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OpenFn/Lightning is a fully open source, workflow automation platform that's used to automate critical business processes and integrate information systems. From last-mile services to national-level reporting, it boosts efficiency & effectiveness while enabling secure, stable, scalable interoperability at all levels. Read more about Lightning on OpenFn/Docs.

Lightning is the latest "v2" of OpenFn, the Digital Public Good for workflow automation. Use Lightning to visually build, execute and manage workflows.

  • The latest version of the OpenFn technology - first launched in 2014, now tried and tested by NGOs in over 40 countries
  • Fully open source (no premium features or community edition, you get the same product whether using SaaS or self-hosted)
  • Recognised as a Digital Public Good by the DPGA and a Global Good for Health by Digital Square


Screenshot 2023-03-15 at 13 01 13


Watch a quick demo here:

Explore our demo app* with username:, password: welcome123, or read through the features section to view screenshots of the app.

*Note that the demo app refreshes daily, so do not configure workflows you want to save.

Register for a Beta account

Register for a Beta account at and go through the quick-start guide to get familiar with the app.



Plan and build workflows using Lightning's visual interface to quickly define when, where and what you want your automation to do.


Use our CLI to quickly build, edit and deploy projects from the comfort of your own code editor.


Monitor all workflow activity in one place.

  • Filter and search runs to identify issues that need addressing and follow how a specific request has been processed
  • Configure alerts to be notified on run failures
  • Receive a project digest for a daily/weekly/monthly summary of your project activity


Manage users and access by project Screenshot 2023-03-21 at 10 09 03

Roles and permissions

Authorization is a central part of Lightning. As such, users are given different roles which determine what level of access they have for resources in the application. For more details about roles and permissions in Lightning, please refer to our documentation.


View our public roadmap here.

Getting Started

Run via Docker

  1. Install the latest version of Docker
  2. Clone this repo using git
  3. Copy the .env.example file to .env
  4. Run docker compose run --rm web mix ecto.migrate

By default the application will be running at localhost:4000.

You can then rebuild and run with docker compose build and docker compose up. See "Problems with Docker" for additional troubleshooting help. Note that you can also create your own docker-compose.yml file, configuring a postgres database and using a pre-built image from Dockerhub.

Deploy on external infrastructure

Head to the Deploy section of our docs site to get started.

For technical guidelines, see deployment considerations for more detailed information.

Run Lightning locally

Clone the repo and optionally set ENVs

git clone # or from YOUR fork!
cd Lightning
cp .env.example .env # and adjust as necessary!

Take note of database names and ports in particular—they've got to match across your Postgres setup and your ENVs. You can run lightning without any ENVs assuming a vanilla postgres setup (see below), but you may want to make adjustments.

Database Setup

If you're already using Postgres locally, create a new database called lightning_dev, for example.

If you'd rather use Docker to set up a Postgres DB, create a new volume and image:

docker volume create lightning-postgres-data

docker create \
  --name lightning-postgres \
  --mount source=lightning-postgres-data,target=/var/lib/postgresql/data \
  --publish 5432:5432 \
  -e POSTGRES_PASSWORD=postgres \

docker start lightning-postgres

Elixir & Ecto Setup

We use asdf to configure our local environments. Included in the repo is a .tool-versions file that is read by asdf in order to dynamically make the specified versions of Elixir and Erlang available. You'll need asdf plugins for Erlang, NodeJs Elixir and k6.

asdf install  # Install language versions
mix local.hex
mix deps.get
mix local.rebar --force
mix ecto.create # Create a development database in Postgres
mix ecto.migrate
[[ $(uname -m) == 'arm64' ]] && mix compile.rambo # Force compile rambo if on M1
mix lightning.install_runtime
mix lightning.install_schemas
mix lightning.install_adaptor_icons
npm install --prefix assets

Run the app

Lightning is a web app. To run it in interactive Elixir mode, start the development server by running with your environment variables by running:

iex -S mix phx.server

or if you have set up custom environment variables, run:

env $(cat .env | grep -v "#" | xargs ) iex -S mix phx.server

Once the server has started, head to localhost:4000 in your browser.

Run the tests

Before the first time running the tests, you need a test database setup.

MIX_ENV=test mix ecto.create

And then after that run the tests using:

MIX_ENV=test mix test

We also have installed which can be used to rerun the tests on file changes.


We are using k6 to benchmark Lightning. Under benchmarking folder you can find a script for benchmarking Webhook Workflows.

See Benchmarking for more detailed information.


Trouble with environment variables

For troubleshooting custom environment variable configuration it's important to know how an Elixir app loads and modifies configuration. The order is as follows:

  1. Stuff in config.exs is loaded.
  2. That is then modified (think: overwritten) by stuff your ENV-specific config: dev.exs, prod.exs or test.exs.
  3. That is then modified by runtime.exs which is where you are allowed to use System.env()
  4. Finally init/2 (if present in a child application) gets called (which takes the config which has been set in steps 1-3) when that child application is started during the parent app startup defined in application.ex.

Problems with Postgres

If you're having connecting issues with Postgres, check the database section of your .env to ensure the DB url is correctly set for your environment — note that composing a DB url out of other, earlier declared variables, does not work while using xargs.

