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Three Pillars of Social Source
Alex Steffen, 24 Mar 05

When Worldchanging ally Gideon Rosenblat talks about technology and social change movements, I listen carefully. His paper Movement as Network was an important early exploration of the power of networked advocacy, one which I can still unreservedly recommend. Now Gideon has penned a new paper Three Pillars of Social Source, which, though still in an early (though public) draft, I think is likely to wind up as required reading.

To change the world, you need the right tools. Gideon argues extremely well that the creation of the right, worldchanging software tools is going to require the emergence of a new kind of movement within the civil sector:

For the vast majority of nonprofit organizations, the issue of open source software – or for that matter any kind of software – is an extremely small part of their overall mission. The social source commons, like any commons, involves investments that hugely benefit participating organizations, but that are beyond the reach of any one organization on its own. Our nonprofit clients are unlikely to self-organize to make these investments. To fill this community need, the needs of individual organizations need to be aggregated into a center of gravity with the power to influence how software gets built. This is the rallying call that shifts the nonprofit technology sector into a social source movement. But to do so, will require significant restructuring of how technology is developed and how it is delivered to the nonprofit sector.

This is nothing less than a framework for designing an NGO tech community that can deliver innovation on the pace it's needed. Along the way, he riffs about modern NGO geek guilds, open source's impact on social change movements, how philanthropists can be trigger innovation and a few other interesting ideas.

I can't say confidently whether this dog will hunt -- but it's thought through from nose to tail, which alone is quite an accomplishment. Even more importantly, it barks in a way I haven't heard before, but which sounds like a hunting dog to me. I think this is an important bit of thinking.

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