"Making Advanced Technology Work for Community-Serving Organizations: The Potential Impact of OSS and ASPs." 2000.

This joint statement resulted from a Workshop held in Ann Arbor on May 12-13, 2000. The thirty participants represented a variety of backgrounds, including nonprofit operations and technology use, open-source software (OSS) development, application service providing, social investing, and research on information technology and on nonprofit organizations.

The document contends that two new developments in the information technology sector, OSS and application service providers (ASPs), offer great potential for community-serving organizations. OSS "could allow organizations with similar needs to share their limited software development resources and provide opportunities for contributions by skilled programmers," while ASPs "could allow for more reliable and lower cost information technology infrastructures through economies of scale, identification and aggregation of common needs, and effective outsourcing of development, maintenance and support."

The joint statement also urges "foundations, corporations, and skilled volunteers" to invest resources in these efforts. Many of those who attended the meeting were already committing resources toward experiments involving nonprofits and ASPs or OSS, and the statement seems to have inspired more important work in this direction.


ICTs can greatly facilitate the work of small nonprofit organizations and open up options for collaboration that are impossible without them. Unfortunately, they can also burden such organizations with numerous ongoing commitments that they cannot afford: training, upgrades, technical support, integration and customized development. Both ASPs and OSS have the potential to improve this situation, through the development of communities that provide such services to nonprofits. Those with expertise in the development and maintenance of computer systems can pool their resources to meet the needs that numerous nonprofits have in common.

Both ASPs and OSS carry their own risks, however, since they both require an ongoing commitment on the part of many players. Nonprofits that enter into such arrangements should be aware that they will develop some degree of dependence on those other players, and it would be advisable to consider some contingency plans in case it is ever necessary to move to another approach. These considerations are present whenever a nonprofit relies on an external entity to support its operations, so they should not be seen as uniquely tied to either ASP or OSS. Since the purchase and maintenance of proprietary software is often the only viable alternative, ASPs and OSS provide promising options.

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