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Partnering with UNICEF to build humanitarian open source communities

Justin W. Flory - 01 April 2019

On Monday, April 1st, 2019, Prof. Stephen Jacobs and Justin W. Flory met with the next cohort of international humanitarian start-ups funded by the UNICEF Innovation Fund. This continues the partnership between FOSS@MAGIC and the UNICEF Office of Innovation started in 2012. Jacobs and Flory worked with UNICEF fund managers to support the next round of funded companies to build open source communities around their humanitarian products.

About the UNICEF Innovation Fund

The UNICEF Innovation Fund is an investment fund for humanitarian projects that address the needs of vulnerable children. To receive funding, companies must release some or all components of their product as free and open source software. This aligns to one of the Principles for Digital Development followed by UNICEF: Use Open Standards, Open Data, Open Source, and Open Innovation.

Periodically, UNICEF hosts a week-long workshop in New York City for funded start-ups to work with subject-matter experts to development their products and business models. This is an intensive week of planning future goals and milestones. To this end, Stephen and Flory worked with UNICEF fund managers to introduce working in the open and how to build a grassroots open source community.

Discovering open source

Many members of the funded teams are unfamiliar with open source communities and projects. For the first hour, Flory presented on his previous work as a UNICEF intern working on open source community engagement in the MagicBox project. He walked through workflows and project management tools and explained why these are useful for working in open source communities. Additionally, he gave six actionable tips for projects to begin their own journey to building a sustainable open source project and community. Find the full slide deck here.

Additionally, Prof. Jacobs introduced different business models for free software projects. He explained different models and provided examples of other successful companies using these models to grow their businesses. During the breakout sessions, Jacobs and Flory provided 1x1 mentorship and guidance along with other UNICEF mentors.

Learn more about us

Interested in learning more? See what the FOSS@MAGIC LibreCorps program is about on our website. Additionally, check out @UNICEFinnovate on Twitter to keep up with the projects.