Open Source

Open Innovation is about sector wide improvements and benefits – but we know there is hesitation and lots of questions about exactly what “Open Innovation” is and how Open Source works. If your question isn’t listed below, contact us.

1. Why do you only support open source projects?

If you ask entrepreneurs and CEOs in the energy access industry about a common frustration, it's having to spend time and money to re-create a necessary tool that is needed across the board. EnAccess was founded by energy access entrepreneurs who have felt the pain of "wait, you just finished up a half year of work on _____? We are doing that exact same thing right now!"


And this is happening in a sector which is chronically under financed and requires large donor support. Oftentimes, donor money is used to re-develop back-bone infrastructure required for energy access again and again - sometimes even using funds from the same donor.


EnAccess wants to help solve a big pain point in our sector: the need to constantly reinvent the wheel. This is why we choose to support projects that are free for others to inspect, modify, enhance, alter, and share.


We will never ask for users to pay for access to the materials we publish.

2. Do you only support technology-based projects?

We do not only co-create tech projects. Although we know that it's very common to hear "Open Source" and think about things like software and hardware, we are happy to support "big idea" or "moonshot" projects in a more broad Open Access spirit. For example, the AgriGrid materials include a Financial Model, a Toolkit, and a Lessons Learned document (among other things).


We are always willing to expand our definition of what we publish as long as it accomplishes the goal of becoming a building block for the energy access sector.

3. What exactly do you publish as part of your Open Source packages?

There isn't one answer to this question, as every project that we work on creates different sorts of material. The end result might be a spreadsheet with user manual for a business model, one or several pieces of software and its documentation, a set of hardware schematics (BoM, production files, firmware code, design rationales, etc.), an interactive online tool, or any other suitable format to best fit the purpose. We work with our partners to package these materials in a way that makes them easy for other organisations to access, understand, and use. As an example, if a project creates a piece of software, the package might include the code itself, instructional materials on using and modifying the code, and a video describing the what, why, and how of the software. We will also include a podcast-style interview as soon as the project is ready to publish the final materials. All of the innovation packages that we publish will be made available on our Materials page.

4. I’m concerned about sharing my organisation’s IP and proprietary market knowledge. How does this work?

We don’t need your organisation to share your sensitive information or the "secret sauce" that you think is going to drive your success. While we advocate for increased collaboration and interoperability in the industry, we also support competitive marketplaces, and we are happy to work with profitable businesses that are aiming to grow and succeed, to close the gap in energy access. We aren’t interested in disclosing a company’s core IP or competitive intelligence; we are interested in fully open sourcing the assets that can create a shared solution or inspire the creation of new standards for the energy access sector. If you spend some time looking at what we've already published, it will become more clear.

5. Can we use our work with EnAccess to create two versions of the same tool/output – i.e. an open source version and a commercial version?

This depends on the background of the tool and the reason for such a decision. We would need to discuss this on a case-by-case basis. Generally we want to support projects where the open source foundation is part of the strategy for long term use and impact. This can be surrounding business models (see answer above) or the plan to reduce inhouse maintenance costs by growing a large community of users and contributors benefiting from joint maintenance efforts.


6. What if this project becomes a success and I decide I want to have more control over how it can be used going forward?

We know it can be hard to predict the future, and anything can happen. First, if you are working for a company or on a project that could help bring access to energy to those who don't yet have it - we want you and/or your company to succeed. If it means you create a new brand, or a new tool that everyone knows, and you garner more attention, we think that's fantastic. Please remember that no matter how successful your tools become, according to the MIT licence (the licence we prefer to use), others will always be able to freely use the materials that we have published in whatever way they would like, provided that they include the original copyright and licence notice in any copy of the software/source. However, this licence also provides a lot of freedom in terms of follow up developments based on the original work supported by us and potential new licensing and business models related to your (or other) follow up work based on the initial development. We are happy to have a more in-depth conversation about this anytime.

7. What if our project fails - and we don’t prove, demonstrate, or create what we intended to?

We understand how hard this work is and embrace “failure” as a necessary part of innovation. Failure is not a bad thing for us; as long as we are failing for the right reasons, and can capture some lessons and insight along the way, we are all good.

In a situation where a project doesn’t work out, we’ll work with you to publish a summary of what we learned. Being transparent about failure can help us and other organisations get better; by avoiding costly mistakes, considering how we might do things differently, or inspiring new thinking. Our view is: if other organisations can learn from your experience, then it’s not all a loss.

For inspiration, check out GiveWell. We’re fans of their take on failure and learning in philanthropy.