This is Why You Do It: Open Source Software Saves Charity

by Ostatic Staff - Sep. 07, 2010

We love feel-good stories about how open source software helps improve living conditions in third-world countries or comes to the rescue in times of crisis, but this one really takes the cake. A Canadian non-profit foundation specializing raising awareness about schizophrenia was saved from going under by deploying open source software to manage its day-to-day office needs. If FOSS developers need a reminder of why you grind away at code for so little in return, here it is.

When the Schizophrenia Society of Canada realized they could no longer make ends meet, they faced a tough decision: find a way to drastically cut costs or risk shutting its doors forever. The organization hired an auditing firm to come up with ideas to help keep them afloat and received a surprising recommendation -- close the physical office space and create a virtual workspace for employees instead. Though the foundation was amenable to the idea, there were two issues to hurdle.

First, many people on staff aren't well-versed in the nuances of online collaboration and project management. Second, there was no budget to bring in an IT expert to oversee the technical needs of a virtual office. After further research, the auditors recommended deploying an open source cloud collaboration program that would provide the team with everything they needed to replicate the work they'd done in a physical office, but with drastically lower overhead costs.

Ultimately, the group chose HyperOffice, a hosted open source collaboration platform complete with an online meeting space, shared calendars, document management, business email, and more. "The fact that there were 'no geeks required' and the viability of numerous HyperOffice free training resources like webinars, videos, white papers etc was ideal for 'staff and board members who were not familiar with the internet.' Moreover, since HyperOffice is fully hosted and outsourced, hardware and maintenance costs were saved as well," writes HyperOffice's Pan Tan.

We hear stories every day about open source software deployments in government, school districts, and big business. Its usefulness in saving a non-profit foundation trying to do good works is a great reminder of why many people choose to get involved in the FOSS community in the first place -- to make software accessible to those who need it most.

Image: stevendepolo.