Giving Compass' Take:

• In this excerpt from The Business of Changing the World: How Billionaires, Tech Disrupters, and Social Entrepreneurs Are Transforming the Global Aid, Raj Kumar discusses the potential of open source aid. 

• Could open source aid be incorporated into your philanthropic efforts? 

• Learn about five open source projects with potential for impact

Open source aid, like open source computer code, seeks to change all that by enabling everyone involved in the industry to learn from and build on the experiences of others. It’s not proprietary or centrally controlled. It values everyone’s contribution—from the foundation president to the expert consultant to the poor person sharing feedback about an initiative in his or her own community. It’s effectively altruistic in that it assumes all lives have equal value and that saving as many lives as possible should be our shared goal. It allows for a range of approaches, with the best ideas bubbling up to the top of a transparent and open community.

GitHub is the largest online platform for web developers, where they post and comment on each other’s code. The site also hosts the largest open source community in the world. Over twenty million developers are part of the platform, and they work together to improve the quality of open source code that no one owns. Engineers on the platform take pride in the amount of code they publish and on how many people have given their code a kind of digital thumbs up. Whether you’ve heard of GitHub or not, chances are many of the digital products you love have benefited from that platform, as have ours at Devex.

Wikipedia, a similar platform, is another example of what is known as the principle of open collaboration, where people work together informally and without hierarchy but toward a singular goal. On Wikipedia, volunteer editors prune and add content to make the platform as robust and accurate as possible.

Similarly, global development is beginning to head in the direction of open collaboration. When aid projects are designed by the same people in the same conference rooms in London and Washington, DC, it’s only natural that they’ll turn out to be near facsimiles of what’s been done in the past. Often, in pursuit of low-risk, high-impact results, they’ll pursue straightforward, noncontroversial interventions like training healthcare workers or purchasing medicine. Because overseeing smaller projects can entail as much cost and time as larger ones, these projects will commonly be quite large—often millions of dollars committed over several years.

Read the full article about open source aid by Raj Kumar at Stanford Social Innovation Review.