methods, Yin (2009) describes it as a method that allows the researcher to collect comprehensive and meaningful characteristics of real-life phenomena.  A case-study can be single or multiple, depending on the number of cases, needed to be conducted in order to reach the desirable outcome of the research. The case study can focus on various approaches, but for the purpose of this research, it is aiming to generate theory from the case study evidences, (Eisenhardt, 1989). In order to, meet the goals of this research, the author of this thesis followed the steps of the multiple case study research design proposed by Yin (2008). In order to answer the proposed research questions, subject of the multiple case study approach will be two intermediary platforms, engaged in crowdsourcing activities for social benefit.  Doing Good Fellows is an online-based global platform, based in India, that acts as an intermediary between non-profit organizations and professionals and non-professional enthusiasts who want to donate their skills and expertise, in engaging in projects for social benefits. Considering the proposed research questions, the case-study is going to provide an in-depth understanding of the performance of Doing Good Fellows’ platform, how are they creating value for their customers and stakeholders and what motivates their participants to join and contribute. Furthermore, the qualitative approach will be used to analyze their network of contributors and non-profit organizations and how they manage this interaction. Data, regarding the Fellows’ thoughts and experiences will also be gathered using qualitative research tools. In order to provide a deeper and more valid foundation of this research, another case-study will be conducted to better support the results of this study. In addition to the initial research on Doing Good Fellows’ platform, a second platform will be subject to a qualitative research. The platform is called Timeheroes ( and shares the same business and social objectives as Doing Good Fellows. It is located in Sofia, Bulgaria and their mission is to do more good for society, through professionals and non-professionals willing to donate their time and expertise to organizations and non-profits, involved with social initiatives all around Bulgaria. In order to collect and process the needed information, same qualitative approaches such as interviews and informal discussions with the management and participants will be conducted, to be further used in the research process.      

Finally, the data from the case-studies will be collected, compared, analyzed, and used to better illustrate how motivation and social identity of the crowd are affecting the success and sustainability of such social crowdsourcing initiatives. To analyze the results a comparison between both cases will be made according to Yin’s method for comparative multiple case studies. In the process, various geo-political, demographical and cultural factors will be used to analyze different patterns between both platforms and their participants’ motives to engage.   

Data Collections
  Collecting data from various sources is improving the validity of the findings (Yin, 2008). Following this, the researcher has used data triangulation method to back up the results of this research (Berg & Lune, 2004). Data was collected from interviews and informal discussions with the management and participants of the two platforms. Furthermore, Hristo Hristov, an expert from the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences in the field of motivations for volunteering has been contacted and contributed to the thesis with his findings. His research also helped with the selection of the questions for the interviews. Additional information on the topic was gathered from statistical documentation, provided by the platforms’ representatives. Both platforms’ web pages provided important general data, used further on in the stages of the research. All of the abovementioned data was used as a foundation for the analysis of the findings. Semi-Structured interviews were chosen to be used, based on different criteria and factors, presented from the existing literature on case study research approach, (Yin, (2009), Longhurst, (2003), and Schmidt, (2004)) in order to provide the interviewers with the list of topics and questions to be answered, but furthermore with the freedom of wording and amount of time to use.  This type of interviews is commonly used in social sciences research and represents an open set of questions/topics, which the interviewer had prepared in advance. Although the topics are well thought of before, the interviewer has the freedom to arrange them during the actual interview, depending on the context or person to be interviewed, (Drever, 1995).  Furthermore, Yin (2009), states that interviews are one of the most important sources of information in a case study. According to Longhurst, (2003), this type of interviews is most applicable in situations, when interviewers are engaged and familiar with the researched topics. Questions are open and provide the interview with the freedom of wording and time to conduct. Nonetheless, there is no further need for introductions, explanations and interpretations of case scenarios. Another characteristic of this method of qualitative research is that the questions are formed in a way to put the goal of the interview central. The interviews with both platforms were conducted in-person or through other online-based networks (Google Hangout, Skype, Phone), and the length was from a minimum of 25 minutes to a maximum of 1 hour 20 minutes. They were conducted in both English and Bulgarian language to ensure the validity of the answers and facilitate the interviewees. The choice of interviewees was based on the number of project they have been done as well as their professional background. The aim was to collect data from different people with diverse backgrounds, which have been participating in more projects part of the platform, in order to provide greater validity of the results. Participants were informed prior to the interview about the scope of this study, in order to prepare them for the general purpose of their contribution. The general aim of the researcher was to gather information from the interviewees, on both platforms, regarding their experiences. That is why, all the participants were asked in advance and agreed that the information they will provide will be used to identify what are the motivations behind their participation in the crowdsourcing platform.  Below is a table with all the interviews conducted from both platforms: Interviewee Platform Background Duration Sajid Shariff Doing Good Fellows Founder of DGF, 1 hour 10 min. Darshana Dave Doing Good Fellows Director of DGF 46 minutes Pavel Kounchev TimeHeroes Founder of TimeHeroes, 1h 50 min Ivaylo TimeHeroes Participant 35 min Gerogi TimeHeroes Participant 25 min Alex TimeHeroes Participant 46 min Boryana TimeHeroes Participant 40 min Hristo TimeHeroes Participant 1h 07 min Viraj Doing Good Fellows Participant 37 min Aakash Doing Good Fellows Participant 1h 25 min Swati Doing Good Fellows Participant 35 min Haripriya Doing Good Fellows Participant 45 min Wizearch Doing Good Fellows Participant 1h 05 min Tsani TimeHeroes Perticipant 45 min Figure 5 Table with the interviewees   analysis                                                                                                                                           

The choice of techniques used to analyze qualitative data from interviews and other data sources is dependent on the goals, the researched questions and the methodological approach. Another important factor in the selection of analytical tools, are the time and resources available for the particular investigation (Schmidt, 2004).
