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Open Function Group receives impact investment

· 6 min read

The team behind OpenFn has secured a $2M investment from the Steele Foundation for Hope to help us scale our impact.

tl;dr: OpenFn, the open source Digital Public Good (DPG), Global Good for Health, and increasingly important part of the digital public infrastructure that's relied on by governments and NGOs around the world, is now in a better position than ever to serve our growing community of global users.

What follows is a description of what the company behind it is doing and why—specifically in terms of what it will mean for the future of the OpenFn DPG.

Some context

What is OpenFn?
OpenFn is workflow automation platform in use in over 40 countries by governments and social-sector organizations to automate critical business processes that run across multiple systems.

You are on our blog & docs site. If you're new to OpenFn, you may want to start on our homepage:

Open Function Group is a public benefit corporation and we are the primary stewards of the OpenFn DPG. Historically, most of our revenue came from selling software licenses and doing implementation work around a proprietary web application built on top of the open-source OpenFn integration toolkit. We have reinvested our earned revenue over the years into the development of this free and open source (FOSS) toolkit. In recent years, since committing to making the next version of our flagship product fully open-source, we’ve also received key grants, donations, and pull requests to strengthen the toolkit and this next version, OpenFn/Lightning, directly.

The Steele Foundation for Hope is a foundation that invests in lasting solutions for some of humanity’s hardest challenges. They believe that advances found through technology and innovation are key to improving quality of life for less fortunate people around the world. They share our vision for a diverse, thriving ICT4D sector with local ownership of solutions and distribution of power, and we are incredibly excited to have their backing for this next stage OpenFn’s growth.

What we're doing

Making our flagship product fully open-source is important to our long-term strategy for impact at scale. Even when governments and NGOs choose a managed OpenFn offering, they need to know that they're not locked in. They've got to own their solution, and that means having the substantive freedom to implement, deploy, run, maintain, or easily migrate off OpenFn when and however they want.

At the same time, customers running critical workflows on OpenFn only chose our technology in the first place because they're confident that it's well built, well maintained, and isn't going anywhere anytime soon. In other words, they want robust software that's supported by reliable businesses—in that sense, they do not want us to do anything that might threaten the long-term sustainability of the company that built it.

Donor funding to enhance our open source software and documentation has been absolutely pivotal to date, and we’ll continue to receive grant funding for this, but the investment from the Steele Foundation allows us to do something different. It allows us to expand key aspects of our business that may ultimately help us reduce our reliance on donors and drastically expand the social impact of the free and open source digital public good we provide.

Two major initiatives that are already underway are a UX redesign focused on new-user onboarding and the development of a new channel partner certification program. Through the latter, we've seen staff at two different partner organizations get certified and one has gone on to deliver an OpenFn implementation with the Ministry of Health in St. Lucia, automating a vaccine reporting workflow involving DHIS2 and a custom ministry database.

What this means for the DPG

So what does an investment in Open Function Group mean for the future of the OpenFn DPG?

First, it means we have the ability to set and execute on a longer-term strategy for the product—one that we feel will allow the impact of the DPG to grow exponentially by decoupling adoption from the growth of our own core team. A large portion of this investment will go directly into the design and implementation of features in the Lightning code base, made in conversation with our open-source steering committee for the immediate benefit of the whole community.

Second, we'll be able to back up that new product strategy with serious capacity building and business generation initiatives that grow the implementer network—this means that there will be more capable OpenFn implementers within governments, NGOs, and for-profit consultancies all over the world.

Finally, as we iterate on and improve our software-delivery-as-a-service (hosting, deployment, maintenance, support) model, we’ll achieve greater financial stability, safeguarding the continued development of the DPG for years to come.

One more thing

This is a significant moment for the OpenFn community. On behalf of the team at Open Function Group, I want to thank all of our users, contributors, implementers, and partners. Your work, and the hope that you put in ICT4D is why we're doing what we're doing.

Whether you're a longtime forum user or are yet to make you first post on, now is the perfect time to make some noise.

  • Ask a question about the data model. (Or the business model!)
  • Share about or get advice on your upcoming implementations.
  • Ask about the open source steering committee.
  • Request a new feature for Lightning.
  • Learn how to build new adaptors.
  • Report a bug.
  • Tell us why you love OpenFn or what you hate about it. (OpenFn is only here because of you and the importance of your work.)

Your use cases, workflows, adaptors, features, frustrations, feelings of delight... they have driven the product forward for the last 9 years and we can’t tell you how grateful we are for your continued support and willingness to contribute. Thank you.

— Taylor