Open Philosophy

Openness is at the core of the Foundation’s experiment in the world.

Our founder and funder, Mark Shuttleworth, achieved great commercial success by building his first enterprise on existing free and open source software (FOSS) that was by its nature available for anyone to use and remix.

The free and open source software (FOSS) movement has not only created widely used software but million dollar businesses, using collaborative development approaches and open licences. Although the model is well established for software, it is not the case for education, philanthropy, hardware or social development. The default imposed on knowledge resources by copyright law is automatic lock down, with ideas generated and owned by 'experts'. This default makes little sense if your agenda is social change.

An open source world

An open source world

We want to understand whether, and how, applying the ethos, processes and licences of the free and open source software world to areas outside of software can add value.

  • What are the optimal conditions for innovation towards positive social change?
  • Can openness help provide key building blocks for further innovation?
  • Can it encourage more collaboration, or help good ideas spread faster?

These are only some of the questions we are exploring along with our fellows.

More than just Free

Philosophically and practically, we default to open instead of lock down. We subscribe to the Open Definition where data or content is regarded as open if anyone is free to use, reuse and redistribute it, thereby ensuring interoperability between different pools of material. But for us, openness also goes beyond the licence. It includes being open to collaboration and contributions from outside our immediate reference group, inviting many eyeballs to review our process and make it better. Combining openly licensed intellectual property with open practices enables and encourages others to experiment in their own environments, localise, contextualise, translate, adapt and spread the tools and methodologies we are developing well beyond our own reach and imagination.

By no means do we believe that every piece of content in the world have to be openly licensed or every process collaborative. In the digital age, the lines have become more and more blurred between the traditional categories of creators and users of intellectual property. We are taking the stance closest to extreme openness as a counter balance to the prevailing idea of completely closed, in order to establish new norms along the continuum.