 Since the thesis is relying on the grounded theory methodologies as a design approach to the research, analysis will be performed using the methods outlined by existing literature on the subject. The work of researchers Strauss and Corbin (1990; 1994) and Charmaz (2000; 2009) on grounded theory has been regarded as significant source of contribution on the subject.   Some methods, presented in their theories will be used as a base in the analysis phase of the research. The analysis of the qualitative data was performed iteratively using the methods from grounded theory analysis (Strauss & Corbin, 1998). Interviews were transcribed and using open coding method, each data collection was analyzed, codes were extracted labeled and grouped to form categories of common relevant information related to a phenomenon. Codes refer to thoughts and opinions expressed by the interviewee, which contain valuable information to the research (Strauss & Corbin, 1998).  Furthermore, this iterative process provided opportunity to uncover new concepts and questions, thus modifying and improving further interviews and building upon emerging categories and discovering new ones. Further on the analysis continued with identification of relationships among emerged codes and categories, through the method of axial coding. At the end a selective coding was performed in order to outline the main emerged assumptions. To facilitate this process a mindmap was used and again through iterative process was developed to graphically represent the codes and categories and the existing relationships between them (See appendix D for the final version). Additionally, the mindmap serves to summarize and provide a clearer overview of the findings.     The case of Doing Good Fellows   Doing Good Fellows ( is a crowdsourcing platform for social good, founded in September, 2012, in Mumbai, India. They are founded as an intermediary organization, which focuses to provide non-profits and non-governmental organizations with a virtual environment of voluntary contributors, donating their time and skills to do social good. Their mission is “to create a more efficient and effective social impact ecosystem using technology”.  The platform is responsible to manage the interactions between their stakeholders and the crowd of “fellows”: attain a connection between both and monitor the process to ensure the positive and fruitful collaboration. It developed as a global platform, accommodating and serving more than 100 NGO’s, located in 16 countries around the globe. It is founded by three enthusiastic individuals with diverse backgrounds (Revathy Muralidharan is a lawyer, Sajid Shariff worked as a business consultant and Palak Dalal is a software engineer).  The motivations behind founding Doing Good Fellows (DGF), according to founder and President Sajid Shariff are: “To provide non-profits with the help they need to impact society, through technology. We realized there is a huge need of contributors for NGO’s her in India and a lot of people who wanted to help, that’s how we came up with DGF. Currently there are two more members of the founding team of DGF. Darshana Dave is a director of operations, with an experience in marketing and operations and a certificate in social entrepreneurship from Monterey Institute, California. Luigi Wewege, Director of International Development, a master graduate in Business Administration from the MIB school of Management in Trieste, Italy, with an experience in international business and consultancy.  Uniting their competences and professional backgrounds and concentrating on a common goal to help positively impact society, the management developed DGF are now striving to expand the platform and reach even wider crowd of fellows in the future.   Functionality   How DGF works is that a non-profit, part form the platform is launching a project, which includes a description of the tasks and challenges in hand and who is most suitable for working on the project.  After the project had been revised from DGF management and posted on the website, the Fellows, interested to contribute are applying for the job. Then, the non-profit revises the applications and selects desirable fellow(s), to work on the project. With the help of DGF with end-to-end management and collaborative tools, fellows and non-profits start working together, to achieve the desired outcome of each project. From a fellow’s perspective it works in a similar way.  Fellows interested in contributing a certain project propose their skills and competences and “apply” for the project. If selected from the NGO’s, they start working collaboratively with them, while DGF manages and provides collaborative tools during the whole process.  Fellows have the freedom to choose their own deadlines and time commitment. In that way, DGF are ensuring a positive and stress-free environment for their contributors, which results in a higher impact and quality of the work done, as well as a positive attitude towards the participation. Through the platform, fellows can display their work and get recognized by the NGO’s and others. Further on, fellows that have completed their projects can see the social impact from their contribution over time. Regarding their non-profits, DGF has implemented a level system to manage their relationship with the fellows and the flow of services provided by them.  