Our experiment in the world

by SF Team, 23 February 2015

We are the Shuttleworth Foundation and we fund people who hold a vision for a better future centred around open principles. This is how:

This is not where we started and it is almost certainly not who we will be indefinitely. But our experience in philanthropic investment so far has resulted in a couple of key principles that govern how we behave in the world, and specifically how we structure our relationships with those we invest resources in.

This is where we are today:

We fund individuals in the first instance.

Individuals carry their learnings, experiences, passions and hopes for the future with them throughout their lives. Investing in and supporting them to work on what is broken in their world, equips them to continue to affect change far beyond the life of a specific project or organisation.

We offer true fellowship.

When crafting innovative solutions to social challenges, no step-by-step guide or external expert can offer the support you need to keep on experimenting, testing, failing and fighting. A network of peers with a comparable frame of reference, learning and evolving as they travel along similar roads, helps accelerate the journey and amplify useful truths along the way.

We ask Fellows to invest in their own ideas.

Along with their own time and attention, social change agents and entrepreneurs typically invest a considerable amount of their own resources trying to bring about their vision. Continuing to do so is an indicator of their continued commitment and ownership.

We amplify Fellows’ investments.

Just enough is not enough. Funding the time, effort and resources a social entrepreneur needs to implement an idea gives them a leg up. Amplifying their own investment rewards commitment, shows recognition and allows them to implement a vision. It frees up their time and their mind and accelerates experimentation and actualisation.

We offer freedom and flexibility.

Realising a big vision requires many incremental steps and involves a lot of uncertainty. Each step affects change in a tiny way, shifts the environment and establishes a new norm over time. In order to continue driving the change you want to see in the world, you have to be willing and able to adapt, evolve and pivot.

Our Fellows own their IP.

Technology, policy and boundaries change so fast that the best possible chance of success arises when someone can be agile and determine the future of an idea or project quickly. To this end, it is important to have the necessary ownership and control to make that happen.

We encourage innovation and taking risks.

Where conventional thinking fails, fresh thinking and unconventional approaches are necessary. There may be no single right answer. Without the failures, you don’t learn and little progress is made. Those brave enough to innovate and take these risks are the ones that get real results.

We support both for and not for profit implementations.

Progress is the point. Sometimes progress is best made through charitable acts. At other times the commercial market needs to take up an approach in order to sustain it. For or not for profit are merely tools. Choose them as you need them.

We open what we fund.

Intellectual property that is both legally and technically open allows others to adopt, replicate, reuse, adapt, improve, bring to scale, write about, talk about, remix, translate, digitise, redistribute and build upon it. These freedoms are key to the results of intellectual and financial investment getting to intended and unintended beneficiaries and removes the constraints of time and money available to the creator.

It is very much a learning journey. Just as we select Fellows who question the status quo, we continue to challenge our own model on how best to support social innovation responsibly and towards sustained change. There are no silver bullets and we do not have all of the answers. Being iterative and agile is hard. So is admitting mistakes, identifying learnings and being open about it.

We are fortunate to have the Fellows as partners in this pursuit. They come into this Fellowship with a commitment to openness at all levels. We experiment, assess, correct and build - within the individual projects and within the Fellowship as a whole. As each Fellow completes their fellowship we expand our frame of reference, which feeds directly into our ability to build a more robust model.

Posted in open