Open Source Chamber of Commerce

One of my favourite sessions from last week’s Open Cities unconference was a session Mark Surman proposed around what an Open Source Chamber of Commerce might look like.

So what is an Open Source Chamber of Commerce? Good question. Mark’s initial thinking was…

…to focus and build buzz around the significant volume of open source activity that is quietly (and disconnectedly) happening in Toronto. The number of companies, projects and research labs focused on open source is growing in this city, yet they are spread out a thousand nooks and crannies. There is no sense of community, no sense of anything bigger. Of course, that’s totally okay on one level. No need to invent community, especially when most people are tapped in globally. However, there is another level where staying disconnected locally represents a missed opportunity to make Toronto a better place to work on open source. (read Mark’s full post here.)

The session sparked a good debate about what such a Chamber might look like – or even what membership would entail.

The possibility that most excited me was how such a Chamber could serve as a home and talk shop for corporations or organizations that agree to “donate” a specific number or percent of their workforces’ hours, towards an open source projects. Many organizations (indeed most) use open source products, and some of them allow their IT employees to contribute towards them (for which there is a good business case). The Chamber could serve to connect CIO’s and other representatives from these firms and organizations with one another as well as with key figures within open-source projects. Up and coming open-source communities could pitch their software and community. Members could exchange best practices on how to best contribute to OS projects and on how their organizations can most effectively leverage OS software.

In addition, the Chamber could serve as an interest group, an advocate for infrastructure and policies that would make Toronto a more attractive location for Open-Source projects and contributors specifically and IT workers generally. According to the Municipal Government, Toronto already has the third largest cluster of Information and Communication Technology in North America (around 90,000 ITC facilities with 100 employees or greater) so there is a rich pool to draw from. On top of that – as Mark also notes – there is an interesting group of people affiliated with various open-source projects in Toronto. Why not figure out what Toronto is doing right and amplify it?

(As a brief aside, check out the Seneca FSOSS conference website if you haven’t yet – here’s a group that’s been doing a lot of heavy lifting on this front already.)

Mark and I are simply batting around the idea and would love feedback (positive and critical).

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