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A Digital Demand Commons for Future Human Needs

By October 15, 2014

By: Nic Covey, Executive Director, Project 8, Nielsen & The Demand Institute

The global development world is full of big launches: groups of governmental, NGO and private sector organizations coming together to announce a panacea. There’s a press conference, a snazzy website and a bunch of promises that don’t always pan out.

What seems to happen less often is the soft launch: the quieter introduction of a bold idea that’s been cooking for a bit but isn’t totally baked; the introduction of an idea that cuts across many stakeholders with an open invitation for feedback – positive and negative. At Dreamforce ’14, this week, you may notice just such a soft launch across various zones: we call it Project 8.

What is this thing?

Project 8 is a global collaboration to help the United Nations and other public and private sector organizations better anticipate the needs of 8 billion people and beyond. Simply put, the world population is racing toward 8 billion (by 2025, by some estimates), but as a society we don’t have a strong, consolidated understanding of what that means in terms of basic human needs.

  • As the global population reaches numbers never before seen, how much food will we need in China?
  • How much shelter in Peru?
  • How many more classrooms in Nigeria?

While research on individual needs and within individual countries exists, there isn’t one resource where researchers and strategists can turn to get a comprehensive view of future human demand, let alone the technical detail and differences of the models that produce these forecasts.

To address this apparent gap, the United Nations Foundation, UN Global Pulse and The Demand Institute (a not-for-profit think tank jointly operated by The Conference Board and Nielsen) have created Project 8. Our idea is to start by building a “Digital Demand Commons,” an online community and open data project that would provide greater, centralized visibility into human needs data and projections and also serve as a tool for public and private sector researchers to collaborate on the science of human needs modeling

Recently, and Accenture stepped up to help create a simple online demo of this vision and to map out opportunities to talk with Dreamforce attendees about the concept. We figured that a project focused on the wisdom of crowds ought to embrace that idea itself, so you’ll see us around this week at Dreamforce, looking for your input.

We want to know what you really think of the idea: what’s good and what’s questionable? Which types of organizations are likely to share data or models on human needs and which are not? Even the name is up for input: as much as we like the accidental homograph of “project” (as in initiative) and “project” (as in forecast), Project 8 may not sufficiently describe what we’re up to. You may have a better idea on this and other aspects of the project.

If you’re at Dreamforce, we’d love to see you. Join us at one of the sessions below to learn more about the concept and hear from the collaboration team:

  • A Global Community to Anticipate the Needs of 8 Billion People | Wednesday, 4:30pm to 5:10pm
    Yerba Buenas Salons 13,14,15 Register
  • Project Wave Deep-Dive: The UN Turns Big Data into Big Impact | Thursday, 10:15am to 10:55am
    Marriott Marquis, Yerba Buena Salon 7 Register

We look forward to your input!

About the Author
Nic Covey is Executive Director of Project 8 and global United Nations relationship leader for Nielsen and The Demand Institute. To learn more, connect with him on the Salesforce Success Community or contact [email protected]