The Open Source Activism Manifesto

Why Open Source?

For too long, advocacy tools have been fragmented and siloed. Innovative technologies have been built by individual campaigns, but often do not spread across movements. Knowledge either gets locked up by expensive consulting firms and sold as a product at high margins, or organizations build custom tools and do not have the funding or ability to support long-term use and development.

Open source activism tools show a different path, where technology is owned by the movement not candidates or consultants. Progressives believe we can do more together than we can individually, and that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The technology we build and use should reflect the values we advocate. We share our knowledge and code, building communities of practice around our tools, so that we can all move forward together.

Why Not Democrats Only?

When our technology is owned by a specific political party, that organization does not always have the movement’s interests at heart. Outsider candidates can be shut out, insiders may want to maintain an edge for the next cycle, and changes in power can abruptly alter organizational direction and policies.

We are non-partisan progressives who want all citizens to be engaged and represented in their democracy. While “the other side” could download our code and use it on their own, we won’t provide hosting or support to people who don’t believe in equality and justice for all. Our copyleft license also ensures that any changes must contributed back to the commons, which is a major barrier to abuse by big commercial interests.

Why Not Off The Shelf Tools?

If movement technology is owned by venture-backed companies, their incentive is to scale or sell user data to pay back their debt to investors seeking a high return. We have seen this happen time and again with organizing tools which were once affordable and innovative, and have become expensive and stale after acquisition or sale.

There are some off-the-shelf tools for calling or marketing which can be re-purposed for activism, but their costs and incentives are not aligned with our politics. We find the prospect of using tools designed for debt-collection to advocate for progressive candidates distasteful. Our open tools are developed with our values, and our incentives align with our users.

Commercially developed tools often fail to meet campaign needs for simple but powerful user interfaces, or require significant training for volunteers to get the hang of it. Our technology is developed in line with campaign needs, and with deep consultation and respect for movement work.

How Do I Get the Tools?

All our source code and documentation is available at no cost on GitHub, where we develop our tools in the open with collaborative roadmaps. You can download and run tools yourself, or you can pay us to run and support them for a reasonable monthly fee. Our hosting is professional, secure, and reliable, and uses other open systems like Kubernetes and Ansible to ensure your tools are running smoothly and are always available for key moments.

Can I Change the Code?

Yes! All our code is available for edits, refinements, and adjustments. We only ask that any changes you make are also released under the same license, so that the movement always has access to the best version of the tools. Go ahead and fork the code, or open an issue on our roadmap, and we’ll work with you to integrate it back into the main repository.

How Do You Make Money?

Your support of our efforts ensures we can continue to share and support our work in the future. If you would like to see an additional feature, we can develop it with you and distribute updates to all users. We can also build custom tools to your specification, but we try to ensure that our work is reusable and applicable across campaigns.

We are actively looking for funding from foundations and large organizations to help kickstart new development of open tools before they are fully self-sustaining.

Join us in the open source revolution