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When Dave Mayor of Aspen Entrepreneurs and Technical Integrity first told me about the Give First Mantra in the context of community building I was immediately intrigued. That intrigue grew as I realized how while I had never heard this before within a business context I had seen it in action for years as an open source developer.

What is the Give First Mantra?

The short definition would include the idea that:

if everyone approaches a community with the clear intent to contribute something in support of others the whole community will grow stronger.

This can be seen mostly (if not exclusively) around StartUp communities where it is openly discussed as a strategy for success. Admittedly I had never heard it before (that I can remember at least) probably because I have always been at arms length from the StartUp communities around Boulder and Denver. Or maybe it’s because for a long time I was a lot more focused on building technology than the business of building StartUps.

All this said the Give First mantra, while celebrated as a relatively new approach to community building, is not necessarily new if you generalize it to it’s essence. When Richard Stallman launched the GNU Project in 1983 he set into motion the clear intent of sharing openly with the world. Now all these years later we have a huge diversity of open source developers contributing technology to the community of all types. I hear more often than not the echos of developers who either do or want to contribute to open source projects so they can actively give to their community that has inspired and helped them so much. I personally have seen a whole movement of people shaping the way business is done and technology is built by giving their ideas, feedback, and code to the community.

I don’t mean to give the impression that this is a one sided exchange where everyone gives and receives nothing in return. Open source developers truly love to work on open projects. They also benefit from other open source projects in various ways that help them in their life. Many who are behind more popular projects are getting paid for their contributions. More and more people that use and/or contribute to open source projects are finding better opportunities either because they help build foundational tools or they are competent in using tools that help a business succeed. At the very least we all benefit from the incredible open source contributions of those before us.

"We stand on the shoulders of giants. -Bernard of Chartres"

While the Give First mantra is new to me from a business context I am embracing it whole heartedly because of what I’ve seen in technology around the world over the last 10 years. We are going to do bigger and better things by working together and helping to strengthen our neighbors.

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