Crowdsourcing homemade facemasks: 772 U.S. health facilities’ responses to personal protective equipment shortages in the first half of 2020

Armine Ghalachyan, Lana V. Ivanitskaya

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: We examined 772 U.S. health facilities' responses to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) shortages in the first half of 2020, as they crowdsourced face coverings from volunteer makers to be used as respiratory protection during crisis surge capacity. The purpose was to examine facemask specification requests from health facilities and develop a framework for crowdsourcing last resort PPE. Design/methodology/approach: Homemade facemask donation requests from health facilities in 47 states systematically recorded in a public database maintained by public health graduate students at a major U.S. university were analysed. Open coding was used to content analyse facemask types and specifications, intended uses, delivery logistics and donation management strategies. Findings: Our analysis revealed information gaps: Science-based information was scarce in 2020, leading to improvised specifications for facemask materials and designs. It also revealed the emergence of a crowdsourcing structure: Task specifications for volunteer facemasks makers, delivery logistics, and practical management of donations within the pandemic context. In anticipation of future pandemics and localised PPE shortages, we build on this empirical evidence to propose a framework for crowdsourcing science-informed facemasks from volunteers. Categorised within (a) logistics and workflow management, (b) task specifications and management, and (c) practical management of contributions functional areas, the framework outlines the required tasks and specifications for crowdsourcing. Originality: A novel empirically derived framework for crowdsourcing homemade facemasks is proposed, based on empirical analysis and crowdsourcing system design strategies. Our findings and the framework may be used for refining crisis capacity guidelines, as part of strategic planning and preparation for future pandemics that disrupt supply chains and cause shortages in protective equipment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3269-3281
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Health Planning and Management
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2022


  • crowdsourcing framework
  • crowdsourcing workflow
  • facemask
  • last resort PPE
  • pandemic planning
  • surge capacity


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