open policy

Institute for Open Leadership 2: Apply now

Timothy Vollmer, September 28th, 2015

Cape Town by Kemal Kestelli on Flickr, CC BY-ND 2.0.

Earlier this year, Creative Commons and the Open Policy Network hosted the first Institute for Open Leadership (IOL). The IOL is a training and support program to empower new leaders interested in crafting and implementing an open licensing policy within their discipline. We had a diverse cohort of 14 fellows who came together for a week in January, 2015 in San Francisco. The fellows worked with mentors and each other to hone their open policy project ideas. Since then they’ve working within their institutions and fields to implement their open policy plan.

Today we’re opening the application period for the next round of the institute. IOL 2 will take place March 14-18, 2016 in Cape Town, South Africa.

Application instructions are on the Institute for Open Leadership webpage. Applications are due October 30, 2015. We will accept 15 IOL fellows.

We encourage applications from a variety of areas, including the public sector, cultural heritage institutions, publishing, and scientific labs. We’re interested in individuals who are eager to become experts in open licensing, pursue new opportunities for open sharing of content and data, and directly influence policy decisions in their institution and field of work.

Thanks again to the William and Flora Hewlett Foundationand the Open Society Foundations for their support for the Institute for Open Leadership.

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Open Licensing Policy Toolkit (DRAFT)

Cable Green, September 22nd, 2015

Files. By Pieter J. Smits, CC BY 3.0

Creative Commons believes that public and foundation funded resources should be openly licensed by default. We have written extensively about the importance of open licensing policies in government, foundations, and have built the Open Policy Network and the Institute for Open Leadership with our open policy partners around the world. In the past few years, the United States federal government has accelerated its interest in and implementation of open licensing policy requirements on the products of publicly funded grants and contracts.

To support the education of government staff creating, adopting and implementing open licensing policies – we’ve created an Open Licensing Policy Toolkit. While this draft is tailored for U.S. government federal staff, it can easily be revised to meet the needs of any country. We share it here under a CC BY 4.0 license hoping others will take, improve, and modify it to meet regional, national and/or local needs. We look forward to seeing what you create… and we are happy to collaborate with you should you identify an opportunity to work with your government on broad open licensing requirements on publicly funded resources.

Open Licensing Policy Toolkit (Google docs version)
Open Licensing Policy Toolkit (Wiki version)

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Obama administration should require sharing of federally funded educational resources under Creative Commons licenses

Timothy Vollmer, August 4th, 2015

White House_600
White House by Diego Cambiaso, available under the CC BY-SA license.

Today, Creative Commons and a broad coalition of education, library, technology, public interest, and legal organizations are calling upon the White House to take administrative action to ensure that federally funded educational materials are made available as Open Educational Resources (OER) for the public to freely use, share, and improve.

We ask the administration to adopt a strong Executive branch-wide policy requiring that educational, training, and instructional materials created with federal funds be shared under an open license. Some agencies have already implemented an open licensing policy for the outputs of federal grants, including the $2 billion Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grant Program, jointly administered by the Departments of Labor and Education. In order to receive these funds, grantees are required to license to the public all work created with the support of the grant under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 (CC BY) license.

In issuing this public statement, we hope to ensure that the billions of taxpayer dollars invested in the creation of educational materials produce resources that are freely available to the members of the public that paid for them. The administration has both an educational and economic imperative to increase access to learning and workforce development opportunities. Further, it has the opportunity to spur innovation through opening access to a wealth of educational resources that can be improved and built upon.

To ensure that administrative policy advances these goals, the coalition has outlined five core principles for executive action:

  1. Adopt a broad definition of educational materials.
  2. Provide free online access to these educational resources.
  3. Create conditions that enable easy reuse of materials.
  4. Require prompt implementation of the policy.
  5. Mandate regular reporting of progress and results.

The following can be attributed to Cable Green, Director of Global Learning at Creative Commons:

“By embracing Creative Commons licenses for the digital education and training outputs of federal agency grant making, the Obama administration will be demonstrating its commitment to collaboration, innovation, and effective government spending. When we contribute publicly funded educational materials to the public commons, everyone wins. This type of sharing is worth fighting for.”

A copy of the complete letter is available here. You can show your support for open access to publicly funded education materials by signing it too.


