Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Questions, not answers, on open source philanthropy

I wrote a book chapter about open source philanthropy. It is in The World We Want, edited by Peter Karoff and Jane Maddox and includes an interview with me called, "Open Sesame: Networks of Cooperation and Open Source Solutions."

It presented seven building blocks for bringing open source principles to philanthropy. Here they are:

... These seven building blocks of open philanthropy are:
1. Facilitate adaptation, don’t hinder it
2. Design for interoperability, local specificity will follow
3. Build for the poorest
4. Assume upward adaptability
5. Creativity and control will happen locally
6. Diversity is essential
7. Complex problems require hybrid solutions

And more recently I've been thinking about public ideas, crowdsourcing innovation through Kluster or Social Innovation Camp, and now the folks at Social Edge are onto the idea - read this discussion on open source social entrepreneurship.

These concepts raise a lot of questions for philanthropy. Where are the lines between public and private when it comes to ideas for the public good? Can or should someone be able to own a policy innovation? Protect a service delivery process? Are all socially positive ideas public? What are the best ways to encourage creative thinking and bring the ideas to action? Is social entrepreneurship better at this than anything else? Are social entrepreneurs even paying attention to raging Intellectual Property debates - and, if so, how and why? What should they be asking? What should philanthropy be asking?

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