Online collective intelligence course aims to improve responses to COVID-19 and other crises

The GovLab at NYU Tandon teams with 11 global institutions to offer free classes on effective disaster response

BROOKLYN, New York, Monday, April 6, 2020 – Working with 11 partner institutions around the world,  The Governance Lab (The GovLab) at the New York University Tandon School of Engineering today launches a massive open online course (MOOC) on “Collective Crisis Intelligence.” The course is free, open to anyone, and designed to help institutions improve disaster response through the use of data and volunteer participation. 

Thirteen modules have been created by leading global experts in major disasters such as the post-election violence in Kenya in 2008, the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster in 2011, the Ebola crisis in 2014, the Zika outbreak in 2016, and the current coronavirus. The course is designed to help those responding to coronavirus make use of volunteerism. 

As the COVID-19 pandemic reaches unprecedented proportions and spreads to more than 150 countries on six continents, policymakers are struggling to answer questions such as “How do we predict how the virus will spread?,” “How do we help the elderly and the homebound?,” “How do we provide economic assistance to those affected by business closures?” and more. 

In each mini-lecture, those who have learned how to mobilize groups of people online to manage in a crisis present the basic concepts and tools to learn, analyze, and implement a crowdsourced public response. Lectures include

  • Introduction: Why Collective Intelligence Matters in a Crisis
  • Defining Actionable Problems (led by Matt Andrews, Harvard Kennedy School)
  • Three Day Evidence Review (led by Peter Bragge, Monash University, Australia)
  • Priorities for Collective Intelligence (led by Geoff Mulgan, University College London
  • Smarter Crowdsourcing (led by Beth Simone Noveck, The GovLab)
  • Crowdfunding (led by Peter Baeck, Nesta, United Kingdom)
  • Secondary Fall Out (led by Azby Brown, Safecast, Japan)
  • Crowdsourcing Surveillance (led by Tolbert Nyenswah, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, United States/Liberia)
  • Crowdsourcing Data (led by Angela Oduor Lungati and Juliana Rotich, Ushahidi, Kenya)
  • Mobilizing a Network (led by Sean Bonner, Safecast, Japan)
  • Crowdsourcing Scientific Expertise (led by Ali Nouri, Federation of American Scientists)
  • Chatbots and Social Media Strategies for Crisis (led by Nashin Mahtani,, Indonesia)
  • Conclusion: Lessons Learned

The course explores such innovative uses of crowdsourcing as Safecast’s implementation of citizen science to gather information about environmental conditions after the meltdown of the Fukushima nuclear plant; Ushahidi, an online platform in Kenya for crowdsourcing data for crisis relief, human rights advocacy, transparency, and accountability campaigns; and “Ask a Scientist,” an interactive tool developed by The GovLab with the Federation of American Scientists and the New Jersey Office of Innovation, in which a network of scientists answer citizens’ questions about COVID-19.

To expand the scope and reach of the “Collective Crisis Intelligence” MOOC, The GovLab is soliciting the participation of experts, policymakers, researchers, and others with experience leveraging collective intelligence and collective action to address emergencies. 

“At times like these, experience and insights from those with on-the-ground experience and know-how are invaluable to those doing everything in their capacity to tackle a complex crisis,” said Beth Simone Noveck, director of The GovLab. “By assembling this growing collection of coaching videos, it is our hope that leaders everywhere can use this knowledge in their efforts to address the coronavirus pandemic as well as future disaster relief efforts.”

More information on the courses is available at

Do you have a story to share that will help others leverage collective intelligence and collective action in an emergency?  Then we want to hear from you and add your story to the mix. All you need is a phone with a voice recorder. We will work with you to produce the module and share your know-how. Contact us at



About The Governance Lab at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering

The Governance Lab's mission is to improve people's lives by changing the way we govern. Our goal at The GovLab is to strengthen the ability of institutions — including but not limited to governments — and people to work more openly, collaboratively, effectively, and legitimately to make better decisions and solve public problems. We believe that increased availability and use of data, new ways to leverage the capacity, intelligence, and expertise of people in the problem-solving process, combined with new advances in technology and science, can transform governance. We approach each challenge and opportunity in an interdisciplinary, collaborative way, irrespective of the problem, sector, geography, and level of government. For more information, visit


About the New York University Tandon School of Engineering

The NYU Tandon School of Engineering dates to 1854, the founding date for both the New York University School of Civil Engineering and Architecture and the Brooklyn Collegiate and Polytechnic Institute (widely known as Brooklyn Poly). A January 2014 merger created a comprehensive school of education and research in engineering and applied sciences, rooted in a tradition of invention and entrepreneurship and dedicated to furthering technology in service to society. In addition to its main location in Brooklyn, NYU Tandon collaborates with other schools within NYU, one of the country’s foremost private research universities, and is closely connected to engineering programs at NYU Abu Dhabi and NYU Shanghai. It operates Future Labs focused on start-up businesses in downtown Manhattan and Brooklyn and an award-winning online graduate program. For more information, visit