Tag: open source communities

2020/2021 in Open Source at UNICEF Innovation Fund

Open Source is a means to collaborate and solve common problems; during the COVID-19 pandemic, open data and tools proved useful in quickly tailoring and deploying life-saving services. How has the UNICEF Innovation Fund kept up with latest Open Source innovations?

The UNICEF Innovation Fund invests exclusively in Open Source technology – with today’s rapidly evolving innovation landscape, Open Source software, hardware, data, and content not only create value and generate revenue, but also ensure greater collaboration and impact. This reflection is a look back at Open Source activity and participation stemming from the UNICEF Ventures Team from June 2020 to date (July 2021).

By the end of this article, you will have a better understanding of the evolving and forward-thinking approach to Open Source taken by the UNICEF Office of Innovation.

This article looks at a few aspects of Open Source engagement at the Innovation Fund:

  1. Support models
    1. Legal & policy
    2. Building and leveraging from the community
  2. Case study: Cloudline and upstream engagement
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Committee risk: A governance challenge for Open Source

Community participation and engagement in corporate Open Source projects is valuable, yet difficult to foster. Many companies supporting popular Open Source projects develop diverse communities across different employers, nationalities, genders, educational backgrounds, and more. Increased diversity brings perspective about who finds a product useful. It also gives you the opportunity to help your product be more useful for that audience. But if you’re building a diverse community around your enterprise project, where do you begin?

Many have started on this same path before. Several communities form a committee as a governance model for important decision-making. Usually committee membership is chosen through an election process. Paid employees, or sometimes, members of the community comprise the elected committee membership. This meritocratic approach is believed to bring in diverse representation and participation of highly-engaged people. After all, who better to represent contributors of a project than a committee of folks elected by their own peers?

Sometimes, committees do accomplish this lofty goal. My argument is that sometimes they don’t – especially if your committees are designed in a way to disable participation.

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What if Open Source dependencies weren’t software?

I often wonder how to best measure and communicate Open Source value. The collective focus of the industry goes into quantifying dependencies; that is, how one software relies on other software in order to complete its primary function. The vocabulary to measure dependency usually includes words like “imports,” “licenses,” “bugs fixed to bugs open,” and other machine-oriented terms. Yet the unique value proposition of innovative Open Source involves a community of people around a software. This led me on to the next question: why do we bias towards machine-oriented terms instead of human-oriented or community-oriented terms to describe Open Source communities and division of labor?

However, this question only led to more questions. Much of the existing Open Source discourse on sustainability centers on defining, tracking, and understanding “dependencies.” Yet when we say dependencies, people typically mean source code, software packages, and license compatibility. So, how do we describe the value proposition of people and the impact of cross-pollinated communities?

So, what if Open Source dependencies weren’t just software? Furthermore, what if Open Source dependencies could mean people… or simply, human beings? In this blog post, we’ll walk through this thought experiment.

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Introducing UNICEF Open Source Mentorship

This post was co-published on the UNICEF Innovation Fund blog.

2020 saw the launch of a formalized Open Source Mentorship programme for the UNICEF Innovation Fund, built up on two years of work from RIT LibreCorps expertise and consulting.

The Open Source Mentorship programme includes five modules about Open Source intellectual property and communities delivered across twelve months. UNICEF grantees are matched with an experienced Open Source Mentor to guide them through the modules. The mentorship takes an interactive, guided approach to understanding the unique context that each team and product exist within. The assigned Open Source Mentor provides specialized advice and training:

  • Tailored feedback based on business models
  • Existing local user communities
  • Best practices for collaborating together with others on similar challenges.

The geographic diversity in the UNICEF Open Source Mentorship programme is unusual for technology incubators or accelerator programs. All funded projects come from UNICEF programme countries. The UNICEF Innovation Fund provides equity-free funding for Open Source solutions from local innovators and entrepreneurs solving local problems. To date, the Innovation Fund has invested in teams from over 57 countries. Argentina, India, Iran, Kenya, Mexico, Nepal, and Rwanda represent the most recent incoming cohort in July 2021.

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2021 OSI Board of Directors statement of intent

This first appeared on the Open Source Initiative Wiki. In light of the election update this year, I am republishing my statement of intent on my personal blog.


No culture can live if it attempts to be exclusive.

Mahatma Gandhi

I believe in the value of upholding the Open Source Definition as a mature and dependable legal framework while recognizing the OSI needs to work better with works that are not Open Source. My ambition as a candidate is to support existing work to enable a more responsive, more agile Open Source Initiative.

