Building a digital tool and then telling other organisations they can use it for free isn’t sustainable. It’s not even generous. And it’s not open source. Open source invites you into a community of users who are also maintainers. Open source also comes with the expectation of no guaranteed support. That’s why many businesses, including giants like IBM, have built support models around open source software.
So when a bunch of organisations get together and build software. Well actually, they don’t build it, a company builds it for them pro bono. But they don’t think about a business model, it is wasted time for everyone. And no, trying to find some grants to pay for it, is not sustainable. It might work for a year or two, but then it won’t and you’ll be stuck.
Free is not sustainable. And it is never free. There are costs with digital tools. Build costs are often the easy ones to fund because building is a sexy. Maintaining, developing, supporting – the ongoing operational costs are the tough costs to fund. And yet, the most important for sustainability.
Digital tools are not free. They require resources to sustain themselves. If people donate their time that can help, but it is a cost, just not to you. Pro bono can be very helpful to reduce the build cost, but it is likely
Don’t build without a business model and plan. Do the hard work upfront. You’ll be glad you did.