The B Series: Leveraging the (Open Source) Internet as a Force for Good

Sharing economy; open source technology; open source for good

Image courtesy of Josep Castells at https://unsplash.com

So far throughout The B Series, I’ve talked a lot about product-based companies, but today I’m going to feature a service-industry B Corporation.

OpenConcept Consulting Inc. has been a registered B Corp for the past two years, providing open source web development solutions for organizations that are making a meaningful impact on society.

It’s web development for social change.

OpenConcept defines itself as a “not-only-for-profit” company that seeks to make a difference in the world, all-the-while using internet as a force for good. They believe that they must be the change they hope to see in the world. 

To do this, OpenConcept uses Drupal software, an open source content management system that allows organizations to build websites that are managed by their teams. From here, OpenConcept tailors and constructs an end product that is best suited for their customers’ needs. Simultaneously, they build and reinforce the open source community.

I had a chat with Mike Gifford, founder and president of OpenConcept Consulting Inc., who launched the company back in 1999.

He recounted to me how important it is for the open source community to continue to grow, adapt, change and perfect the technology out there that’s available, free of charge.

As Mike puts it, “Open source software is [as] ‘free as kittens’, but you need to feed the kittens if you want to keep them healthy.”

It’s Mike’s goal to make Ontario as open as possible. Because with this comes accessibility and security. Anyone with access to the internet has access to these free–and secure–open source web development tools, creating a more even playing field. 

What’s great about the work of OpenConcept Consulting Inc., Drupal, and the open source community more broadly, is that it creates a new form of cultural collaboration. The world is becoming much more collaborative as the sharing economy movement grows at an exponential rate. And as Mike points out, “For most people, ownership of the code isn’t
going to make your life any better. For many businesses the ability to use, modify and distribute technology is more important than actually owning it.”

Though the sharing economy is evolving and growing like never before, Mike makes note of an issue we’re still grappling with today: “There are still so many NGOs that have a scarcity mentality from decades of budget cuts. This forces them to make short term decisions that often leave them stuck using tools that don’t really meet their needs and which they can’t customize.”

Charities and organizations working with Mike and OpenConcept are realizing this and are moving towards community-based solutions.

Being a registered B Corporation helps guide this mission.

Mike recounts the first time he had heard about B Corporations. He was attending an event at HUB Ottawa where they provided some information and resources about the certification process. From there, he remembers taking the assessment for the first time, experiencing what he described as a “huge eye opener.” He couldn’t believe how much he had learned just from having taken the assessment!

From that point forward, he’s enjoyed growing his company alongside the B Corporation community, leveraging its many tools and resources.

Our conversation concluded with a discussion about the future of the B Corporation movement. Like many others I’ve spoken with, he’s excited about where the movement is headed. Ideally, he hopes the community expands here in Ontario to further strengthen healthy competition between B Corps and build upon the notion that business can act as a force for good. 

At the rate the B Corp movement is growing, this may not take as long as we think.

Have you enjoyed this instalment of The B Series project? If so, be sure to follow the blog (by subscribing in the follow widget, located in the top right hand corner of this page) and follow me on Twitter, @CSRtist.

Don’t forget to also check out other posts from The B Series project!

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