The open source approach for organizations

7/9/2007 | Christian Kreutz

I just finished reading Allison Fine's book "Momentum igniting social change in the Connected Age." I really liked it because it explains in detail how we should reconsider cooperation and external communication in an organizational context. Fine speaks mainly of civil society such as activist organizations but I think her thoughts can be applied for all kinds of nonprofit organizations (the authors of wikinomics would probably say the same for enterprises). She argues in her book that we have just started to exploit the full network potential and elaborates what the difference for the Connected Age is.

A nonprofit organization shall see its work and purpose closely connected to stakeholders such as partners, members or volunteers. The consequence is to join an "authentic two-way conversation". This can be achieved by orientating the organization towards open source thinking. In contrast to the proprietary way, where organizations are vertical structured and act as information holders. "Just as learning needs to be more open and transparent organizational planing cannot be the proprietary, closed process it was in the broadcast days." The open source approach emphasizes on listening to the audience, requesting feedbacks and engaging on equal basis with partners in a network. Openness is the key factor, so within a network everybody is a participant and internal and external boundaries of an organization get blurred.

For Allison Fine it goes as far as that "activists organization must lead by letting go. It's counterintuitive but true that the more decision making you push away from the center, the more powerful a networked effect. That's the power-to-the-edge-concept." The web gives the opportunity to get feedback and interact directly within a wider network of potential like-minded people or even with competitive organizations. But this network approach, in her opinion, has to be facilitated "to fuel conversations" and to engage in social media exchange. However, "technology does not create a sense of community itself, but it can provide a virtual inexpensive place to gather to make community happen."

But for Allison this not just an option to choose: "Those organizations that ignore the power of social networks will see their relevance and effectiveness sweep away like acid from a leak battery." Not much more to add than: Yes, it is the web. Yes, it is what people make out of it. Yes, it gains momentum.

Interview and podcast with Allison Fine by Britt Bravo