Open source software, by its simplest definition, is a work of software whose source code is available for others to read, study, modify and redistribute with little restriction other than that the free access is maintained. Earlier this week, I wrote in an op-ed in the Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR) about how we at the Case Foundation see open source as another form of philanthropy—a digital one whose contributions influence the success of many by providing publicly accessible software. In the article, I shared how we see the potential of open source software and how it can spark innovation, accelerate social good and ultimately help change the world.
Building on the early work of Jean and Steve Case—pioneers in the democratization of information with AOL—technology has always been a crucial part of how the Case Foundation works, and our tech-centric legacy has led us to champion early ideas that are now commonplace such as online giving and digital advocacy. In the course of that work, we have often used open source technologies because of their scalability and opportunity for customization. Giving the technology we create for projects at the Foundation back to the open source community is the next logical step. As we take on new challenges and new campaigns that serve our movements, we will also begin to take the time to ask ourselves and the community if a project that we think would be good for our efforts would also be good for others’ efforts. If that is true, we will dedicate time and resources in the project to open source the components that the community needs. Our contributions will always follow the needs of our broader goals, and we will open source the work in which we and the community find of real value.
So, as a part of our commitment to this open source ideal, we are excited to release the code that powered our #FacesofFounders campaign. This open source code includes features that powered the social photo upload and filters, applicant and story submissions, and the distributed judging platform. By releasing this platform’s code into the community, we are aiming to help those looking to launch similar campaigns where applicants must submit information and have a pool of judges evaluate the submissions.
We designed this platform that powered the first phase of the #FacesofFounders campaign to attract entrepreneurs, particularly women founders and entrepreneurs of color, to share their photos and stories of entrepreneurship on FacesofFounders.org or on Twitter using #FacesofFounders. Launched at the White House’s South by South Lawn festival, in partnership with Blackstone Charitable Foundation, Google for Entrepreneurs and UBS, along with Fast Company, #FacesofFounders sought out and lifted up America’s dynamic entrepreneurs who are key to driving innovation and job growth. The winners of the crowdsourced contest, who were reviewed by our panel of 40 guest judges, were selected because they bridged innovation and a commitment to inclusiveness. We then featured the winners of the contest on FastCompany.com and our #FacesofFounders Medium publication.
The technology powering this campaign was a huge part of its success, and we’re excited to share this code with the open source community. Throughout the judging process, we received numerous comments on how easy it was to use. The platform has three unique components that are all a part of a combined codebase.
Social Media Profile Photo Filter
The first of which is the photo upload feature that allowed visitors to upload a photo (or select their Facebook or Twitter profile photo) and place a campaign-themed filter on top of it. The visitor could then make that filtered photo their profile image on their social media profiles, and the photo was added to a shared photowall on the homepage, which continually displayed all new and past filtered photos. In addition administrators had the ability to remove inappropriate photos from the homepage.
The second feature is the story submission system. In addition to, or instead of, uploading a photo, visitors could submit their story to the judging platform. This submission tool contains customizable forms and can be placed in a “closed” state once judging begins. All submissions entered through the form then go into a queue for a site administrator to assign to judges. Because the platform is built into WordPress, it is also possible to directly upload submissions via WordPress’s dashboard.
Story Review and Judging
The third and final component of this codebase is the judging platform. As visitors submit stories, they queue in the judging section of the backend. Once all submissions are final, assigned judges can log into the platform and request submissions to review. The judges score each submission on a numeric scale, and the platform uses those scores to begin ranking each submission. Site administrators can then log in and view the stories ranked by their aggregate scores to determine winners. The entire codebase comes packaged as a WordPress theme for easy deployment and visual customization using WordPress’s robust theme system.
This open source #FacesofFounders platform is a useful tool for organizations running any sort of applicant submission and review process, and it could be modified to accommodate a grant or scholarship application review, among other uses. If you have a pool of judges or reviewers who are geographically separated or difficult to coordinate on schedules, the platform accommodates such logistical challenges by facilitating an individualized back-end review process. We believe that this code will be integral for the prizes and challenges community.
Given the collaborative nature of the open source community, we are looking for organizations interested in using this code in their own campaigns, as well as suggestions for ways to improve the #FacesofFounders codebase. Moving forward, we plan to share more of the software powering other campaigns and efforts with the open source community.
We at the Case Foundation hope our work can help others, and we’ll do our part to help catalyze the open source movement as we share our resources, our time and our talents with the community. We are excited to share this multifunctional platform with the community, and we look forward to further contributing to this part of digital philanthropy.