4 Tips On Scaling From Open-Source Pioneers

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

How do you quickly scale an innovation? The industrial-age strategy is well-understood: A generation ago, when General Motors wanted to sell more cars, it scraped together a few billion dollars in capital; built factories; hired designers, engineers, assemblers and patent attorneys; and pumped new Buicks and Caddies through its captive dealer network.

For most social entrepreneurs, that’s not a viable path. Increasingly, their conversations about scaling turn to so-called open-source strategies: flexible and decentralized ways to speed innovation. Open-source innovation relies on transparency — everyone can see and understand the underlying processes, mechanics, and code — and adaptability — anyone can build something new atop what’s been done before, fixing bugs or adding new features. In open-source networks, participants become co-owners with the freedom to create and iterate to add value in new contexts.

For example: In 2004, Kaboom!, founded by Ashoka Fellow Darrell Hammond, hit an inflection point. It was building hundreds of neighborhood playgrounds a year by collaborating directly with communities and corporate partners — but Hammond realized there was a need for thousands more. Kaboom! put its plans and tools for playground construction online for all to see, adapt, and use — catalyzing a nearly 10-fold expansion in total playground builds.

Source: Forbes (link opens in a new window)