The Future is Community
The emerging community model improves efficiency by 1.) giving nonprofits direct access to the “network;” and 2.) consolidating historical conversations and research sources into a single community (or only a few). In this new paradigm, a nonprofit professional or consultant could search the community and, if nothing useful surfaces, then post a query directly to the community to reach internal and external networks that are broader than he/she could tap individually. In addition, the entire conversation and knowledge are available to everyone seeking similar information.
Although the community model is the future, it won’t just appear tomorrow. There are three keys to realizing the lower costs, greater innovation and time savings that a robust community model offers: participation, participation and participation.
Participation is key
Everyone will have to live by the mantra of “community first,” which means active participation even when you don’t have a question, want an application or need help solving a problem. We’ll need to change the way we’ve operated, e.g., instead of e-mailing a question to a few colleagues, post a question to the community.
Everyone will get more than he/she contributes. Keith Bright, dDirector of IBM’s Linux Research Center and one of today’s leading evangelists for open-source software, gave IBM a mandate eight years ago when asked to head this initiative: Community must come before IBM’s business needs. If doing what was right for the community seemed counter to IBM’s interests or even likely to help a competitor, IBM would still put the community first. In a visionary move, IBM agreed to this condition, which, according to Bright, has always eventually benefited the company.
Those who embrace the emerging community-based model for nonprofit collaboration will reap tremendous benefits. But, like almost all great innovations, it requires a commitment to participate and change how we work. Operating as a community is an unprecedented opportunity for nonprofits to achieve the agility and freedom needed to fulfill their missions, transcending any one product, vendor or organization. Think of the resulting impact we can all have on the world.