Tech4Good Community's FOSSFwd

Tech4Good Community (T4GC) is a women-led cross-sector social enterprise with the vision of elevating the technological awareness and skills of the non-profit organisation (NPO) ecosystem through programmatic interventions. T4GC NPOs get access to a number of business tools that help them manage their daily activities easily - from data, analytics, HR, payroll, project management, social media, accounting to stakeholder relations and communications. Through this intervention, NPO leaders are able to budget their time more effectively to achieve scale rapidly.

T4GC has served 1000+ NPOs over the past 6 years through cohort-based coaching programs for select NPOs. In order to serve the needs of the NPO ecosystem at scale, T4GC is introducing FOSSFwd, which is envisaged as a supply and demand side capacity-building program. Through FOSSFwd, we will provide techie students paid internships to solve and build solutions for NPOs.

Case study to demonstrate impact potential: CMID

The T4GC team met with the incredible team at Centre for Migration and Inclusive Development (CMID) which advocates for and promotes social inclusion of migrants in India. We had thorough discussions to understand the organisation’s work and got a chance to visit their field teams who run their mobile Bandhu Clinic in Kochi - India’s first active mobile COVID screening and mobile vaccination unit dedicated for migrant workers. CMID’s two Bandhu Clinics cover about 80000 migrant workers every month at their residences or workplaces.

T4GC and CMID are working together to build their ERP systems to create a centralised data management system that captures their data across verticals- an admin; inventory management which includes stock, vendor details and procurement data; a finance management system to manage reimbursements, ledgers etc. and also a dashboard to capture their programmatic work.
Stay tuned as we share our experience & learnings on how our tech team is looking to build smart FOSS solutions for several nonprofits like CMID. We have an exciting pipeline!

Team T4GC is also in the process of curating a Fwd Playbook; a resource document on FOSS tools that we have identified and put together that will benefit the NPO community.

More about FOSSFwd will be shared in the coming weeks.

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Don’t build unless you are okay spending the next 5-10 years tinkering with a system. Use ERPNext :blush:

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Of course Rushabh :smile:

Yep, for the social development sector, this is the simple secret sauce that needs to be realised. For 97.42% of all usecases, out-of-the-box FOSS exists. Barely any software needs to be “built” there!

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Absolutely Kailash, we are with you on this thought. By build we meant ‘build further on’ or customise an existing ERP solution (ERPNext) for NPOs. More details will follow :slight_smile:

FOSSFWd Playbook

90% of the 1000+ T4GC partner NPOs report struggling with siloed data due to a lack of centralised data management systems, data collection & visualisation tools. We have put together the first edition of our FOSSFwd Handbook aimed at increasing awareness of FOSS for NPOs, the benefits of adopting it and tools that will support NPOs with all their data requirements.

The FOSSFwd playbook will be made available on our website next week.

Tech Shops

We have started building our pipeline of tech vendors, mentors and student interns in and around Bangalore to help implement FOSS at scale.

Replicable Solutions

We are progressing on customising ERPNext for organisations across different domains - Health, Education and Livelihood that can be easily replicated and customised at scale.

Read updates on our FOSSFwd projects here.

Case Study: Anahata United Efforts Foundation

Last Tuesday we met Meenakshi Gairola, Founder & CEO and Meera Venkatesan, Director- Impact & Content who run United Efforts. They believe that each child has potential irrespective of their socio-economic background, which inspires them to work towards nurturing these children towards a better future. Based on their learnings from students they have developed a structured program of 100 hours spread over classes 8th to 10th to expose students to 18 different sectors, build their agency to face all odds, achieve their professional goals & prepare their own career roadmaps to gain entry into sectors of choice and ability. They do this not through career counselling alone but also actively monitor students’ individual skillets & academic patterns along with their aspirations. They currently work with close to 10 schools around Bangalore.

We spent time with both of them, understanding their technical requirements. We found that they were looking for data visualisation, project management, human resource management and location mapping tools. With regards to location mapping, they need a system that can grab the data of 8.2 lakh students (with an average of 4,000 students per district).They also mentioned that their team was expanding and their current project management system was proving inadequate.

We walked them through a few open source solutions that could be useful to them which was met with apprehension on both their parts. They mentioned that they collaborated frequently with the government and were worried about where they stored the data, given its sensitive nature. Data breaches and security threats they assumed, would be a concern with open source software.