U.S. K12 State Policy Recommendations for OER: Sign Letter of Support

Cable Green, May 8th, 2015

second grade writing class
second grade writing class / woodleywonderworks / CC BY

(a nonpartisan education reform organization widely known for its CC BY licensed OER Rubrics) has developed policy recommendations with input from its OER Institute U.S. state partners for U.S. states to use OER as part of their college and career ready implementation plans.

These recommendations aim to provide helpful information and guidance for U.S. states that are interested in but have not yet begun an organized effort to use OER.

The OER policy recommendations center on:

  • States and school districts using OER as part of their strategy to support the implementation of college and career ready standards.
  • Recommending when public funds are used, the instructional materials created should be openly licensed.
  • States and school districts should ensure all instructional materials being used, including OER, are high quality and aligned to college and career ready standards.

To illustrate the broad array of audiences that support and have made effective, standards-aligned OER a priority, Achieve was recently joined by U.S. states, funders and organizations, including Creative Commons, in signing a letter of support for Open Educational Resources.

If your state or organization is interested in signing this letter, please contact Hans Voss at

This open letter outlines the benefits OER can provide to U.S. states and K12 school districts as they engage the hard work of college and career ready standards implementation. Particularly in an environment where many states are implementing the Common Core State Standards, OER can be used to leverage the benefits of these common standards by providing the legal rights and technical ability to freely share and modify instructional resources to help support the needs of individual classrooms (e.g., K12 OER Collaborative).

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Vancouver Foundation announces first CC BY policy for a Canadian foundation

Timothy Vollmer, May 7th, 2015

vancouver foundation logo

Vancouver Foundation has announced that it will adopt an open licensing policy by January 2017. The foundation will require that all projects and research funded through community advised grant programs be licensed and shared under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license (CC BY). In addition, the foundation has pledged to license their own intellectual property–such as reports and publications–under CC BY.

Vancouver Foundation is one of the largest foundations in Canada, with over $1 billion in assets, and funds projects across British Columbia in areas such as arts and culture, education, children and youth issues, environment, animal welfare, community health, and social development. With the new open licensing policy–which is the first for a Canadian foundation–the organization aims “to advance transparency and accessibility of materials to drive greater innovation and creativity in BC and beyond.”

The open licensing policy will take effect in January 2017, and in the interim the foundation will work on the development, testing and implementation of the policy to explore and address the needs of those grantees who have a persuasive reason to choose alternative licenses or conditions.

“Vancouver Foundation is excited to join a growing international movement among foundations to increase access to a wide range of content funded to create public benefits,” said Foundation President and CEO, Kevin McCort. “We do this not only to share the products of our own community investments, but to encourage and support other foundations who want to join us.”

Ryan Merkley, CEO of Creative Commons, said, “Vancouver Foundation joins several leading philanthropic grant making organizations who have adopted Creative Commons licensing policies for the outputs of their charitable giving, unlocking billions in resources for everything from research to digital education materials, and data.”

Read the press release of the announcement here. Congratulations to Vancouver Foundation for their leadership and commitment to sharing research, educational materials, and data for the public benefit in the global commons.

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Wikimedia adopts open licensing policy for foundation-funded research

Timothy Vollmer, March 23rd, 2015

Last week the Wikimedia Foundation announced it is adopting an open access policy for research works created using foundation funds. According to their blog post, the new open access policy “will ensure that all research the Wikimedia Foundation supports through grants, equipment, or research collaboration is made widely accessible and reusable. Research, data, and code developed through these collaborations will be made available in Open Access venues and under a free license, in keeping with the Wikimedia Foundation’s mission to support free knowledge.”

The details of the open access policy can be found on the Wikimedia Foundation website. There will be an expectation that researchers receiving funds from the foundation will provide “unrestricted access to and reuse of all their research output…”. Published materials, proposals, and supporting materials will be covered under the open access policy. The policy states that media files must be made available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 license (the version currently used by Wikipedia), or any other free license. In addition, the policy requires that data be made available under an Open Definition-conformant license (with the CC0 Public Domain Dedication preferred), and that any source code be licensed under the GNU General Public License version 2.0 or any other Open Source Initiative-approved license.

The open access policy from the Wikimedia Foundation joins other institutions–including governments, philanthropic foundations, universities, and intergovernmental organizations who have adopted policies to increase access to important and useful information and data for the public good. Thanks to Wikimedia for their continued leadership in support of free knowledge for all.

