Notes on partnership conversations

Members of the FOSS United Community and employees of the FOSS United Foundation regularly have conversations about partnerships. These could be conversations about financial support from for-profit companies like Frappe and not-for-profit funding agencies like the Azim Premji Foundation. These could be partnership conversations with other registered not-for-profit FOSS Communities in India like the VGLUG Foundation. We could be talking about Community Partnerships like what we did the Internet Freedom Foundation, Openstreetmap, and many more for IndiaFOSS 3.0. Or we could be talking about hacking together as part of the FOSS Hack Partner Projects.

In this thread, we will try to document, to the best of our abilities, notes from ongoing partnership conversations at the FOSS United Foundation.

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Potential academic partnership with IIT Hyderabad

I was informed of a PALS (I think it stands for Pan-IIT Learning Series) Hyderabad event at IIT Hyderabad last Saturday (15 June). It was the one-year anniversary event of the Hyderabad/Telangana/AP chapter. Prof. B.S. Murthy, the Director of IIT Hyderabad, was one of the chief guests at the event and I talked to him about FOSS while he was running from the venue to his car. He mentioned the Undergraduate Computational Engineering program at IIT Hyderabad and asked me to send him an email.

I finally followed up today, commenting about how we could potentially work together to identify FOSS elements related to the curriculum for the Computational Engg. undergrad program. The curriculum includes courses from different engg. departments (e.g. mechanical engg, civil engg, biotech) so if we are able to identify and integrate FOSS relevant to the courses and the curriculum, we have material that we can share to other colleges.

I don’t have high hopes but it’s worth a shot. I’ve been singing this song for a while now but for me, Computational Thinking > Computer Science and enabling Computational Thinking across Engg. disciplines enables fundamentally new solutions to domain-specific problems.

We would like to do similar work at any college, including colleges where we have FOSS Student Clubs, but any work around integrating FOSS into course work or entire curriculum requires support from the higher ups e.g. Directors, Deans, Head of Department, etc. If you know such people, put us in touch with them.

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Tentative partnership (IndiaFOSS sponsorship) from the Linux Foundation.

We have been in conversation with Ram Iyengar from the Cloud Foundry about a potential partnership with the Linux Foundation, specifically an IndiaFOSS sponsorship slot, for almost a month now. Most recently, the team (@rahulporuri , @wisharya , @ansh ) met on Wednesday, 19th June, to discuss things further. We’re close to finalising the sponsorship slot (including booth presence) for the Linux Foundation at IndiaFOSS 4.0. Note that Ram is a regular in the FOSS United Chennai community (he spoke at the March meetup) and thank you @ansh for helping this partnership come together.

I also met Ram for dinner in Hyderbad because he was in town to speak at Kubernetes Community Day Hyderabad. We had a great conversation, during which he mentioned that one of his responsibilities at the Cloud Foundry is to run the annual elections. FOSS United has been looking to setup elections and a governance board (see FOSS United 2.0 : The Community, the Organization, and the next two years) and Ram kindly volunteered to get the ball rolling in this regard.

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Tentative collaboration with the Cat Tech team at Catalyst 2030

https://catalyst2030.net/ is a group of social entrepreneurs working on various challenges across different domains. They have been working on a few potential solutions for non profits (and people in general) that they would like help with from the open source communnity. They reached out to us for a collaboration with FOSS United, to see if there are synergies wherein we can together develop sustainable open source solutions that address social problems.

Abhijeet and Avani from the Catalyst team talked about a bunch of projects they have been working on, and some that they plan to build in the near future and the challenges they face.

@rahulporuri gave a brief introduction into what FOSS United does and potential ways we can help them -

  • Posting about these intiatives on the discourse forum and telegram
  • Inviting these folks to speak at meetups, events and IndiaFOSS 2024
  • Connecting them to other organisations that work in this space, like tech4good community, aikyam fellows etc. who are part of https://oasishq.org/

Catalyst 2030 is also working on paradigms of funding for social initiatives and are happy to connect us to potential funders who are looking to support social innovations and initatives like ours. They will have a discussion internally to figure out potential avenues for collaboration and will reach out to us for a follow up call.

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Hasgeek has been a FOSS United Community Partner multiple times over the past few years and we had a conversation today about being their Community Partner to promote The Fifth Elephant conference on “All about data science and machine learning”.

Apart from sharing information about The Fifth Elephant conference via FOSS United social media channels, we discussed the following specific items

  • Specifically share information about the workshop on “Ensuring Data Quality with Data Contracts and OpenLineage” via the community.

    FOSS United can help the Workshop organizers find a physical space if necessary. We discussed the Samagata office in Church Street being a potential venue.

  • Chaitanya, who will be speaking on “Need for new licenses in this age of Generative AI”, is working on a new license for crowd sourced data and the model built using the data. Hasgeek/The Fifth Elephant is looking for people from FOSS United who are interested in volunteering for this effort e.g. documenting and summarizing the talk, the discussion after the talk, and shepherding the ensuing online discussion around the license after this information is published on the hasgeek website.

