In a recent article on Businessweek.com, John Hagel and John
Seely Brown
describe the powerful innovation strategy used by the Myelin Repair
Foundation
(MRF). MRF is a Silicon Valley
nonprofit using an open-source approach to scientific research and drug
discovery. It is a great example of an organization using open-source methods as
both a key element of its business model and toward contributing to the public
good. From the article:

“What’s new and exciting about MRF’s approach to
myelin-repair research is that it creates a distributed network of researchers
within diverse academic disciplines such as neurobiology, immunology, and
neurology from independent academic institutions in the U.S., including Stanford University
and Case Western Reserve
University
. These
researchers collaborate in defining coordinated research initiatives across
institutional boundaries—sharing results with each other in real time.

By jointly developing a research road map, participants
construct a shared model of possible explanations of the myelin-repair process
and pursue parallel, rather than sequential, problem-solving. This approach,
combined with rapid iterations where participants review each other’s results
and refine their approaches based on this shared learning, dramatically
compresses the time required for research to generate promising discoveries.”

OSDV is a kindred spirit to MRF—in the use of collaborative open-source
methods — in our case to develop the standards, hardware, and software needed to run accurate
and trustworthy digital elections, in what we call a “digital public works:”
project.