SSC Toolbox Social Source Commons Blog

Nonprofit Tech, Tools and Social Media

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Tools for Social Change


Aspiration (mama org to Social Source Commons) is spending the week here in Detroit, MI for the 2010 United States Social Forum. USSF is a gathering place for activists, non-profits and people concerned with social justice and inequality in society. There’s an incredible number of people here (~20,000) and Aspiration is working with the Tor Project, The Ruckus Society, Rainforest Action Network and Radical Designs to put on the Online Organizer’s Lab here in the People’s Media Center.

The Online Organizer’s Lab is a place for participants to not only access the internet, but edit audio and video as well as attend some of the trainings that Aspiration does around things like Building a Social Media Dashboard, Taking Advantage of RSS, Keeping Your Privacy Online and Putting Together a Publishing Matrix.

However, the (much argued) best part of this lab is that our computers are using Ubuntu, a Linux operating system (an open source alternative to Windows XP or Mac OS X) installed by Wubi. This means participants get to play with a lot of open source software like OpenOffice, Audacity and PiTiVi Video Editor.

Free and open source software is a great option philosophically for those working in social justice and nonprofit work because not only is the software free (there are a few exceptions) but open source programs have communities of developers that work on the software for no pay (again, there are a few exceptions) because they believe in providing free, quality tools that aren’t attached to shareholders or corporations that are after money. Rather, they are committed to software produced by people who have the users in mind. Open source software and FOSS (Free & Open Source Software) or FLOSS (Free (Libre) Open Source Software) are community-produced, maintained and supported projects that live and die with the people.

FOSS tools provide nonprofits with a great option for their organizational technology needs. Many use common FOSS tools like Drupal, Joomla, Plone and WordPress for their organizational website, CiviCRM for their contact management or just OpenOffice for their word processing and spreadsheet needs. There are a ton of open source options out there and I encourage you to try a search for “open source” on SSC to explore some of the great, free tools that developer communities have developed for users just like you.

Hanging out at the U.S. Social Forum has introduced us to many die-hard open source-ers and it’s inspiring to see and hear their passion for community-designed, built and managed software that everyone can enjoy.

Do you use open source software at your organization? What has your experience been?

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