  • They wanted to understand the possibility of OASIS coalition organizations and their affiliates doing a BoF (Birds of a Feather) session e.g. “on data management practices for nonprofits”, “about evaluating AI use cases for nonprofits”, etc, which may help them interact with tech practitioners. They mentioned that a “Tech for Social Good” BoF happened at the Open Source AI hackathon on 12 April and that the participants were more interested in understanding interesting problem statements to solve.

All of these sounded good so we plan on going ahead with the partnership and communicate the above topics to the community or respective partners.

Beyond The Fifth Elephant, we discussed being year round “Community Partners”, to reduce the need for additional back and forth for each event that is organized by HasGeek or FOSS United. Hasgeek is interested in this and we will get back to them after talking to people from the FOSS United community.

Apart from this, Kiran highlighted the need for an Indian organization that can nurture new FOSS projects, build a community around them, and make them sustainable long-term. Kiran used the Phantom project by Flipkart as an example of such a project that could have been taken over by a community org. Kiran mentioned that FOSS United is the closest existing organization that could absorb such projects. This is an interesting idea and we have heard a few others mention something similar in previous conversations (that FOSS United needs FOSS projects of our own, like the Apache Software Foundation or the CNCF).

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Entri, an edtech company, has confirmed its support for FOSS United by sponsoring IndiaFOSS.

Rahul, CTO of Entri, and Hrishi, who is also a volunteer at SMC, joined us from the Entri team. They expressed their gratitude for the benefits they have received from FOSS, both individually and as an organization, and acknowledged the community’s efforts through this sponsorship.

Additionally, we discussed hosting FOSS Meetups in Kochi at their office and potential support for our future events.

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There is an ongoing discussion with the IIT Madras Research Park team about bringing all the Chennai local communities together and providing a platform to nurture young talents in the tech space. I met Reema Saha at the second meetup they organized last Friday, 28th July. She informed me that they can help by providing space to conduct our meetups initially. They are still in the ideation phase on how they can support us.

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Thank you very much for the update @Sakhil_Ahamed . If there is anything we can help with, please ask. I am an IITM Alumnus and I know someone who actively mentors startups in the IITM Research Park.

I met Vanya Seth, Head of Technology @ ThoughtWorks India, at their Hyderabad office today. Satish, previous head of their Coimbatore office, introduced me to her. ThoughtWorks has been a strong and vocal supporter of the Open Source movement (see Open source | Thoughtworks for some info). FOSS United has already worked with ThoughtWorks in the past e.g. the June 2024 Delhi meetup was held at their office.

Vanya mentioned that they are happy to host FOSS United monthly meetups at any city where they have an office (see Office Locations | Thoughtworks India) and that she could support personally at the Hyderabad office (good for me because I volunteer with the Hyd city chapter). Beyond allowing us to use the space and providing refreshments during the meetup, Vanya mentioned that they can spread the word about the meetups and/or the conference internally to source speakers for our meetups.

Sadly, they are unable to financially support FOSS United at the moment, but hopefully that will change overtime.

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Meeting with Swaraj @SpicyIP

Agenda - Discuss on a collaborative fellowship between FOSS United and SpicyIP

SpicyIP is one of India’s leading blogs/repositories on intellectual property (IP) and innovation law/policy. The SpicyIP Fellowship is a platform for people to write blogs in the IP space. They have 2 fellows currently and the fellowship has been running for 10+ years.

  • Generally admit fellows with good writing skills and a law background.
  • Fellows are free to write about anything in the intellectual property space.

FOSS United can introduce a collaborative fellowship encouraging people to write more about software patents ( https://endsoftwarepatents.in/ ) , open source software and other topics in the tech policy space.

We discussed the potential scope of the program, for example if we would like to restrict the content to be only on software patents or other standard patents too.

Rahul suggested to start by expanding the scope as much as possible and then narrow it down later. We would definitely like to have some specific focus areas where would want to see some activity.

For example, in the Takshashila GCPP scholarship we only fund the scholars and Takshashila runs the whole program. At our end we just have to try to make sure the applicant has a technical background. We can explore a similar methodology here by recruiting people who have a tech+law background.

We would like to give a broad direction to the fellows but have a few general lanes specific to tech policy, software patents, open source etc.
The theme for the same could be around Knowledge Commons.

SpicyIP will decide what is the relevant content that we can explore in the tech/law intersection and encourage fellows to explore the space. Swaraj mentioned that knowledge commons in itself would be broad of a concept and its good to have a few preference areas.

Proposed Ideas

  • Start with 2 fellows and expand the reach later on.
  • The fellowship may amount to 60k INR a year, with 4k per month provided as stipend to the fellows and rest of the amount as admin costs.
  • Expected outcomes: One blog post a month + some research work. Fellows to work on a report/project that they can submit at the end of the fellowship (perhaps related to software patents)
  • The posts will go out on SpicyIP and we can also try to get them published elsewhere (journals, newspapers)
  • Recruit people with a technical background who have good writing skills and an interest in law.
  • Spicy IP can help the fellows with the additional research work.
  • We would also encourage the fellows to become public speakers and talk about their research at FOSS United events.