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Open Education Week: 9-13 March 2015

Cable Green, March 7th, 2015

Banner by Open Education Consortium / CC BY

Open Education Week is an annual convening of the global open education movement to share ideas, new open education projects and to raise awareness about open education and its impact on teaching and learning worldwide. Open education encompasses resources, tools and practices that employ a framework of open sharing to improve education access, affordability and effectiveness. Participation in all events and use of all resources are free and open to everyone.

There are many ways to participate:

While all of the events are worthy of your attendance, here is a quick preview of events to be hosted by Creative Commons affiliates and staff:

We look forward to seeing you online!

Special thanks and congratulations to the Open Education Consortium for coordinating Open Education Week!
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Report back: Institute for Open Leadership meeting

Timothy Vollmer, February 10th, 2015

Creative Commons and the Open Policy Network hosted the first Institute for Open Leadership meeting in San Francisco 12-16 January 2015. The Institute for Open Leadership (IOL for short) is a training program to identify and cultivate new leaders in open education, science, public policy, research, data and other fields on the values and implementation of openness in licensing, policies and practices. The rationale for the IOL is to educate and empower potential open advocates within existing institutional structures in order to expand and promote the values and practices of the idea that publicly funded resources should be openly licensed.

iol group small
IOL group shot by Cable Green under CC BY

There was significant interest in the first iteration of the IOL program: we received over 95 applications and selected 14 fellows for the first Institute. The fellows came from around the world (Bangladesh, Barbados, Chile, Colombia, Greece, Nepal, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Somalia, United States ), and reflect a wide range of institutions–from community colleges to government sector to public radio.

The central component of the IOL program requires fellows to develop, refine, and implement a capstone open policy project within their home institution. Creative Commons staff and other selected mentors provided guidance throughout this process.

Week’s activities
The week was deliberately structured with the fellows at the center of the conversation, with a specific focus on providing them with the information and tools to develop and successfully implement their open policy project in their institution. We constructed the week’s activities to cover a wide range of topics, including:

  • Overview of Creative Commons and open licensing, as this is a key aspect to all open policies.
  • Deep dive into open policy, including identifying existing real world examples, sharing lessons learned, discussing the value proposition, sharing typical opposition arguments.
  • Discussion of practical development of policy roadmaps and roll-out strategies across different sectors/institutions.
  • Campaign planning and advice/best practices about how to communicate with decision makers about open policy.
  • Identification of resources in support of open policy development and implementation, including presentations, reports, videos, informational and promotional materials.
  • Sharing of best methods for educating and informing decision makers about open policy, including workshops, courses, hackathons.
  • Testing fellow’s open policy knowledge and expected challenges through an open policy “shark tank.”
  • Hewlett Foundation communication team interviewed multiple IOL fellows for a Hewlett story on the power of CC licensing.

Mentors included Cable Green, Paul Stacey, Timothy Vollmer and Puneet Kishor from Creative Commons and Nicole Allen and Nick Shockey from SPARC. Each of these persons had specific subject-area expertise and acted as a “mentor” for two or more of the fellows. We grouped the fellows based on their project ideas with a mentor in the following categories: Open Educational Resources, Open Access, Open Data, Open GLAM (galleries, libraries, archives, museums), and Open Business Models. During the week, we provided time for fellows to work individually, with other fellows, and with their mentors.

iol conference small
IOL session by txtbks under CC BY

On the final day of the in-person Institute we asked each fellow to report back on their progress from during the week, and asked each to answer common questions, such as talking about their open policy project objectives, planned activities to meet those objectives, identification of challenges they expect to face, partners they plan on working with, and metrics for success.

In addition to the whole group discussions, mentor breakouts, and individual work, we included informational and motivational speakers to talk with the fellows over our lunch breaks. These talks were given by individuals with experience working in open policy across a variety of sectors, including Hal Plotkin (former Senior Policy Advisor within the U.S. Department of Education), Abel Caine (OER Program Specialist at UNESCO), Heather Joseph (Executive Director at SPARC), Laura Manley (Project Manager at Open Data 500) and Romain Lacombe (Plume).

Next steps
With the successful completion of the in-person portion of the IOL, the fellows have now returned to their home countries and will begin the process of implementing their open policies. The mentors are committed to continue working with their respective fellows, including providing advice and assistance. Fellows and mentors will meet to discuss progress over webinars planned for the following months. The goal is for the fellows to have implemented their open policy at the institution within a year. The fellows will be able to share more information about the implementation of their capstone policy projects in the coming months.

