Bringing open source technology to community projects -- a live discussion



We will assemble four community organizers and four open source experts and moderate a discussion focusing on the information needs of the community leaders and possible open source solutions.


This session is a live discussion on applying open source technology to community problems. It is also something of an experiment, in that we don’t know yet what problems we will solve, but I am sure it will be extremely interesting, as well as begin dialogues between community groups and programmers that will bear fruit in the future.

This session will be organized around a panel comprised of four open source programmers and four community organizers without much technical inclination. The moderator (Webb Sprague) will elicit descriptions of the community projects, their information and data component, and any bottlenecks they are experiencing that might be solved with the right application of technology. The technically savvy half of the session will sketch solutions, drawing on their wide knowledge of open source projects which might meet the needs of people who don’t usually know about such things. The easy answer to many questions will be a combination of google spreadsheets and training people to use email lists properly; there will surely be more complex answers to complex problems that arise in the discussion. Comments from the audience will also help drive the discussion.

Currently on the tech panel, we have Webb Sprague, David Percy, and Tim Welch, and possibly more, providing a good mix of web development, database, and GIS. On the community panel, Sarah Beecroft will sit sit with Israel Bayer (Director Street Roots), Kreeg Peeples (Potluck in the Park), and a leader of a soup kitchen in the mid-Willamette Valley.

Speaking experience


  • Sarahb

    Sarah Beecroft

    Incite Development, Americorps, PDX Drupal UG, PDX OSGIS UG


    In the years between studying GIS and learning Drupal, I worked with homeless adults as a mental health street outreach worker at the Downtown Emergency Service Center in Seattle, WA. I witnessed the empowerment and freedom that open source technology can provide to nonprofits and humanitarian efforts via DESC’s entirely OS IT infrastructure and homegrown system, CHASERS. I want to learn as much as I can to be an ansible between the development and application of open source tools to serve the community.

    In April 2009 I finished an Americorps voluntary national service term with the City of Gresham Maps and Data Service Program, where I had the opportunity to coordinate the development of the Rose City Resource website as my capstone Americorps project in concert with the PDX Drupal User Group, which I am a proud, yet only an egg, member of.

    I’m also a co-founder of the newly hatched Portland Open Source Geospatial User Group. Map geeks unite!

    I like learning, coffee, traveling, the sun, good riddims, social justice, maps, scifi, community, hammocks, the Horde, and open source technology for good. So say we all.


  • Jonathan Hedstrom



    Jonathan Hedstrom is the Lead Drupal Developer at OpenSourcery in Portland, Oregon.

  • Dsc06153


    I am an open source applications programmer and a nascent anthropologist and demographer, living in Eugene.


  • Biography

    Born and raised in NYC, and now living in Seattle, Ken Tanzer has a professional background in the non-profit arena, with experience in the areas of fundraising, public relations, technology, social services and management. Most recently, Ken was Director of Information Services for Downtown Emergency Service Center (DESC), an innovative, award-winning homeless service organization in Seattle.

    During his tenure, Ken implemented a variety of systems for DESC, and built an infrastructure based mostly on free and open source software. Nearly 300 desktops in the agency are thin clients running Linux, OpenOffice and Firefox. Bugzilla and Mediawiki are integral tools. DESC also developed CHASERS (Client, Housing and Service Entry and Reporting System), which is used by staff across the agency for delivering and tracking client service, collaborative care and case management, data reporting, management oversight and realtime communication.

    DESC also adapted CHASERS to manage volunteers, fundraising and mailing lists. Two additional versions were used for a research project conducted with the University of Washington to evaluate a program providing housing to chronic homeless alcoholics.

    Ken is one of the co-authors of the paper resulting from this project (“Health Care and Public Service Use and Costs Before and After Provision of Housing for Chronically Homeless Persons With Severe Alcohol Problems”), which was published in the April 2009 edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

    Ken previously served as Fund Development/Community Relations Manager for DESC, and has experience at other nonprofits including Literacy Volunteers of New York City, Jobs for Youth, and the Radiation and Public Health Project.

    Ken began using computers at an early age (TRS-80 and before), and is completely self-taught. He has been a longtime fan and user of Linux and Open Source. He got started by spending a long night downloading an early version of Slackware onto googobs of floppy disks, and has never looked back. He has also developed an abiding interest in technological politics as well as the new forms of community that are made possible through internet techology.

    Ken received a BA from the New School for Social Research, and anticipates that he will receive a Masters of Public Administration from the University of Washington in June 2009.