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Crowdsourcing designathon: a new model for multisectoral collaboration
  1. Joseph D Tucker1,2,3,
  2. Weiming Tang1,2,4,5,
  3. Haochu Li1,2,
  4. Chuncheng Liu1,2,
  5. Rong Fu1,2,
  6. Songyuan Tang1,2,6,
  7. Bolin Cao1,2,
  8. Chongyi Wei7,
  9. Thitikarn May Tangthanasup1,2
  1. 1 University of North Carolina Project-China, Guangzhou, China
  2. 2 SESH Global, Guangzhou, China
  3. 3 Infectious and Tropical Diseases, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK
  4. 4 Guangdong Provincial Center for Skin Diseases and STI Control, Guangzhou, China
  5. 5 Dermatology Hospital, Southern Medical University, Guangzhou, China
  6. 6 Kunming Medical University, Kunming, China
  7. 7 Social and Behavioral Health Sciences, Rutgers - The State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick, US
  1. Correspondence to Dr Joseph D Tucker, Guangdong Provincial STD Control Center, Guangzhou, China; jdtucker{at}

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Public health programmes are frequently developed by experts with limited feedback from communities.1 Crowdsourcing, allowing a group to solve a problem and then sharing the solution with the public, may help to improve public health programmes. Crowdsourcing can often take the form of participatory contests.2 Previous crowdsourcing contests have focused on producing individual components of communication programmes, such as videos,3 4 images5 6 or logos.7 However, crowdsourcing contests have not focused on designing the final programme and plan for implementation. The purpose of this project was to crowdsource the development of an HIV testing programme using a designathon.

The concept of a crowdsourcing designathon is related to, but distinct from, a hackathon. Hackathons are intensive, approximately 72-hour contests that bring together young people to complete a task.8 9 For example, hackathons organised by a university have brought together students and others interested in technology to create a mobile application.10 Medical hackathons have challenged participants to create devices that help people with dementia, disability and other illnesses.9 11 12 We propose the concept of a crowdsourcing designathon, drawing on the principles of crowdsourcing in order to design a public health programme with strong community input. The purpose of this article is to describe a crowdsourcing designathon, summarise designathon outputs and discuss designathon implications for public health.

Designathon approach

The purpose of our crowdsourcing designathon was to develop a community-based HIV testing programme to be implemented in eight Chinese cities. This concept was influenced by theories of crowdsourcing13 and community-based participatory research.14 Our designathon was implemented in the following steps: forming a local steering committee; open call for participants; prepare for the event; 72-hour implementation; sustaining engagement and evaluation (table 1).

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Table 1

Stages of a designathon

Our SESH (Social Entrepreneurship to Spur Health) group …

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  • JDT, WT and HL contributed equally.

  • Contributors This commentary was conceived by JDT, WT and HL. JDT wrote the first draft. CL, RF and BC helped with figures and tables. TMT and ST organised the designathon. All authors contributed to the manuscript and approved the final version. All authors meet criteria for coauthorship.

  • Funding This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases 1R01AI114310), UNC-South China STD Research Training Centre (Fogarty International Centre 1D43TW009532 to JDT), UNC Center for AIDS Research (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases 5P30AI050410) and the UNC Chapel Hill, Johns Hopkins University, Morehead School of Medicine and Tulane University (UJMT) Fogarty Fellowship (FIC R25TW0093). The listed grant funders played no role in any step of this study.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors. All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. The study was approved by the Guangdong Provincial STD Control Center IRB and the UNC IRB.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement All unidentified data associated with this commentary are available upon request.