We’ve already solicited feedback from fellows and are currently evaluating the activities and structure of the just-completed IOL. There are already several improvements we’d like to see as we begin to develop the second round of the IOL, to be held outside of North America in January 2016. We plan to open the application process for round two in mid-2015. The demand for IOL is large and additional funding is being sought to support additional ones beyond the first two.

Yoda Fountain by Nasir Khan under CC BY-SA
Note: Lucasfilm has offices inside The Presidio, where the IOL took place. Thus, Yoda.

One of the aims of the Institute For Open Leadership is to link participants together into a global network. Participants from this inaugural Institute for Open Leadership, and all future ones, become part of a peer-to-peer network providing support for each other, asking and answering questions, and getting ongoing help with open policy development and implementation. This network helps participants overcome barriers and ensure open policy opportunities come to fruition.

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Ford Foundation to require CC BY for all grant-funded projects

Timothy Vollmer, February 3rd, 2015


Today the Ford Foundation announced an open licensing policy for all of their grant-funded projects and research. The new arrangement came into effect February 1, 2015 and covers most grant-funded work, as well as the outputs of consultants. The Ford Foundation has chosen to adopt the CC BY 4.0 license as the default for these materials. Grant agreements will now include a paragraph requiring the grant recipient to broadly share all copyrightable products (such as research reports, photographs, videos, etc.) funded by the grant under CC BY. And the Ford Foundation is leading by example by adopting CC BY for all materials not subject to third-party ownership on their own website.

Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, said, “This policy change will help grantees and the public more easily connect with us and build upon our work, ensure our grant dollars go further and are more impactful, and – most importantly – increase our ability to advance social justice worldwide.”

“We’re incredibly pleased to see the Ford Foundation adopting a Creative Commons licensing policy for a wide range of grant-funded works, promoting openness and re-use of content produced through its philanthropic grantmaking,” said Ryan Merkley, CEO of Creative Commons. “The Ford Foundation joins a growing movement of foundations and governments adopting policies that increase access to and re-use of digital education materials, research articles, and data using Creative Commons.”

The Ford Foundation is an independent, nonprofit grant-making organization created in 1936. Its mission is “to strengthen democratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international cooperation, and advance human achievement.” In 2013 the Ford Foundation granted almost $570,000,000 to projects and organizations around the world.

The Ford Foundation joins several other philanthropic grantmaking organizations who have adopted Creative Commons licensing policies for the outputs of their charitable giving. We’ve highlighted several over the last few months, including the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation (who also now require CC BY for all their project-based grantmaking) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (who adopted a CC BY open access policy for published grant-funded research and data). Releasing grant-funded content under permissive open licenses like CC BY means that these materials can be more easily shared and re-used by the public. And they can be combined with other resources that are also published under an open license.

Congratulations to the Ford Foundation on adopting an open licensing policy that will encourage the sharing of rich content and data in the digital global commons. Creative Commons continues to urge other foundations and funding bodies to emulate the ongoing leadership of the Ford Foundation by making open licensing an essential component of their grantmaking strategy.


Institute for Open Leadership kicks off next week

Timothy Vollmer, January 5th, 2015

The Presidio by Mindus under CC BY-NC-SA

It’s a new year, and Creative Commons and the Open Policy Network are excited to work with the inaugural group of fellows at the Institute for Open Leadership. The Institute for Open Leadership–or IOL–is an effort  to cultivate new leaders in open education, science, public policy, and other fields on the values and implementation of openness in licensing, policies and practices. The rationale for the Institute is to educate and empower potential open advocates within existing institutional structures in order to expand and promote the values and practices of the idea that publicly funded resources should be openly licensed.

We received nearly 100  high quality applications and selected 14 fellows for the first Institute. The fellows come from around the world (12 countries), and reflect a wide range of institutions–from community colleges to government ministries  to public radio.

We’re hosting the in-person portion of the Institute in California next week. It’s important that the Institute help fellows move from theory to reality: a major component of the program requires fellows to develop, refine, and implement a capstone open policy project within their home institution. Creative Commons and the open community will provide mentorship and guidance throughout this process. As the fellows build and eventually implement their policy projects, we’ll ask them to share their progress, challenges, and successes. We also plan on running a second Institute for Open Leadership outside of North America – in late 2015.

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