Twitter: @jwf_foss

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What is Freedom?

When I first saw the letter asking for Richard Stallman and the FSF Board of Directors resignations with merely five signatures, I knew I had to sign. Not because I knew it would be the popular thing to do. But because it was what was true in my heart. Only in a sense of deep empathy could I understand the reasons why it had finally come to this. I signed the letter because as much as I have personally benefited indirectly by the legacy of Mr. Stallman in my life, I feel his continued presence is harmful and more damaging at the forefront of the movement.

I don’t say that casually either. I have involuntarily found Open Source as my calling. Or my people. I contribute to Open Source because I love to collaborate and work together with other people. This challenges me. It humbles me in a way that I know I can always learn something new from someone else. For this, Open Source and Free Software have enriched my life. They have also given me, again involuntarily, an odd but productive way of coping with my own mental health issues, anxiety, and depression.

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How Mozilla Open Source Archetypes influence UNICEF Open Source Mentorship

In May 2018, Mozilla and Open Tech Strategies released a 40-page report titled, “Open Source Archetypes“. This blog post is a recap of how this report influences the Open Source Mentorship programme I lead at the UNICEF Innovation Fund.

I joined the UNICEF Innovation team in June 2020, although this is not the first time I have worked with UNICEF Innovation. I have had some opportunity to write about Open Source, but my personal blog has been quiet! So, this felt like the right opportunity to talk about what I am up to these days.

The Open Source Archetypes report (below) provides nine archetypes common among Open Source projects and communities. These archetypes provide a common language and perspective to think about how to capture the most value of Open Source in various contexts.

This article covers the following topics:

  1. How Open Source Archetypes align with my experience
  2. How I use Open Source Archetypes at UNICEF
  3. Unanswered questions
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Hacktoberfest 2020 with TeleIRC

October is here! If you contribute to Open Source projects, you might know that October is the month of Hacktoberfest. DigitalOcean teams up with different partners each year to send a t-shirt (or plant a tree on your behalf) for anyone who makes four GitHub Pull Requests in October. And guess what? TeleIRC is a participating project for you to get your Hacktoberfest t-shirt or tree!

This post identifies specific tasks the TeleIRC team identified as “good first issues” for Hacktoberfest hackers. They are in order of least difficult to most difficult. Golang developers especially are encouraged to participate!

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Facilitation, collaboration, and webcams: A story about Principles of Authentic Participation

This is the story about the facilitation of the Principles of Authentic Participation.

This post does not describe what the Principles are (click that link to learn more about them). This post describes the story behind the Principles, and how our Sustain Working Group worked together over three months of virtual facilitation during the COVID–19 crisis to build these Principles.

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CopyleftConf 2020: quick rewind

CopyleftConf 2020 took place on Monday, 3 February, 2020 in Brussels, Belgium:

This will be the second annual International Copyleft Conference. Participants from throughout the copyleft world — developers, strategists, enforcement organizations, scholars and critics — will be welcomed for an in-depth, high bandwidth, and expert-level discussion about the day-to-day details of using copyleft licensing, obstacles facing copyleft and the future of copyleft as a strategy to advance and defend software freedom for users and developers around the world.

This event will provide a friendly and safe place for discussion of all aspects of copyleft, including as a key strategy for defending software freedom!

Official conference website

This was my first time attending CopyleftConf. I attended on behalf of RIT LibreCorps to represent the sustainability efforts at the RIT [email protected] initiative. However, I also represented myself as an individual in the Free Software movement. For CopyleftConf 2020, I arrived hoping to learn more about where we, as the Free Software community, are going. I also hoped to gain a deeper ethical perspective about our digital society.

Me excitingly looking up to the main stage, holding my CopyleftConf 2020 schedule, after having bought my ticket earlier that same morning.
Me excitingly holding my CopyleftConf 2020 schedule after having bought my ticket earlier that same morning.

Event reports take many forms. Since CopyleftConf 2020 is structured in a unique format, my event report is structured as follows:

  • At a glance: structure and key takeaways: High-level overview of what CopyleftConf 2020 was like. What the biggest ideas on my mind were at the end of the day.
  • Copyleft adopt curves: what drove copyright adoption then (or now?): Musings on the history of copyleft and movement building.
  • Free Software, but for kids: Children and teenagers are already building open source communities. How do we include the next generation?
  • Where are we going?: Software ethics and copyleft licensing.
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