Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The brighter side :: NGO technology collaborations

Slightly depressed by my last post, I thought I'd highlight some of the big thinking that has happened... the success levels might not be what I would hope for, but it does highlight there are people out there thinking the big thoughts and putting them into action. Yay for them!

Greenpeace Melt. Built for a specific Greenpeace project, open sourced, but never really got much traction. -1- -2- -3- .

NPOKI. Perhaps the most real effort I've seen. -1- -2-

Global DME Solution. Collaboration of big global NGOs. Similar/ same as NPOKI. -1-

Solpath. Stillborn open source grants management solution, but great market research -- very foundation like, lots of paper but o actual code ;) . -1- -2-

Voluntary Action Westminster. "To reiterate what we want to do is develop a community of developers who all use - and are improving the same system. " on CiviCRM!

Various efforts around PEG TV stations. -1-

These examples and other really do highlight the oil and water nature of organizing around mission and organizing around tools. I think you can do one or the other. Eventually, when CiviCRM gets big enough, it will gain market share, but will likely never be selected for mission reasons, just on a feature matrix and cost calculation.

CiviCRM was built because all these mission-driven efforts share very similar underlying CRM-based technology needs. Yet only one uses CiviCRM. And the Melt decision to roll their own put the nail in the coffin of collaboration.

More to the point, the structural considerations around something like NPOKI... funding sustinability, etc, actually drive people away from the CiviCRM model of build it, share it freely... if anyone can get the software, why would they spend money? If I open it to the world, I can't control the community!

These of course are red herrings... complex software requires consultants you pay for. And as long as you control the SVN check in you control the software. Very simple stuff.

It would be nice to know of other past present and future similar efforts, please put them in the comments!

2 comments:

Joe said...

Thanks for the history lesson!

BTW, You're missing an 'l' at the end of the link to the NPOKI update, which should be
http://www.npoki.org/start/news/winter07-08.html

Donald Lobo said...

As with any thing, the talk part is much easier than actually doing it. I think at CiviCRM we've focussed more on just going it and working on building the product, ecosystem and community around it and have not spent a lot of time talking / building consensus etc.

I think the open source model of "scratching your own itch" is a great model (and darwin like). If everyone agrees on just building and collaborating on one thing, i suspect you'll have a bag of not very happy folks. Its good to have multiple projects happen and let the real world decide what suceeds and what fails. Evolution is a good thing, IMO :)