Architecture Goes Open Source to Promote Social Good

31 05 2007

Open Architecture Network

As we have examined in various posts the open source phenomenon has extended far from its roots in software to launch new businesses and revitalize old ones using more open business models, product or service design and production processes, and online community.

Open source online community is often created and promoted separately from mainstream association activities.

Today we look at the Open Architecture Network (see link from Social Responsibility in right hand column) – an open source online community dedicated to the promotion of an architectural revolution to “improve living conditions through innovative and sustainable design.” OAN founders seek to help 100 million slum dwellers improve their lives through improving the built environment around them.

OAN was created by Architecture for Humanity and volunteers from its local chapters. AH is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization founded in 1999 to promote architectural and design solutions to global, social and humanitarian crises. Through competitions, workshops, educational forums, partnerships with aid organizations and other activities, Architecture for Humanity creates opportunities for architects and designers from around the world to help communities in need. OAN grew out of the collective frustration in sharing ideas and trying to work together to address shelter needs after disaster in informal settlements and in our own communities.

OAN was founded with support from the prestigious TED Prize (from the TED Conference – see previous posts on TED). Sun Microsystems, Hot Studio, Creative Commons, and AMD joined Architecture for Humanity to launch a beta version of the Open Architecture Network: the first site to offer open source architectural plans and blueprints on the web.

Interested architects and designers are able to:

  • Share their ideas, designs and plans
  • View and review designs posted by others
  • Collaborate with each other, people in other professions and community leaders to address specific design challenges
  • Manage design projects from concept to implementation
  • Communicate easily amongst team members
  • Protect their intellectual property rights using the Creative Commons “some rights reserved” licensing system and be shielded from unwarranted liability
  • Build a more sustainable future

OAN sees other stakeholder involvement from across a wide global spectrum to include: community leaders, nonprofit groups, volunteer organizations, government agencies, technology partners, healthcare workers, and educators.

OAN’s goal is to “allow people to work together in a whole new way, a way that enables 5 billion potential clients to access their skills and expertise… and to generate not one idea but the hundreds of thousands of design ideas needed to improve living conditions for all.”

Presently, OAN has over 5,000 registered users working on 209 projects in:

  • Design development (169)
  • Design complete (38)
  • In construction (32)
  • Construction complete (33) for all

Across all global regions:

  • Africa & Arab States (34)
  • Asia & Pacific (21)
  • Europe & Former Soviet States (19)
  • Latin America & the Caribbean (9)
  • North America (55)

To alleviate the following social needs:

  • Accessibility (22)
  • Adaptive Re-use (12)
  • Affordable/Cost-effective (53)
  • Agit Prop/Policy/Politics (10)
  • Agriculture/Food (9)
  • Biomimicry (3)

Lessons Learned

The Architecture Network offers some good reminders as association executives study how best to use open source strategies:

  1. Online community runs at the heart of good open source strategy and engages stakeholder groups outside your own traditional member base.
  2. Community business opportunity are stakeholder outcome-based, meaning collaboration has a purpose that is tangible and measurable.
  3. Sponsoring organizations see themselves as facilitators and respect average participant expertise and experience while designing experiences that empower registered users.
  4. Knowledge is collected, organized and shared.
  5. The experience lets people or businesses pursue and apply their passions and expertise and profit from them however their motivations are defined.

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One response

31 05 2007

There are also 150 ‘private’ projects where teams are developing a project with a community that they do not want public yet. This allows teams to decide what stage they want their work viewable by others.

We have only been in Beta since March and are looking forward to adding functionality over the year.

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