They were reassured that they would have full ownership of their data & their code, and also the way in which they modify or extend the system. That they could freely adapt and customise it to their needs without having to ask for permission from a central source or group of people. We clarified that open source only meant the source code was open and modifiable but the storage is secure and safe on private servers and there were options (such as Frappe) they could explore together with us on which providers to consider for this purpose.

Until next week :slight_smile:

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We’d like to dedicate this week’s update to a few learnings we’ve had along the way from our interactions with 3 nonprofits who are part of our FOSSFwd initiative:

  1. In continuation with last week’s updates on our open source solutions exploration with Anahata United efforts we identified that:

-They struggle with visualising beneficiary data they collect on the proprietary software that they currently use. The software also does not support auto generated reports.
-Despite having an elaborate Management Information System in place, their data is in silos.Their dependence on vendors to periodically create custom reports and the cost associated with the process is one of the biggest challenges highlighted by them with regard to their MIS.
-Bulk of their technology budget is being spent on maintenance & bug fixing, making it an exorbitant exercise for them.
-They also expressed concern over the cost of further development & hosting and spoke about the lack of a trusted tech partner to support customisations as they scale their programs.

Let’s move on to the next nonprofit:

  1. We learnt that Plustrust Foundation, a nonprofit based out of Bangalore that provides micro-incubation support to women changemakers from rural and resource poor communities through fellowship programs, faces a major disadvantage with their current proprietary software and its lack of flexibility.They are left with no option but to make do with an existing frameworks pre-built on their current software limiting them from achieving the scale they envisioned. They said “The monthly project reports on the tool appear very similar to excel sheets and do not provide them with appropriate insights. It is also very verbal and descriptive and needs to be automated since the team seems to spend a lot of time on generating this information.” They said that the purpose of using a management information system is lost when the organisation:

a. Struggles with the software interface.
b. Finds it extremely time consuming since there are no automated data reports.
c. Have to deal with unnecessary data parameters pre built within the software.

The third nonprofit we worked with this week is:

  1. Earth Focus, a Kanha based organization that works in remote areas with intermittent internet connectivity on a mission to empower forest dwelling communities and restore nature through contextual education and sustainable livelihood.

They currently use proprietary software to collect, store and visualise their data. They struggle with collecting a variety of data points from the field due to the limitations of the mobile app which requires internet connectivity. The dashboard isn’t nuanced and has bugs due to which they resort to excel to store information. They work with vulnerable tribal communities and schools in different locations and are struggling to store their data on a centralised management system with unique IDs dedicated to all their beneficiaries. Earth Focus has been looking for solutions that best suit their needs for the past year and was unaware of the capabilities of FOSS.

We identified commonalities in data systems specific gaps for organisations when using proprietary software. We also learnt that nonprofits are unaware of what FOSS is, how and where to leverage support for implementation. Our hands-on customisation experience on ERPNext is paving the way to build simple and enhanced solutions at scale for sector specific nonprofits. More on this next Friday :slight_smile:

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T4GC is working on 10 FOSSFwd projects between April and May. Here are a few the day-to-day operational systems that we are customising on FOSS:

  • Finance and HR Management
  • Project Management
  • Inventory management
  • Data visualisation
  • Learning Management Systems

The first 10 project implementations will set the pace for FOSS adoption at scale and function as a litmus test for the replicability of the customised solutions. We have been following tight processes to structure engagements, capture learnings and estimate project delivery time.

Here is how NPOs will accelerate as part of the FOSSFwd Programme

  1. NPO Tech Maturity Assessment: The NPO goes through T4GC’s tech maturity assessment to identify existing gaps in their operations. Based on the level of tech maturity, interventions are planned to support the NPO with solutions; their internal capacity, tech resources, tech budget and scale are evaluated in the process.

  2. Tech Clinic: The Product team diagnoses the problem statement and chooses appropriate open source tools from our home curated FOSSFwd playbook to bridge the gaps. We identify the most cost effective service and NPO user friendly tool then move on to building workflows for the organisation. The NPO requirements are then translated into technical terms for an intern to begin implementation.

  3. Interns Customise: A process of determining the architecture, data flow, and integration points between the various parts of the system is led by the T4GC team. The team briefs the interns on the technical requirements of the project. They are mentored by the experts to deliver the project.

