For example, if a group extracts and indexes the census – especially in states where there is a state census that is not online - that would make its future use much easier. Putting the data into a searchable database, such as Access or Filemaker, is even better. And the best situation would be to additional create a sort of pioneers database for use as well.
Now, this isn't going to work for New York, Los Angeles, or other large metropolitan areas – there are simply too many people for too long a time to do a whole project like that. But if you love in a smaller or more rural area, this kinship database of early residents conceivably could work. The place where I live now has a population of 250,000. But the early settlers were only a few hundred. Even by 1850, there were less than 30,000.
That's manageable when several people work on it. So what's the concept? Take a genealogical database program, and of course have a quality control program, proofreading, etc. But enter the data from the early directories. Examine early wills for family members. See what data you can extract from the early censuses. The early federal censuses don't have all family members enumerated till 1850, but one can list the numbers of children of others in the data or comments field for a parent.
Examine what whatever church records there are, and cemetery records as well. Since you would be indexing and making those searchable, the key to making the pioneers database most useful would be that it would reconstitute families, show the intermarriages, have occupations, places lived, locations, membership in clubs and societies, and so on. In some localities, you could bring this down to 1900. In others, you might want to stop at 1850 or 1875.
The usefulness for scholastic and college people would be that the economic, social, club, religious and vocational data could be examined and utilized in an organized scholarly manner as well as building early family trees. I met a man in 2004 who has had his Long Island high school class study a small upstate New York village for more than 20 years. Another individual reconstituted the people in his hometown in Mexico. Imagine the knowledge that has been gained and can be shared. And the obvious genealogical benefits don't have to be described at length. With people working together as a team, it's exciting, not onerous. The marathon starts with the first step. Be a leader and take it.