Should your co-operative be FLOSSing?

Whilst the Co-operatives United opening ceremony was going on, a small group of dedicated co-operators got together to change the way co-operatives worldwide do business. At a workshop...

Whilst the Co-operatives United opening ceremony was going on, a small group of dedicated co-operators got together to change the way co-operatives worldwide do business. At a workshop led by Finn Lewis and Jed Dale of Agile Collective, we discussed the strong links between the Co-operative Principles and the principles of Free and Open Source software, and what we can do to integrate the two further.
The co-operative community and the Free, Libre and Open Source Software (FLOSS) communities both share an enshrined commitment to democracy, engagement and self-help. Both communities encourage their members to get involved, opening up access to allow anyone to contribute. Both want to move the world away from traditional structures, towards more freedom, transparency and openness.
Co-operatives build a better world, while FLOSS codes it.
The case for co-operatives to move away from propriatory software is strong. Aside from fulfilling their commitment to the co-operative principles, co-operative businesses can also benefit substantially from moving to FLOSS systems. The workshop heard that businesses have saved an estimated $60bn each year by using FLOSS, saving on licence fees paid to use software like Microsoft Office and also on the cost of paying software owners to develop new features for their propriatory systems.
FLOSS can be cheaper, more secure and faster to develop. Instead of being supported by one group of developers working for one company, FLOSS has behind it a worldwide support network, each member of which is looking for bugs and improvements to help the others.
[video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wCuVUaDbFzs]
Use of FLOSS is growing. More web servers run on open source Apache software than use Microsoft, and Android is the most used operating system on mobile phones. Both the ICA, Co-op News and Co-operatives UK all use the open source Drupal system to manage their websites, and many other co-operatives are embracing the benefits of going open source. As the use of FLOSS increases, the benefits to businesses will only increase: more users means more developers, which means faster, safer, better software for everybody.
The workshop suggested that one lasting legacy we could try to acheive from the International Year of Co-operatives is to create a new Co-operative Priciple – Principle 8: co-operatives should use free and open source software whenever they can.
If you’re interested in finding out more about FLOSS, you can get in touch with Agile on Twitter @agilecollective, or by email [email protected] Or why not tell us what you think using the #coops2012 hashtag on Twitter?

In this article


Join the Conversation