  4. Implementation and testing: The solution is then tested, this includes establishing the infrastructure, setting up the programme, and integrating the various parts. After it has been put into practise, the solution is tested to make sure it functions as intended. This includes evaluating the solution’s usability, efficiency, and scalability. Once the solution has been tried and proven effective, it is documented to build foundational used cases . To facilitate understanding and usage of the solution, we produce user manuals, installation guidelines, and other technical documentation.

  5. Handover & Training: T4GC team reviews the customised solutions and conducts quality checks. The solution is presented to NPOs to receive feedback. Post NPO’s approval of the solution, the project is handed over. Post handover, the NPO team is trained on the solution. T4GC provides them with a Tech Primer as a manual to help them understand the solution better. T4GC is available for NPO at all times to troubleshoot any problems with the solution and becomes an extended tech team for the NPO.

  6. Replicability: We make the solution available to anyone who might find it useful and also provide extended tech support for end-to-end implementation. This is accomplished by posting on our repository/resource hub and by sharing it with our tech/NPO community.

We are also in the process of contextualising a few key replicable aspects of ERP systems for the Indian NPO landscape:

  • Patient Repository: Helps create a patient file with healthcare services received.
  • Healthcare Practitioners: Multiple practitioner personas can be created and allows them to access employee documents. This includes HR, leaves, payroll etc.
  • Practitioner Schedule: Availability of healthcare practitioners can be tracked. System will block each practitioner’s schedule.
  • Patient Appointments: Every practitioner’s schedule is visible which avoids schedule conflicts. Automated email will be sent as soon as the patient books an appointment.
  • Document Storage: Patient reports and information can be stored in the form of PDF, images and videos.
  • Patient History: Allows us to view patient’s historical records, medical conditions, past medications, allergies, patient doctor interactions etc. Lifecycle of the patient with the healthcare unit can be tracked.
  • Patient Encounter: All patient related details can be captured and new encounters can be created. It will automatically populate all patient details along with the latest vital details.
  • Prescriptions: All observations and assessments through prescriptions can be recorded. It also allows us to print or format prescriptions.
  • Patient inflow and outflow: Day-to-day patient inflow and outflow can be tracked in real-time.
  • Clinical Procedures: Every clinical procedure recommended can be tracked with date and time. Also has the procedure template which populates every time it’s ordered.
  • Medicines and Equipments: Inventory to view product availability, stock levels in warehouses or pharmacies, stock transfers etc. Barcodes can be scanned through a device camera to check the stocks available.
  • Automated Stock Replenishment: To prevent unavailability of important medicine stocks, item order level can be tracked. When stock level goes below reorder level, automated requests will be created by the tool.

More details next week on the Implementation wing for the project , until then :smiling_face:

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Hi there,

Last week’s focus for our FOSSFwd initiative was on the partnerships we are building for wider reach and faster setups.

We have identified a combination of implementation partners to deliver FOSS systems at scale while ensuring quality output and reduced turnaround time. Here is a snapshot of who we are exploring synergies with:

Aam Digital

Aam Digital is an open source, easy to use case management software for social impact organisations and government institutions that improves the effectiveness and transparency of work at the last mile. At the core of their solution is a digital case file that captures, stores, links, and visualises continuous and longitudinal data for each beneficiary. They support stakeholders and the field implementation team at the last mile to make data based decisions. Their solution is co-created on the field specifically looking at the challenges faced by each stakeholder in the value chain. T4GC is exploring a partnership with Aam digital to become our implementation partners. We went through a nuanced demo on the tool and are getting hands-on experience on working with the tool. From our observations the tool works best for NPOs working in the education sector. We see overlaps in requirements from education based organisations that can be solved by this solution.

Common Purpose

T4GC’s partnership with Common Purpose (CP) has two core objectives:

i) to create awareness and spark interest in students to innovate on open source technology through a co-created curriculum,
ii) T4GC gets access to 10,000 CP students across the globe to customise FOSS solutions for NPOs.

Sajhe Sapne

Sajhe Sapne runs a residential program for rural girls on coding and development. T4GC has established a partnership with them to train their students on our FOSS curriculum.

Amazon Web Services

We advocate for discounts as a part of our core operations to extend cost effective solutions to NPOs in order for them to leverage technology sustainably. We are in the process of striking partnerships with AWS to grant credits to NPOs to reduce hosting costs of FOSS solutions. We are also looking at extending the partnerships to have dedicated solution architects to help optimise hosting of FOSS for NPOs.

