With only one full-time employee, the Belgian Open Knowledge ship is only a small one to sail. Nonetheless, Pieter-Jan Pauwels has proven to be a worthy captain. The rest of the crew consists of a bunch of student positions, interns, volunteers and of course, the Open Knowledge Belgium board.
Even though Open Knowledge Belgium is such a small team, we’re quite proud of what we’ve achieved the past few months. Let’s start with Diplohack Brussels. In April we co-organised the first Diplohack Brussels in the Council of the European Union, together with the Dutch Presidency of the EU. The 24-hour hackathon focused on creating more transparency within the Brussels Bubble with the Council of the European Union introducing their Council vote Open Dataset.
Then, we got to present a crowdsourcing project we’ve been working on for quite some time. W4P (“We For Progress”) is an crowdsourcing tool that allows you to build your own crowdsourcing platform! This project was funded by CHEST Project, a European consortium of partners working around streamlining funding for small to medium scale social innovation projects.
At the moment open Summer of code 2016 takes place. That’s a four-week programme that allows students to work on open innovation projects. While having a student job for the summer, they learn more about coding and other hard skills, and gain more soft skills such as working in a team and giving pitches. We act as a sort of match maker between companies and students. Organisations come to us with open source projects and meanwhile we recruit students and put the right student on the right project. Only skilled and enthusiastic students who are willing to learn, may enter #oSoc.
According to us, open Summer of code is one of the most important projects for Open Knowledge Belgium. We educate students and companies about open source and open innovation at one hand, and provide students with real-life experience. Experience that can make a difference when you’re looking for your first job. It’s also one of our projects that doesn’t have any governmental funding. It’s our sixth edition so far, but we’re thinking about rebranding it next year. Open Summer of code is no longer only about code: It’s about so much more. Beside front- and back-enders, we need students who are skilled in UI/UX design, business development, marketing and communication. Also, we don’t only deliver pure code, we aim for complete projects. Going from brainstorming and coding to marketing and presenting, you need to be a jack of all trades, not only a king of code. By rebranding, we hope to attract more diverse profiles and spread the open knowledge word among other publics too.
We’re curious what the future will bring. The Belgian government tries to implement more open data and open knowledge, but those are still baby steps. There’s a lot of room for improvement, and thus a lot of room for Open Knowledge Belgium to grow. At the moment, we have five working groups about themes such as mobility and tourism, but we got a few requests for working groups about new themes such as university (college) data and open badges. Yup, the Belgian chapter most certainly has a bright future ahead of it – one where our little raft might turn into a nice ship.