Talk Data to Me: Open Source Tools in Progressive Tech

Start: 2023-09-12 14:00:00 UTC Eastern Daylight Time (US & Canada) (GMT-04:00)

End: 2023-09-12 15:00:00 UTC Eastern Daylight Time (US & Canada) (GMT-04:00)

A link to attend this virtual event will be emailed upon RSVP

Please join us Tuesday, September 12th from 2-3pm EST for a discussion about the use of Open Source tools in Progressive Movement Tech and the need for greater shared ownership of key Movement tools and resources.

Our participants for the discussion are:

  • Kaelyn Seymour (Moderator) - Generation Data Board Member & Civic Engagement Data Director, Missouri Organizing and Voter Engagement Collaborative (MOVE)
  • Emily Cogsdill - Engineering Manager, Community Teach Alliance
  • Shauna Gordon-McKeon - Community Manager, Parsons
  • Elyse Weiss - Chief Technology Officer, The Movement Cooperative (TMC)

Background on Open Source

Open Source software is a program or tool that has publicly available code which anyone can use, modify and distribute. Some prominent examples of Open Source tools are Google's Android operating system, Mozilla's Firefox web browser (a non-profit alternative to Chrome and Safari), and the WordPress content management system which powers somewhere between 40-60% of all websites. Often times, the code for Open Source projects will be accessible via a site like GitHub.

Open Source stands is in contrast to Closed Source software whose code base and distribution is typically controlled by a single entity (e.g. Instagram, Apple's iOS, most apps and operating systems you probably interact with on a regular basis).

Some of the reasons to consider using Open Source as opposed to Closed Source tools include:

  • It is often cheaper, more flexible, and more customizable to your needs
  • It can have more longevity than its proprietary peers because it is developed by communities rather than a single author or company that can become disinterested or go out of business
  • As an individual or organization choosing Open Source, you not only benefit from the existing community around an Open Source tool. But you can become part of and help grow the community and tool

Open Source in Progressive Movement Tech

While the term Open Source has its origins in the browser wars of the mid-to-late 1990s, increasingly organizations and individuals in the Progressive Movement tech space have been embracing Open Source for many of the benefits listed above.

Some of the most prominent examples of Open Source tech created by and/or use in the Movement Tech space are’s texting tool Spoke, which has been adapted by State Voices and made available at very low-cost to civic engagement organizations across the country as Dispatch; Parsons (a tool set that makes it easier to move and transform data between tools originally created under the guidance of The Movement Cooperative; and Community Tech Alliance's dbt (data build tool) models.

Beyond specific tools, Movement organizations are also increasingly adopting the community ethos and shared ownership philosophy around key Movement tools embodied by Open Source.

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