Thank you for your continuing contributions to answer I-Open's request: What would you put on I-Open's tombsone?

Submitted by Betsey Merkel on Thu, 06/04/2009 - 05:10.

Open Source is an method of engagement or participation and approach to project development. It can apply to industries such as software development, economic development, workforce development, education, creative industries, etc. It is not an exclusive term unto itself. Open Source infers community based activity that is user defined. 'Open Source Economic Development' references a method of economic development, recommended heuristic models, guides, tools, and an assumed set of rules of engagement and participation largely influenced by global best practices of what works.

I-Open's recent request of its community "What would you put on I-Open's tombstone?" is an exercise to illuminate from a users experience how I-Open does or does not touch them. This is essentially a branding exercise to help I-Open determine a clear simple meta vision statement.

I-Open is a not for profit educational economic development organization specializing in the development and re-deployment of the new practices and tools for Open Source Economic Development, a method for building prosperity in communities and their regions that relies on Collaborative Leadership, Network building and "Strategic Doing" - moving ideas to action quickly. I-Open has remained (for all practical purposes) unfunded in the last five years since its termination as the entity "REI" housed at Case from 2003-2005. I-Open core member (Susan Altshuler, Dennis Coughlin, Betsey Merkel, Ed Morrison) activities have existed for all practical purposes, unfunded, and without outside incomes (with the exception of Ed), supported by family and friends.

In the past 5 years, the work of I-Open founders and the I-Open community (strongly lead by Gloria Ferris, and otherwise too many to name here) have persevered relentlessly to grow and guide community and create an extensive and diverse portfolio of Open Source Economic Development examples for the purpose of creating value for the organization and its community. I-Open must now establish core funding to sustain its leadership, operations activity, education and service begun with the Northeast Ohio community by the Center for Economic Development (REI) team from the early 1980's thru 2005, and for its continuing service to a larger national community. The same holds true for the efforts of similar organizations such as REALNEO. It is time for economic development organizations like REALNEO and I-Open to be funded as the regional economic development organizations they are.

I-Open's inquiry into what the experiences and perceptions of the I-Open community - those who interact with I-Open activities - with the question "What would you write on I-Open's tombstone?" followed by a sensitively and clearly written set of instructions in it's invitation - acts as an oxymoron and refers to the very essence of where the value (which in the Civic Space is measured by a person's time) is placed in I-Open by its community of stakeholders.

The branding of I-Open initiatives is clear: consider Midtown Brews, The Women's Enterprise Network or I-Open Education. However, the branding of I-Open itself is not and this is what, "What would you write on I-Open's tombstone?" addresses. If I-Open's market does not understand what I-Open does on a meta level having read I-Open materials and web sites, how can I-Open be perceived clearly, valued and funded? I-Open needs to secure core funding for operations to support on-demand readiness and service to its community; something we have not been able to fully commit to since our funded tenure at Case.

We turn now to you. This is about you, the community leading with their stories of where they see the value of I-Open activities. This is the same process of our first REI Civic Forums: asking for the community served to help us align our mission, activities and communications with service to the community. From that came our connection to Norm Roulet and ultimately the then initiative REALNEO, and the thousands of others who so generously donated their Brainpower, time and efforts.

Thanks for your time and help in formulating I-Open 2.0. Keep the responses coming. We'll be publishing results and continuation here on REALNEO soon.

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Nice piece

Nice, Betsey.   You and I have discussed this representation of what you speak of.   Thoughts? 

Thank you Sudhir for adding

Thank you Sudhir for adding this link to your concept of the practical application of working in an open source model. Your ideas are paramount to strengthening creativity and innovation to occur at levels beyond our own single minded thinking. Thank you for your good work and insightful creativity.


 Hello Betsey,

Please don't take my answer to your request to chisel an epitaph on the I-Open headstone as a lack of appreciation for all the diligence, effort, commitment and hard work you, Susan, Ed, Gloria, and the rest of the I team – and many others - contributed to the NEO civic space over the last half decade.
REI in 2003/4 was the reason I became compelled to understand why civicly much of   Cleveland and NEO  had failed, and was continuing to fail. But NEO has only gotten worse since 2004.
Our efforts have not turned the tide, have not stopped the census outflow, have not invigorated the inner City, have not cleaned up politics – and not even the administration at Case had the wisdom or the guts to keep REI going.
So, I have got to say that the model and methods for civic change and community engagement we are pursuing are not effective.   We are intellectually exercising ourselves while the ship continues to slip below the surface.   We are so intellectual we aren't even trying to get into lifeboats!
In geology 99% of the topographic physical change comes in less than 1% of the time.   Rivers erode and morph the landscape very slowly 99% of the time – but huge changes are made to the landscape in very short periods of torrential flooding.   Same thing with volcanoes.
I believe to make any significant difference here in NEO a much more pointed, aggressive and radical approach needs to be taken. We need methods (which we clearly don’t have now – to wit the FBI is in town) to hold people in public office accountable.  We need to strip away the usurping powers of the non-profits, of the CDCs, of the non-elected agencies.    
We need to be more like ED HAUSER and not sit down in the face of Tim Hagan’s insults. And we need to fund ombudsman-like citizens such as Ed Hauser so we won’t die like Ed did –broke  with no health care.
We aren’t going to get anywhere working with, and within the present “trust your government” system.  
We need to be more RADICAL.
NB this is not a call to arms, but rather a call to demand a sytem forcing total accountability for all public monies and public employees and the demand that no monies be spent in the civic space if the money was not allocated by a pure democratic process.    (for example, the Cleveland Foundation would not be able to fund $25,000 to the lobby which advocated the renewal of the Port Authority tax, as the Cleveland Foundation did do)