Through three “Pilot” projects, we’re learning what it takes to open-source social change and embed this practice into our communications efforts.

Does this situation sound familiar? An organization facing a challenge brings a group of internal stakeholders together. They brainstorm solutions behind closed doors, put a plan into action and then feel frustrated when they only see slow, incremental change. Discouraged, the group scraps their original plan and starts anew.

What if we began open-sourcing our knowledge, our stories of success and failure, in real time, across geographies and across sectors?

If you’ve spent any amount of time in the social sector, you probably have experienced this type of practice. And at Living Cities, we are seeing this vicious cycle repeat itself across sectors, too. In cities across the country, change-makers are trying to tackle deep-seeded challenges by reinventing the wheel. In some places - it works. Others see only little or slow progress. So we began to ask: What if we started working together differently? What if we began open-sourcing our knowledge, our stories of success and failure, in real time, across geographies and across sectors?

We’re now four years into this ambitious agenda to open-source social change. (You can read more about our vision and progress in an earlier post from our Assistant Director of Strategic Communications and Storytelling.)

We must make everything from our half-baked ideas to our emergent lessons public.

We believe that the process of open-sourcing–sharing what we see and learn in real time–is a core lever through which we can achieve lasting social change. In order to truly build a new type of urban practice and scale solutions beyond a single program or city department, we must make everything from our half-baked ideas to our emergent lessons public. We must expose our successes as well as our failures, so that others may observe what we’re doing and change–or adapt–their behaviors to get dramatically better results for low-income people, faster.

In today’s hyperconnected and digital-first world, we’re seeing many change-makers take steps to experiment with open-sourcing. We’re encouraged and inspired to see foundations, nonprofits, public and private sectors organizations creatively using new media to share stories of “what works” faster than ever before.

What steps is your organization taking to share in real-time? Add your thoughts 

And we’re hungry to understand “what works” about open-sourcing social change itself! So, to practice what we preach, we recently embarked on agenda to better understand our own open-sourcing work. We took a Build-Measure-Learn approach to this work, and crafted custom measurement strategies for three “Pilot” communications projects. We evaluated our goals and objectives, and looked at data from website user trends in Google Analytics to qualitative responses to polls and surveys, to understand - What’s working? What resonates with our community? What kind of information catalyzes the spread of good ideas?

In the next few weeks, I’ll be blogging about our experience and the lessons we’ve learned through our pilot projects, including:

  • An “Implementation Guide” from the First Cohort of the City Accelerator

  • A Blog Series on Pay For Success Underwriting

  • An E-Course on Community Engagement in Collective Impact

We’re aiming to tell and honest and meaningful story about what works and doesn’t in terms of Open Sourcing Social Change, to use that understanding to continuously improve our work, and provide resources so that you and your organizations can do the same.