When you are able to download, install, experiment and share your findings back with the community, you are promoting collaboration and social innovation. Open source communities are able to do so through self-motivated and self-interested people leaded by a common passion: technology.
I was not surprised at all when Michael Trucano, a senior ICT & Education specialist at the World Bank, explained the outcomes of a survey done in Nairobi with HR managers looking for diverse IT profesionals as database administrators, programmers or graphical designers. The method for finding the most suitable candidate was going through their curriculums and compare their grades and working experience together with specific technical skills required for the job description. However, in order to take a decision in the eventual situation of a rather similar profile, those managers would look at the personal involvement in open source communities and projects.
In a similar case, in Kampala, the Director of an IT company told me that the critical questions to identify employees with great potential were the kind of websites and blogs he or she was interested about.
Why all this interest on open source communities and personal blog interests? Welll, mainly because the added value of an individual is, needless to say, the real interests and motivations he or she has about technology and how those interests will work as incentives when hired.
The open source communites around the world are decentralized, self-motivated and self-incentivated communities which main aim is to self-explore and learn without being obliged to do so. This paradigm offers to their employers the ability to invest on those individuals in a way that others could not do, only because they don't believe how long they will stay in the company before leaving to a better paid job.
Money is not the only thing after all. Working in a learning environment, with managers that understand your interests and cope with some of your learning expectations is a much better rewarding future that a well-paid job with no motivation after 6pm. Open source communities are, in some way, the place where real learning is done through exchange of opinions, technology experimentation, feedback on tips and tricks and much more, on a voluntary basis and self-leaded.
As for non-profit organizations or foundations like the one I'm working for (IICD), being a sponsor of open source communities can have multiple effects such as promoting innovation in the solution finding process (through an active and motivated community) or filling a learning gap providing another source of inspiration for thousands of graduate students that find themselves unemployed and without experience on the ICT sector after completing their degree.