Problems with Debian

If you're getting this error on debian

==> earmark_parser
Compiling 1 file (.yrl)
/usr/lib/erlang/lib/parsetools-2.3.1/include/yeccpre.hrl: no such file or directory
could not compile dependency :earmark_parser, "mix compile" failed. You can recompile this dependency with "mix deps.compile earmark_parser", update it with "mix deps.update earmark_parser" or clean it with "mix deps.clean earmark_parser"

You need to install erlang development environment sudo apt install erlang-dev refer to this issue

Problems with Docker


The build may not work on old versions of Docker and Docker compose. It has been tested against:

Docker version 20.10.17, build 100c701
Docker Compose version v2.6.0

Problems with rambo

When running mix compile.rambo on Apple Silicon (an Apple M1/M2, macarm, aarch64-apple-darwin) and encountering the following error:

** (RuntimeError) Rambo does not ship with binaries for your environment.

    aarch64-apple-darwin22.3.0 detected

Install the Rust compiler so a binary can be prepared for you.

    lib/mix/tasks/compile.rambo.ex:89: Mix.Tasks.Compile.Rambo.compile!/0
    (mix 1.14.2) lib/mix/task.ex:421: anonymous fn/3 in Mix.Task.run_task/4
    (mix 1.14.2) lib/mix/cli.ex:84: Mix.CLI.run_task/2

You can resolve this error by installing the Rust compiler using Homebrew. Run the following command in your terminal: brew install rust

If you have already compiled Rambo explicitly via mix compile.rambo, and you are still seeing the following error:

sh: /path_to_directory/Lightning/_build/dev/lib/rambo/priv/rambo: No such file or directory
sh: line 0: exec: /path_to_directory/Lightning/_build/dev/lib/rambo/priv/rambo: cannot execute: No such file or directory

You can try renaming deps/rambo/priv/rambo-mac to deps/rambo/priv/rambo.

If neither of the approaches above work, please raise an issue.

Starting from scratch

If you're actively working with docker, you start experiencing issues, and you would like to start from scratch you can clean up everything and start over like this:

# To remove any ignored files and reset your .env to it's example
git clean -fdx && cp .env.example .env
# You can skip the line below if you want to keep your database
docker compose down --rmi all --volumes

docker compose build --no-cache web && \
  docker compose create --force-recreate

docker compose run --rm web mix ecto.migrate
docker compose up

Project Configuration Quickstart

For help getting started with your OpenFn/Lightning Project and Workflows configuration, check out the Lightning Quickstart Guidance on OpenFn/Docs.

Contribute to this project

First, thanks for being here! You're contributing to a digital public good that will always be free and open source and aimed at serving innovative NGOs, governments, and social impact organizations the world over! You rock. ❤️

FYI, Lightning is built in Elixir, harnessing the Phoenix Framework. Currently, the only unbundled dependency is a PostgreSQL database.

If you'd like to contribute to this projects, follow the steps below:

Assign yourself to an issue

Read through the existing issues, assign yourself to the issue you have chosen. Leave a comment on the issue to let us know you'll be working on it, and if you have any questions of clarifications that would help you get started ask them there - we will get back to you as soon as possible.

If there isn't already an issue for the feature you would like to contribute, please start a discussion in our community forum.

Open a pull request

  1. Clone the Lightning repository, then fork it.

  2. Run through setting up your environment and make your changes.

  3. Make sure you have written your tests and updated / (in the 'Unreleased' section, add a short description of the changes you are making, along with a link to your issue).

  4. Open a draft pull request by clicking "Contribute > Open Pull Request" from your forked repository. Fill out the pull request template (this will be added automatically for you), then make sure to self-review your code and go through the 'Review checklist'. Don't worry about the QA checkbox, our product manager Amber will tick that once she has reviewed your PR. You can leave any notes for the reviewer in a comment.

  5. Once you're ready to submit a pull request, you can mark your draft PR as 'Ready for review' and assign @stuartc or @taylordowns2000.

Generating Documentation

You can generate the HTML and EPUB documentation locally using:

mix docs and opening doc/index.html in your browser.

Security and Standards

We use a host of common Elixir static analysis tools to help us avoid common pitfalls and make sure we keep everything clean and consistent.

In addition to our test suite, you can run the following commands:

  • mix format --check-formatted
    Code formatting checker, run again without the --check-formatted flag to have your code automatically changed.
  • mix dialyzer
    Static analysis for type mismatches and other common warnings. See dialyxir.
  • mix credo
    Static analysis for consistency, and coding standards. See Credo.
  • mix sobelow
    Check for commonly known security exploits. See Sobelow.
  • MIX_ENV=test mix coveralls
    Test coverage reporter. This command also runs the test suite, and can be used in place of mix test when checking everything before pushing your code. See excoveralls.

For convenience there is a verify mix task that runs all of the above and defaults the MIX_ENV to test.

For more guidance on security best practices for workflow automation implementations, check out OpenFn Docs:

Server Specs for Self-Hosting

For recommend server specifications for self-hosting of Lightning, check out this Community topic:


If you have any questions, feedback, or issues, please: