Sunday, January 15, 2006

Contest and Consequences

Contest and Consequences
A labor union's $100,000 contest inviting its networked community to submit fresh ideas on how to improve the lives of working Americans has sparked an online revolt.
By Jan Frel, AlterNet

It was supposed to be one of the Service Employees International Union's leaps into bottom-up online consensus building, but the community blowback at the Since Sliced Bread project that broke out this week has all the appearances of being an online revolt.

Since Sliced Bread is a $100,000 contest inviting people to send in ideas to improve the lives of working people in America. As described by SEIU on the site: The contest encouraged ordinary Americans, policy experts and economists to enter fresh ideas on how to create the kinds of jobs that allow people to raise families, obtain affordable health insurance, pay for college and save for retirement."

The design of Since Sliced Bread appeared in many respects fairly open and bottom-up oriented. Anyone could send in proposals. Visitors were encouraged to participate in the community blog.

A staggering number of ideas -- more than 22,000 -- were submitted in a matter of months. After the deadline for submissions passed, a group of "diverse experts" winnowed them down to 70. Then, each of the contest's judges, who come from a variety of fields and across the political spectrum, voted for 21 finalists, who will all appear in a "Since Sliced Bread" book with an introduction by SEIU president Andy Stern.


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