People have long argued about the question how innovation and new business ideas is created and best promoted. In the past 100 years, the approach has been to protect intellectual property, keeping knowldge in the hands of the rights owners (not neccessily equal to the creators).However, there is a notion spreading that this is not the only way to go. Had patents existed in Guttenbergs times, we may never have gotten the rights from the Chineese or Koreans to develope the machinery to print. Good ideas are usually not new, but built upon generations of work and thinkers. I would like to spend the next ten minutes introducing the concept of open design and working with collaborative approaches – the idea that we can do more for the development of society as a whole if we can “stand on the shoulders of giants”.
Open has become quite a buzz word in the word I work in during the past yearsWhat began with the Open Source Movement initiated by Richards Stallman has spread to other industries and areas of production. Not only software, but also hardware can be created following the „open“ production principles. In recent years, the concept of opening things up has also spread to political areas and contributed to the growth of the open data and open government movement.Open Design is a part of this idea that instead of having a closed production mechanism, the knowledge and concepts behind a product should be opened and made available in order for them to benefit society as a whole.
All these “open” approaches share a basic concept: In traditional production mechanisms there is a black box containing the concept and blue prints – the division between producer and consumer is clear. The user is only allowed to consume the product, reproduction, change or alteration is not intended. The idea and production mechanism are protected by copyright or patents because they are seen as point of value creation. Open production mechanisms turn this concept around. Here, the blackbox is opened up and the idea and mechanisms or the “code” behind the product are made available. Users of the product are free to copy it, change it, and contribute the further development of the product.
Open design is based on the aforementioned principles of open production, instead of software, physical products are created.This may sound crazy to anyone who has ever been to design school and was taught the exact opposite: protect your knowledge. Open design is not about not earning money or having no business model connected to your work. On the contrary – the business model is a different one and there are concrete benefits people working with Open Design aim for:1 - sharingMany designers who produce and generate profits locally are ready to share theirdesigns with others to enable decentralized production and enable people to learn and benefit from their design who wouldn't have bought the product locally 2 – joint improvementThe value of sharing is seen in the possibility to peer-review ones ideas, enabling improvement of the product – the philosophy behind this being that two minds are more powerful than one. Or DIT instead of DIY3 – no more mere consumersInstead of having a few creators and masses of mindless consumers, the modern market values customers as sources of inspiration and skill. The term crowdsourcing is another buzz-word in this context – Not every consumer may be an expert, but everyone has experiences worth sharing and considering. Creators can become teachers and empower their customers by passing on information on the product they are using and involving them in the process. Open Business models often concentrate on the services and learning experiences created around a product or for instance in the customization of products to individual customer needs.
So…. Who is crazy enough to do this? I would like to introduce a few examples to make this concept more concrete:One of the Berlin based protagonists of the Open Design community is Ronen Kadushin. He is a product designer who sells hard copies of his work but also publishes the designs under a creative commons licence. http://www.ronen-kadushin.com
The Open Source Ecology is a really interesting project – I recommend watching the short Ted-Talk for those who are interested. Open Source Ecology is a network of farmers, engineers, and supporters that for the last two years has been creating the Global Village Construction Set, - the construction set is basically a collection of blue prints for around 50 machines that the network considers vital to build a sustainable civilization with modern comforts. The set is basically like a life-size lego-like kit of modular tools that can create entire economies, whether in rural Missouri, where the project was founded, in urban redevelopment, or in the developing world. The designs are open source, easy to use and aim to lower the barriers to entry into farming, building, and manufacturing and includes machines such as: TractorBreadbakingmachine Sawmill Cement mixer and Wind turbine
What is the Open Architecture Network?The Open Architecture Network is an online, open source community dedicated to improving living conditions through innovative and sustainable design. The platform brings together designers and enables them 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• Protect their intellectual property rights using the Creative Commons "some rights reserved" licensing system and be shielded from unwarranted liabilityThe Open Architecture Network is the brainchild of the NGO Architecture for Humanity and their experiences intrying to address shelter needs after disaster, in informal settlements and in our own communities.
So – end this brief introduction I would like to throw another buzz word at you that I mentioned earlier. Modern technologies enable collaboration via the web and participatory projects as the ones just introduced. Social media technologies make it easy to share ideas with an actual or virtual community and enable partipation. Many new ideas and concepts build on such technologies – thus with the increased use of social media and web2.0 the idea of crowdsourcing certain processes has also gained popularity – both for gathering ideas and funding projects.
In the past years, some of the major innovative software tools that have been created in Africa rely on crowdsourcing – such as the crisis management tool Ushahidi. Here, people can submit information via sms which is verified and aggregated – Ushahidi has been used to monitor elections, report on shortages in medication as well as for crisis relief and rescue missions for instance in Haiti. Crowd funding describes the collective pooling of money and other resources, usually via the Internet, to support efforts initiated by other people or organizations. Today, Crowd funding occurs for any variety of purposes: from disaster relief to artists seeking support from fans or funding a startup company to funding citizen journalism and other forms of web-conent
Creating with the Crowd Who‘s idea was this anyway?