by Ted Esler
I have been reading the book, The Sharing Economy: The End of Employment and the Rise of Crowd-Bases Capitalism, for the Leader’s Edge review I will submit later this month. I have also been in a couple of meetings lately in which mission agency leader have used the term “Uber Mission” in describing their model of ministry.
Will “Uberization” or crowdsourcing affect the world of missions? Yes, I think so. In fact, it already has.
Uberization happens when connectors make possible transactions that would otherwise not happen. I have a car and I need money. You need a ride and you have money. Uber connects us and we both are satisfied. Crowdsourcing is what happens when many people contribute to a solution. These are related in the sharing economy. The book I am reviewing goes into great detail about these terms and their proper use, what industries are most subject to them and how organizations can proactively plan and prepare for a new economic future (be watching for that review!).
Last night I sat with a leader from Unfolding Word. They are making Bible translation happen through a crowdsourced approach. By democratizing the tools and resources necessary to translate the Bible they connect thousands of people to participate in the process. This has the potential to vastly accelerate the translation process. Yes, there are issues, to be sure, but they are methodically working them out and already have numerous projects underway. This is not a plan. It is happening.
There are two possible mistakes that can be made about uberization and crowdsourcing. The first is to assume that these efforts will not affect you. You can be assured they will. If you don’t think through these changes carefully others will and they will benefit from them. The change is real and it is already affecting the Great Commission in a positive way.
Conversely, one might think that missionary agencies will go away in this new uberized world, replaced by an Ala Carte list of niche service providers. According to the authors of The Sharing Economy, the opposite might actually happen. Think about the tech industry: Facebook, Google, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft. Five dominant players in an industry where uberization and crowdsourcing would be logical game changers. We don’t know yet how these changes will affect organizational size. There is the promise of thousands of small players providing services in a rather ad hoc manner. Yet, scale (the ability to connect millions of people) is a necessary part of both uberization and crowdsourcing. Scale requires larger investments of capital, people and resources. Thus, it might be that some larger organizations dominate the future landscape and many smaller organizations come into existence at the same time.
These new dynamics make incredible opportunity available for those that figure out how to capitalize on them. The Bible translation approach mentioned above is one example. I am certain that we will see many more creative solutions in the days ahead. Organizations can get ahead of the curve by looking at their services and support systems in order to reconfigure, create and drop services appropriately.
You don’t have to be a taxi driver in an Uber world, left behind due to a failure to respond to opportunity. What ideas do you have for integrating these new realities into your ministry?