Climate change, social division, fallout from the digital revolution – we are facing challenges that can only be tackled with innovative solutions. The open movement seeks to work towards solutions to many of the world’s most pressing problems in a spirit of transparency, collaboration, re-use and free access. It encompasses open data, open government, open development, open science and much more.
Participatory processes, sharing of knowledge and outputs and open source software are among its key tools. The specific definition of “open” as applied to data, knowledge and content, is set out by the Open Definition. Digital social innovations exhibit many overlaps and synergies with the open movement. For them, open represents one of the main drivers for participation and collaboration and innovative potential.
Therefore, a threat to the open movement means a threat to the innovative character of Digital Social Innovations. This is why we call for effort, coordination and political and public will to fight for an open internet.
Know how to use open data
Very often a challenge for open data is a lack of skills among citizens and civil society. Here are some projects you should know about when you are facing similar issues in your work with civil actors.
Open4Citizens, a EU-funded project, seeks to address the gap between the opportunities offered by the abundance of open data and citizens’ capabilities to imagine new ways of using such data.
Open Knowledge’s School of Data, meanwhile, offers online courses to civil society organisations, journalists and professionals covering (open) data analysis, management and publishing.
Another organisation helping to make open data more accessible is Dyntra, which develops indices to measure public information from governments, public authorities, political parties and elected representatives.
Share open data
If you and your organization are more aware of the potential of data for good, and you also have the tools to take more control over your personal data, you are more likely to share your data. This is the central hypothesis behind the DECODE project, another EU-funded project.
DECODE is developing blockchain-enabled open-source technology which will provide tools for individuals to choose whether to keep their personal data private or share it for the public good.
You should have a look at DECODE, which seeks to create new data commons, which will enable new research and new digital approaches to understanding and tackling social challenges.
Know your open data options
There are so many tools using open-source, peer-topeer and decentralised technologies but you don’t know which one to use? Take this little overview: In the field of social media, for example, Mastodon is a small but growing alternative to Twitter, which puts privacy first and lets people host their own instances of the service on their own servers.
Diaspora is another opensource, federated social platform which allows users to register with any hosting “pod” around the world. It does not force its users to use their real identity (like Twitter does), and gives users ownership over their own data.
Mozilla Firefox, Europe’s third-most widely used browser, is open-source, while other non-proprietary browser technologies are emerging such as the P2Pbased Beaker Browser. More broadly, there are hundreds of open-source alternatives to proprietary software for everything from document editing to graphic design, with platforms such as osalt.com collating these in searchable databases.
Become financially innovative
We know that for DSI such as yours, financial sustainability continues to be a struggle, particularly for socially-oriented open-source projects whose funding
tends to be project-based and reliant on volunteers. This is particularly difficult for collaborative DSI initiatives, as funding mechanisms often lack the patience needed for critical mass - and the consequent realisation of network effects - to be achieved. In comparison to classic business models or investments (such as VC funding), only a minority of DSI like Avaaz have reached significant scale. It needs a more advanced, even holistic finance model that takes into account that the principles of the free market do not apply to open DSI as they had never applied to environment protection or social justice either. Moving forward, we must move towards a new model of finance, such as governmental or philanthropic funding.
Develop one message
The global open movement has often tended toward fragmentation, which can stand in the way of advancing its agenda and gaining more widespread support among the public and policymakers. There is a strong case that the movement will be better able to further its aims if it’s able to come together more.
We need a coherent, structured open movement - a broad church with a unifying goal but which can shelter the diverse interests and demands of different trends within the movement.
Without a shared message, a unifying call to action and a collaborative vision for the future, we will not be able to create the digital world we want. Openness needs to be protected.
A thriving open movement is likely to have positive spillover effects on DSI. But the movement also faces grave challenges, to which it urgently needs to find answers: the rise of web censorship and internet shutdowns, government blocks on mobile apps and websites and monopolisation of data.
However, we see the potential for a bright future in which openness becomes the default paradigm for the digital world.
This article originally appeared on DigitalSocial.eu and is published under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.