How open source organisations are building a global movement

Enspiral is not alone. We are part of a global movement of people who are using their time, talents and the technology of today to challenge, re-imagine, and improve the way we work together to serve us better as people, as communities and enable us to do more work that benefits us as a planet.

This global movement is real, growing and becoming more connected. Organisations in this world, driven by a mission bigger than themselves, are sharing more and more of their learning and inspiration.

One such organisation that has been growing rapidly alongside Enspiral over the past 5 years is OuiShare. The now global network of over 5000 members driven by a core group of 80+ connectors in more than 20 cities is built upon distributed power structures, transparency and local community hubs that drive action and support each other.

The content that OuiShare champions spreads ambitiously across collaborative consumption, transparency and equality, the rising power of cities to address global challenges and more inclusive economy systems — but much of their ‘leading the world’ work is actually their processes of decentralised organising, supporting people and activating them to do innovative interesting work.

Francesca Pick is an embodiment of this globally connected network of communities working out this new world together. She is one of the original instigators and champions of OuiShare and has been a driving force of their annual conference / gathering OuiShare Fest, and an Enspiral member and part of a team building services and tools for helping organisations be more collaborative with their money called Greaterthan.

We sat down for a quick chat about her recent work to help support the development and launch of OuiShare’s open source resource:

Why open source OuiShare?

One common factor of many of these types of organisations is a strong connection and empathy with technology (this is certainly the case with Enspiral), so borrowing from the open source world is really second nature.

In Fran’s own words:

“This open sourcing work is really about cutting open the organisation and giving everyone a vision of what it looks like on the inside. This is helpful for people both inside the organisation, at the edges and outside the organisation.”

She describes the 3 core reasons for this work (also outlined on the website) as:

  • Easy access to knowledge.
  • Sharing best practices.
  • Inspire others.
“We want to show how OuiShare works in a really useful, practical way and we want others to be inspired by it and then copy it”

This instinct is unusual for a startup organisation. It’s not that ‘normal’ for an organisation to invest in sharing their core systems with the intent for others to copy them, but for mission driven organisations seeking to maximise their impact, it’s actually really strategic.

When you zoom out to a more global level, the mutual inspiration being shared between all these types of organisations is enabling everyone to raise the bar and continue this work faster, better, bigger and with more ambition. As this global network continues to build capacity and form, the ability to share knowledge and grow off the work of each other is going to become really critical to helping form better systems for the whole planet.

“Enspiral’s handbook was a huge inspiration for OuiShare, both for us to grow our organisation but also to begin to open source and share our thinking also. It’s an example of this mutual inspiration that we want to encourage between all these organisations working to make a more connected, collaborative world.”

Has the open source project been successful for OuiShare?

“Yes! The growth and development of OuiShare Fest is a great example of this!”

A few years ago as part of the core leadership team of the OuiShare Fest conference and inspired by Enspiral’s handbook, Fran began open sourcing all the information about how they run their conference. Everything from the budget, to team roles to programme and logistics is outlined in a free, open accessible resource.

“It’s definitely had a good impact. A few years ago we had OuiShare communities in several places interested in running events in their cities. Both Barcelona and Rio have been able to build on our knowledge and toolkits to plan and deliver their first OuiShare Fest events.
The quality of their first events were so much higher than what we originally did in Paris and by not having to figure out all the boring details and just using our processes they could add more value to their event and spend more time on creative ideas and extending the impact by not having to re-figure-out all the basics.”

By investing in this work and lowering the barriers to entry for others to replicate the OuiShare Fest, the whole OuiShare network has grown massively. The network is now running its conference in 3 countries, the learnings are flowing back organically and more OuiShare communities are beginning to plan their own Festival events too.

What about outside OuiShare?

The open sourcing of information inside OuiShare is obviously important, but this work has also had a positive impact on other organisations around it as well.

“Other communities are also benefiting, for example Zero Waste France ran their first Zero Waste Fest festival last year and used our blueprints to organize it. They also helped us develop our zero waste event policy, which is used by other events in our network now. .”

Opening the resource about OuiShare Fest has also lead to consulting work for Fran and others in the core team to help other organisations to run similar conferences and events.

“Although there is a commercial payoff here, so it’s obviously a useful thing for us to do, the intent to share so others can ‘copy us and grow the movement’ is the primary motivation”.

What are the challenges of this?

Knowledge management and effective documentation is a challenge in most organisations and Enspiral also knows this challenge well. Things go out of date the moment you write them down and people are always moving, learning and improving how they do things.

As you can imagine, understanding and capturing what everyone knows in a fast growing globally distributed network where people speak many languages and everyone is busy doesn’t happen easily….

“Part of the big challenge is resourcing. Because we have built the network on often scarce resourcing and usually some volunteering the budget is normally committed 100% to just delivering output. In this case knowledge management or creating open resources and documentation is seen as a ‘nice to have’ so it’s hard to get people to commit to doing it.”

Having helped to run Enspiral’s OS//OS conference in 2015 and 2016 I know this pain too. Often (especially at the end of an event) it’s a push to find the energy to deliver the reflections and report of the event, let alone document and create nice resources to share all the details and processes as well.

“For OuiShare this challenge is actually helping us to start developing a culture of active knowledge management with an knowledge map.”

OuiShare has created a live knowledge map and is building a culture internally of ‘working out loud’ so people build habits to put their resources and thinking into the knowledge map.

“It’s something like ‘automation’ or building the process of knowledge management into the work itself. But, like anything this is a human lead process so it’s really about culture and ensuring people understand and are motivated by the value of this open sourcing work.”

What role does Open Source play in the future of OuiShare?

“For OuiShare it’s about using openness as strategic advantage and being true to our values, so it’s an important part of our future.
For us, the motivation is quite simple: When a community is engaged in a similar mission and everyone can see how the work gets done, and resources to help them do the work, they can have a bigger impact with the same amount of resources.”

The thing about open sourcing is, the work will never be finished — and it doesn’t come free. To really see the benefits of this work, organisations need to invest time and effort to build and share resources and core processes until sharing becomes just another normal, critical function in any team doing any piece of work.

It is a particularly important muscle to build for people who are working to build mission driven organisations and grow the collaborative, purpose driven economy.

By getting really good at openly sharing our processes, inspiration and learning, we will help all of us grow faster and do more together.

To find out more about OuiShare see the full open source OuiShare project here.