A follow up conversation to happen by the end of this month.

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We had an interesting conversation with Vibha Nadig, Founder and Director of from https://www.outlawedindia.com/, on Friday (12 July 2024). Their worked showed up on my LinkedIn because Kuldeep, the Co-founder of Reap Benefit, is a part of https://oasishq.org/. I requested a meeting to have an open-ended conversation because I had no clear outcomes but surprisingly, there are avenues to work together.

OutLawed India is working towards an India where every person can independently engage with the law to better their everyday lives. Towards this goal, they have a Campus Ambassador program, similar to our Student Clubs program. They are also working on technology solutions that can help in bringing the law to the people. See Outlawed India.

Vibha mentioned that their Campus Ambassador program is modeled aftera “thick and thin engagement checklist”. The checklist is a list of different activities, some short/easy and some time-consuming/hard for the Campus Ambassadors. Of the 3 full-time people at Outlawed India, only one person handles the program, and she does it part-time. The program is designed and continues to run as an almost zero-cost initiative. Each Campus has 2 Ambassadors who work with 10-20 volunteers. The program is designed to ensure that decision making is decentralized i.e. the Campus Ambassadors are able to tailor the program to their specific context. Vibha mentioned how a few Campus Ambassadors took the initiative to visit old age homes to understand the legal challenges that they face, which made them aware of the prevalence of cyber scams, which nudged them to conduct sessions/workshops on identifying and preventing cyber scams. I asked Vibha to put us in touch with Saloni to talk about managing the program. We can use all the help that we can get to manage, scale, and sustain the Student Clubs program.

Vibha mentioned that they are exploring technology and how it can impact their work (and broadly the law in India). They are already working with https://agami.in/ and they would like to work with Thematic Partners e.g. the possibility of us working with their Campus Ambassadors to talk about FOSS and them working with our Student Clubs to introduce law to an audience that usually knows little about it (science and engineering students).

Overall, there are things that we can learn from Outlawed India and there are avenues for us to work together. We will have a follow up conversation with them this week or next week to explore these avenues further.

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On Friday, 23th July 2024, we had another interesting conversation with Dr. Abhijeet Waghmare and Dr. Mithun at the Piramal Foundation, specifically at the Piramal Swasthya Management Research Institute · GitHub. See also https://www.piramalswasthya.org/innovation-at-scale/. Dr. Abhijeet, a Doctor by profession, reached out to us via the FOSS United Telegram channel, asking about the IndiaFOSS conference. He mentioned that the Thoughtworks folks who work on https://www.bahmni.org/ mentioned FOSS United and the IndiaFOSS 4.0 conference.

The folks at the Piramal Foundation created the AMRIT FOSS project and are looking for contributors. They built the project in collaboration with technology partners. The project has been freely available for use by other not-for-profits but they recently decided to open source the codebase to improve discoverability of the project. They have also worked on improving the documentation to ensure ease of onboarding on to the project. The folks are also working on providing feedback to other FOSS projects that they use e.g. https://getodk.org/.

Note that the Foundation is also working towards getting AMRIT recognized as a DPI/DPG (Digital Public Infrastructure/Digital Public Good).

The Foundation is working on building a community of contributors around the project and they wanted to understand if the FOSS United community/IndiaFOSS conference could help.

We discussed the monthly meetups that we organize in various cities as a possible avenue for the AMRIT project to build a contributor base. We also talked about avenues to be involved in the IndiaFOSS conference e.g. a project showcase booth. We have asked them to keep an eye on the FOSS Events page to be aware of events happening across the country and we told them that we will get back to them when we open the form for project showcase booths.

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We met with Ankit@Samsung R&D Institute India, Bangalore (SRI-B) in regards to a potential collaboration with SOSCON India, Samsung’s Open Source Conference in India.

Ankit has been an active member of the FOSS United community, and was a winner at the previous FOSSHack. He’s been a supporter of the community and proposed this collaboration to the Samsung open source team so that FOSS United gets visibility within the organisation.

SOSCON is organised by the Open Source Program Office at SRI-B (see https://opensource.samsung.com/). The conference is happening on 22nd August this year in virtual/online mode.

FOSS United will be onboarding as a community partner for the conference and support them with visibility for the conference, and also finding potential speakers wherever there is a relevance.

The SOSCON India team is looking for open source/open tech oriented speakers that can talk about Generative AI, RISC-V, and Quantum Inspired AI. While some of the sessions have received the nominations through other channels, there is a call for panellist for the below mentioned panel discussion.

“Quantum Inspired AI as a new way of bringing AI to the life in the devices with constraint resources”

We also discussed potential long term collaborations between the Samsung Open Source Program Office in India and FOSS United (by means of supporting open source projects out of India etc.)

Ankit is happy to connect us with the team that manages these decisions for potential future partnerships.

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