Just came across MIT's MedialabThinkcycle project, described on the home page as
"an academic, non-profit initiative engaged in supporting distributed collaboration towards design challenges facing underserved communities and the environment. ThinkCycle seeks to create a culture of open source design innovation, with ongoing collaboration among individuals, communities and organizations around the world."
Nice idea. Practical open source learning and problem solving. Apparently it has come up with such things as a simple and effective water purification process, which can be used in areas of the world where clean water is not readily available.