Open-source technology thrives by letting anybody know how it works and encouraging them to come up with new ideas and to tailor software to their own needs.
Could your nonprofit work the same way?
Any organization can, said Rebecca Suehle, a writer and editor at the open-source software company Red Hat, in a session Saturday at the South by Southwest Interactive conference.
“Just be open, that’s the lesson here, but it sounds scary,” she said, because many organizations are built to keep their work to themselves and out of the hands of competitors.
Nonprofits, though, may be the most qualified type of institution to adopt an open business style.
The principles of open business are community, transparency, meritocracy, rapid prototyping, and sharing, similar to the ideas that guide many nonprofits already.
Ms. Suehle said organizations that want to be more open should start by working with the people they serve early in a project, allowing them to contribute ideas as it gets under way, and showing them how the end result will work.
“Think about how much better it would be if you made it with your customers, instead of just for them,” she said.
That process encourages organizations to make mistakes, improving the end product quickly. Then, when that project or program is public, share everything that works with anyone who wants to know.
Dig deeper: See a list of successful projects that have used an open process.