In a recent article on Businessweek.com, John Hagel and JohnSeely Brown describe the powerful innovation strategy used by the Myelin Repair Foundation (MRF). MRF is a Silicon Valley nonprofit using an open-source approach to scientific research and drug discovery. It is a great example of an organization using open-source methods as both a key element of its business model and toward contributing to the public good. From the article:
“What's new and exciting about MRF's approach to myelin-repair research is that it creates a distributed network of researchers within diverse academic disciplines such as neurobiology, immunology, and neurology from independent academic institutions in the U.S., including Stanford University and Case Western Reserve University. These researchers collaborate in defining coordinated research initiatives across institutional boundaries—sharing results with each other in real time.
By jointly developing a research road map, participants construct a shared model of possible explanations of the myelin-repair process and pursue parallel, rather than sequential, problem-solving. This approach, combined with rapid iterations where participants review each other's results and refine their approaches based on this shared learning, dramatically compresses the time required for research to generate promising discoveries.”
OSDV is a kindred spirit to MRF—in the use of collaborative open-source methods -- in our case to develop the standards, hardware, and software needed to run accurate and trustworthy digital elections, in what we call a “digital public works:” project.