The Approach

The mission of WikiRate Project grant is to foster collective awareness on corporate social responsibility and drives social change. We divided this mission into the following three main objectives:

  1. Improve stakeholder’s awareness of corporate sustainability practices
  2. Enable stakeholders to act on their improved awareness
  3. Incentivise companies to change their practices to the better based on improved stakeholder awareness

These objectives can be translated into the following specific project tasks:

Objective 1 (Improve Collective Awareness):

  • Create an open social networking system to allow for cooperative creation and sharing of knowledge regarding a company’s ethical practices. This requires a crowdsourcing platform with an excellent user experience, ubiquitous website availability including mobile integration, the support and integration of real-time gathering of information through sensors, a multi-lingual set-up, anti-trolling/anti-spam prevention devices etc.
  • Create and support an active community. This requires a significant dissemination budget to attract new users and implement appropriate community features to retain users and encourage participation

Objective 2 (Enable stakeholders to act on their improved awareness):

  • Design and implement a crowdsourced comparative rating system that allows users to personalise a company’s rating according to their individual values and determine what companies are demonstrating better or worse practices compared to the industry average
  • Engage users around sustainability topics with low barriers to contribute
  • Incentivise users to contribute quality content through effective incentive and reputation systems including gamification, and by being part of the WikiRate community
  • Visualise the data in appealing ways, such as via timelines (e.g. history of company practices), maps (e.g. local impacts) etc.

Objective 3 (Incentivise companies to act responsibly)

  • Update companies on their WikiRate standing vs. their competitors. Survey companies on WikiRate’s impact on their practices

In Year 2 the Consortium undertook an evaluation of the project objectives. Following a review, the consortium agreed on a revised set of objectives which were articulated in D7.7.2 pp.23-24:

  1. WikiRate should be a centralised repository of all quantitative knowledge that is relevant to assessing companies’ performance in relation to sustainability issues.
  2. WikiRate should facilitate the work of researchers and campaigners who are active in this area – by encouraging greater transparency in the research process and the production of more standard and re-usable forms of data, and by efficiently integrating the work of volunteers into the research process.
  3. WikiRate should serve everyone with an interest in sustainability – with high-level ratings and overviews that allow for fast comparisons, but also low-level indicator data that allows for detailed inspection of individual companies by an expert user.

The Approach

1. The WikiRate Platform
2. The WikiRate Community
3. The Rating Methodology

4. Testing and Validation of Results

1. The WikiRate Platform will be a crowdsourcing website, using Wagn, an innovative wiki which allows the cooperative creation and sharing of knowledge in more structured, dynamic, and personalised ways than standard wikis.

Data Architecture

A key innovation of WikiRate will be the atomisation of information, represented by “Claims”. A “Claim” is a text of no more than 100 characters, which is tagged by company (e.g. BP), sustainability topic (e.g. Pollution), and which is linked to a source (say with the URL to an article on The Guardian). Other tags are also allowed, and the claim may also be further described in a connected text box.

Such claims represent an “atom” of WikiRate. It can be used in various ways:

  • It shows up, depending on its tags, on the relevant company and sustainability topic pages, together with all other claims that have been tagged in the same way.
  • Appropriate metadata that is linked to the claim can be used to filter claims (e.g. thumbs up/down if good/bad behaviour, and other metadata), for example the more “votes” a claim gets the earlier it will be shown on a company page.
  • Company practices in a specific topic may be compared qualitatively by showing the claims of two companies side by side. Again, metadata may help to sort the claims and make the qualitative comparison more striking.
  • The claim can be easily tweeted or posted on other social media due to its short size. Keeping it to 100 characters allows the addition of hash tags or tinyURLs on Twitter.
  • A list of claims can be used as support for writing summarising articles. Heavily involved people, comparable to Wikipedia editors, can subscribe to tags such as companies and sustainability topics, and thus get alerted when someone added a new claim. The editor then can add the new information to the summary. This is a new & innovative way of sharing work effort in the wiki space.

Scalable Analytics for User Contributions

We will further facilitate user contributions with advanced large data management systems. For one, duplicate detection: When a user adds a claim, the claim may be in essence already present on the site. We will research best ways to deal with such duplicates.