Depending on the experience gained on the platform and the positive feedback, NGOs are reaching higher levels and more opportunities to get the help they need for their causes and projects.  Challenges and opportunities   As any intermediary organization that acts as a bridge between different stakeholders and customers, DGF faces challenges in terms of establishing a good communication channel for both NGO’s and fellows. When asked about this, founder Sajid says: “Sometimes a non-profit is not responsive enough and this can be frustrating for us and the fellows working with that NGO. We want both sides to be satisfied at the end and build a positive and effective relationship but that is not always the case.” He continues: “So, we are using feedbacks and background checks for our non-profits and in case an NGO is not responsible we put it on our blacklist.” Recently, Doing Good Fellows launched a new website, which according to founder Sajid is “more interactive” and provides bigger opportunities for participants to socialize and create a stronger social community.  With their improved website they are aiming to expand their network of both NGO’s and contributors and attract more Fellows from different countries all over the world, making DGF a successful global crowdsourcing platform.   The case of Time Heroes   TimeHeroes ( is a crowdsourcing intermediary platform, founded in 2011, that focuses on helping non-profits and NGO’s to popularize and realize their initiatives, through a network of contributors that want to donate their time, skills and competences to overcome important contemporary social challenges.   It is founded and located in Sofia, Bulgaria by four enthusiast people, with different professional backgrounds, who aimed to provide an innovative way for non-profits to succeed in changing today’s social environment. Up until now the platform posted more than 400 causes and projects, covering various aspects of social contribution – education, ecology, legal rights, philanthropy and health, disasters and crisis, donations and freelancing activities.  

Currently, the platform accommodates more than 10 000 registered contributors, non-profits and social entrepreneurs, from which around 8 000 contributors and more than 150 talents. According to one of the founders, Pavel Kounchev, around 4 000 of the registered contributors, have participated in at least in one cause/ project posted on the platform. During an interview with him, he said: “It all started as some sort of a student project. I and the rest of the founders decided to try out and see whether something like this will succeed, because we all knew that the great boom of online-based social networks could be very useful in such volunteering application. “ He continues: “ Initially, we started with our own personal networks – every one of us was from a different background, we all studied different majors – two of us were engineers, I am a business and marketing graduate and the fourth member was in social studies. “  Soon after that, the platform was developed and gained popularity among non-profits and the media also gave some attention to popularizing it further.
On the question about popularity and how did they reach such interest Pavel replied: “First time we were on the news on one of the major TV channels here, some people we talking about us, it was a free advertisement which we were happy to get. We then realized that this initiative had a great potential and continued developing and improving it further.”  Presently, the structure of the platform is made in a manner, which can cover a vast crowd of contributors, and ways of contribution – from simple freelancing activities, to highly professional contributions and consultancy.  The website is made in a simple and on-point way, to ensure ease of access for everyone who wants to join and help.  According to the website ( there are 3 options for everyone to transform their time and skills into a superpositive power: when participating in a mission, by creating a talent profile for non-profits to contact directly, and by posting a mission, which impacts society.   Platform’s functionality and structure   How it generally works is that a potential project/cause, in need of help, presented by a member stakeholder (NGO, non-profit, social entrepreneur) has been evaluated and posted on the platform. Then, participants called “heroes” see the list of projects and chose which one they would like to join. They give voice to their choice by pressing a button “join” and the platform management then connects them to the organization, responsible for that project. 
The causes and projects are called missionsand include a short description of the nature of the mission and the organization behind it.  For all the freelancing activities, there is a track of the contributors, joining the mission. In that way the platform management can communicate to the specific non-profit organization/entrepreneur how many contributors are interested in that mission and expected to join. The management selects what mission to be posted on the platform based on the level of importance and social impact. Asked how the platform selects missions, founder Pavel says: “We don’t have a specific list of criteria in selecting the missions. We do it on the basis of personal perception – we get together (the management) and select which missions to post according to the impact and importance, we believe the give