Frappe

We are in conversation with the team at Frappe and with help from Vinay and Vishnu (team Zerodha), we now have a better understanding of leveraging the best pricing structure for a small and medium size NPO’s hosting on Frappe. We are in the process of hosting some of our FOSSFwd projects on Frappe cloud.

Until next week!

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Hi there,

We have always maintained that at the heart of every NPO’s tech gap lie data processes and management related issues. However, as we continue to engage with FOSSFwd pilot NPOs, we’ve realised that there are certain nuances to their requirements around data management systems that cannot simply be categorised as collection, analysis and management issues. Here are a few data-centred requirements we’ve frequently heard them highlight:

  1. Education-based organisations inquire about project management systems to help them assess real-time impact of their daily activities. They are also curious about robust learning management systems to share educational content and connect mentors to students .
  2. Many healthcare organisations are looking for case management systems that can also enable robust monitoring and evaluation.
  3. Organisations working on access to livelihoods wish to enable cloud based communication with beneficiaries.
  4. Organisations working in the area of governance are looking at resource tracking for projects against timelines.
  5. NPOs working in the conservation and sustainability space are looking for donor management systems with auto generated receipts with clear differentiation between international and domestic donors.
  6. Robust volunteer management systems in built volunteer mapping for each project

We are evaluating FOSS solutions that cater to all above mentioned requirements and can also be contextualised to each NPO’s unique demand.

We take the time to dedicate man hours to not only customise solutions but also have regular one-to-one conversations with each NPO in our pilot cohort to understand pain points and document the learnings- this learnings document will eventually feed into a primer/manual to enable implementations at scale. The team also ensures that we have the NPO’s buy-in before we proceed with conversations around technical and budgetary considerations of adopting FOSS in the long run.

We would be remiss to not mention that we have met with some resistance along the way to driving mass adoption of FOSS among NPOs, with hesitations around them being the first few NPOs to leverage FOSS for operational activities and on the nature of FOSS itself. Our conversations often revolve around understanding the crux of their work, we nudge them to think of processes that are extremely time consuming or limiting. The idea is simple, NPOs must realise that some of their current processes might be their roadblock to scale and adopting a proprietary solution can put them in a vendor lock-in situation that could burn a hole in their pockets. We at T4GC enable this journey of realisation and provide them with all the necessary information to make an informed decision of sustainably adopting FOSS.

We have been carefully handpicking NPOs who will be a part of the FOSSFwd Pilot to inspire NPOs across diverse sectors, organisational budgets, size, level of tech maturity to pose as role model projects in the FOSSFwd program.

FOSS Tech Check

Every T4GC partner NPO is guided to take our Tech Check, which is an in-house tech diagnostic tool that evaluates an organisation’s prevalent tech adoption, internal capacity and ability to adopt technology. As part of our efforts to drive FOSS understanding and adoption within the social sector, we have incorporated FOSS related questions in the Tech Check. This will be the first of its kind effort to plan interventions that would resonate and increase open source penetration in the social sector.

FOSSFwd Outreach

T4GC has a structured outreach plan to build a solid pipeline of potential FOSS projects for the year 2023, however our biggest roadblock to achieving this has been the complete lack of awareness of the difference between proprietary and open source software. We realised that the sector needs a basic understanding of differentiating between the two and making an informed choice. T4GC has expanded its outreach efforts to look for other NPOs who might benefit from the FOSSFwd program. This is in line with our efforts to expose NPO working across sectors within India to FOSS and to equip them with information to sustainably adopt FOSS. Here are a few approaches our NPO partnerships team is exploring to scale the FOSS project.

  1. Determining our Target Audience: Our target audience are the nonprofits who are looking to build a new system; revamp or find a work around for the limitations of their existing software.
  2. Plan of Action: Our team has categorised organisations based on their goals and split them into sectors i.e. education, women empowerment, agriculture, poverty alleviation etc. We are currently exploring possibilities of replicating solutions.
  3. Closed door workshops: We are in the process of organising closed door workshops for NPOs who are a part of incubation centres like IIMB NSRCEL & Common Purpose to educate them on the benefits of FOSS, including cost savings, community support, and customization options. We are using these platforms to showcase successful FOSSFwd implementations and share real-time case studies.
  4. Free FOSS Capacity building: As part of our outreach program we are offering free training on open source data collection tools like KoBo Toolbox to give NPOs a hands-on experience of seamlessly leveraging a FOSS solution.

Until next week!

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