Reputation and Incentive Systems

WikiRate’s success is depended on the strength of its community. To maintain a dynamic and active set of contributors, ways need to be found to stimulate and incentivise them. Generally this is coined an “incentive system”, with usually the main aspect being a “reputation system”. Multiple website features of WikiRate may attract “reputation”, such as users, claims, ratings etc. We will develop appropriate incentive and reputation systems for users and for data quality.

Web 2.0 User Experience

We will expand the capabilities of Wagn to fit the requirements of WikiRate, and will develop various extensions that will guarantee an excellent, web 2.0 user experience. This will include a number of important features:

  • User Experience: Generally we will need to assure a high quality user experience, which can be translated in high quality user interfaces and thought-out user stories. We will need to respond to user needs appropriately.
  • Mobile Version: A mobile website is becoming increasingly important seen the rapid adoption of smart phones and tablets. Further, a mobile website is needed for some of its key features: Sensors (described below) and CSR ratings.
  • Sensors: The support and integration of real-time gathering of information will be an important aspect of WikiRate. We will allow users to upload their own content to support claims, in the form of text, images, videos, links to webcams etc. Such content may also be tagged with geographical location.
  • Responsive Web Design: The WikiRate website will need to be not only a desktop-optimized version, but will need to offer good user experience to mobile users as well (especially for the “sensors” functionality described above).
  • Multi-lingual set-up: While the initial website language will be English, it is clear that the site will eventually need to move to support other languages.
  • Anti-trolling/Anti-spam devices: Any crowdsourcing website suffers from people that intend to disrupt a project through trolling and/or spamming. Trolling is the act of posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community. Spam, the sending of unsolicited bulk messages, is a risk to crowdsourcing projects where spammers attempt to create new content by posting advertisements all over the site. For both we will need to apply state-of-the art systems to prevent excessive trolling and spamming while keeping the user experience of regular users in mind.
  • Application Programming Interface (API): An API needs to be developed that allows third parties (and their software) to access WikiRate’s data. This allows for a wider reach of WikiRate’s content, through which WikiRate’s significance will be increased, thus incentivising more people to participate.

2. The WikiRate Community

The creation and support of an active community is a crucial aspect of the Project. We chose a multidisciplinary approach to fully understand and best serve the individuals that make up the community.

Users of CSR ratings may be consumers, competitors, employees & managers, governments, investment advisers, community members and the media. Each stakeholder may use CSR ratings to support various decisions. Each stakeholder may thus have different requirements of the rating. Through appropriate research performed by Cambridge we intend to refine these stakeholder needs, which will be instrumental in guiding priorities for website development and research teams on incentive & reputation systems. This approach is essential to any crowdsourcing effort – only when fully understanding the needs of its users, and addressing those needs in a timely and effective manner, may a crowdsourcing website be a success.

3. The Rating Methodology

Getting stakeholders to act on their improved awareness is the second objective of the Project. We intend to achieve this by facilitating comparisons of sustainability related practices between companies – mainly via a crowdsource-based rating, but also qualitatively –, and by engaging stakeholders on the WikiRate site with the various sustainability topics through different means.

Offering information about CSR of companies is only partially helpful. Without providing users the means to compare companies the information about individual companies is almost meaningless. We believe that the ability to compare companies against each other in a fair and transparent manner is THE crucial value addition of WikiRate, thus empowering stakeholders to take decisions based on sustainability considerations.

Our initial rating methodology considerations revolve around Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Such rating consists of 15-25 key datapoints for an industry, thus keeping the workload low while still providing an effective rating. Our thoughts are that the WikiRate community decides what these 15-25 KPIs should be, then decides what practices lead to what score (say emissions of XXXt of CO2 per $mm revenue results in a score of 2, while a score of YYYt of CO2 per $mm revenue results in a score of 5, on a scale from 1 – 10, with 1 being bad practice, 10 being good practice). The resulting rating framework thus generates ratings for companies based on the same criteria by weighting and aggregating the various KPI scores.

Wikirate rating process

4. Testing and Validation of Results

To test and validate the Project, we propose organising three one-day multi-stakeholder forums over the course of one year across three different EU locations, in conjunction with corporate social responsibility and sustainable development advisory experts, Kaleidoscope Futures. These forums would serve to gather inputs and allow for detailed feedback regarding how WikiRate and other Web 2.0 tools can be most effectively utilised by a wide community of CSR-related stakeholders to hold companies accountable, while also rewarding best practices. The exact date and location of these events can be announced on our events page.

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