The free, libre, and open source (FLO) movement has created many of the technologies local communities need to rebuild the world from the grassroots upward. These technologies include entire operating systems with complete suites of free software (ex. Ubuntu Linux, OpenOffice, GIMP), web applications for constructing enterprise grade inter/extranets and websites (WordPress, Drupal, Joomla), cloud computing server platforms (OpenStack), designs for local manufacturing of industrial equipment including tractors (Open Source Ecology), 3D printers (RepRap) and automobiles (WikiSpeed)—and much more.
As FLO technology development accelerates and access to information technologies increases, more people than ever could be using high-quality solutions to solve their local problems. But few people are aware the FLO phenomenon even exists, including the nonprofit organizations that could benefit most from its use.
Unlike for-profit enterprises which exist in a state of competition with each other, nonprofits have the opportunity to exist in a state of collaboration—one in which they help each other by spreading best practices, tools and techniques so they can all contribute more effectively to the work of building a better world. This collaboration is essential if the nonprofit sector wants to provide services efficiently in the 21st century and beyond.
By adopting FLO solutions, nonprofit organizations can get better tools for lower prices, increase their organizations’ capacity to collaborate with their stakeholders, and align themselves with an extremely active and productive social movement that wants to make sure people have the information they need to create the world they want to see.
FLO tools and techniques will be discussed in future blog posts, but for now, here’s a glimpse of the ways FLO can promote social justice goals:
Imagine if educators could download a complete technology system to operate a K-12 school and customize it to meet their needs with just a few mouse clicks.
Imagine if farmers could access designs and build procedures for all the tools they need to manage their land.
Imagine if medical researchers could freely share all their data and knowledge with each other.
Only FLO technologies can provide everyone with access to the tools and techniques they need to create wealth and wellness for themselves and their communities. We view universal access to basic technologies as a human right and the key to empowering people to escape poverty.
Participating in the FLO movement is easy. It begins with using FLO tools like Firefox for web browsing, WordPress for online publishing and Linux for your operating system. It continues when you use FLO techniques in your life and work, such as documenting solutions that will benefit others, gifting your time to projects that support the commons and helping people use FLO technologies. If you’re comfortable using software, help FLO projects identify bugs, field questions in forums, contribute to documentation, build extensions, and publish code to communities like Github.
As more people participate in the FLO movement, more people will be empowered by technology, enabling more people to participate in the movement, and more FLO production to take place. This cycle constructs an ecosystem of FLO technologies that we can all use to produce what we want, when we want, and how we want.
A bright future is possible if we all go with the FLO.