Let’s Light Up the Global Commons

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Yesterday, we announced an incredible gift from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation: a $10 million unrestricted grant, which will have a transformational impact on our work. For many years, CC has struggled with sustainability, and has lacked a strong fundraising program. Over the past 18 months, with support from many of you, we’ve set that right. We’ve tripled the number of donors, doubled individual fundraising, cut our expenses, and focused our work on the areas where we will have the most impact. That’s been difficult, but also essential to building the kind of support required for a gift of this magnitude.

I’m personally very grateful to Hewlett for their support for CC — they’ve been there from the very beginning, and it’s clear they’ll be there well into the future. Their donation doesn’t mean we’re free and clear: we’ll need these new resources to make some important investments, but we’ll also need others to join us if we’re going to be successful. But more on that another day. For now, let’s focus on the plan.

To articulate our strategy, we developed an intended outcome statement — a brief statement that expresses clearly our goal:

Creative Commons will, within 3-5 years, foster a vibrant, usable, and collaborative global commons, powered by an engaged community of creators, curators, and users of content, knowledge, and data. We will do so by focusing in three intermediate outcomes: discovery, collaboration, and advocacy.

That could mean a lot of things, and the hardest part of any strategy is deciding which things you’re not going to do. Saying no is much harder than saying yes. CC will focus our strategy in three specific areas: Discovery, collaboration, and advocacy.

Discovery is about creating a more vibrant and usable commons, both on the platforms where open content is hosted, and also for those works that are individually hosted on creators’ websites. It is also about telling a compelling story of open collaboration, and demonstrating its value to the world so that others will join the movement. Search, curation, meta-tagging, content analytics, one-click attribution are all examples of areas where improved discovery would support creators that use the commons.

To do this work, CC will need to establish a small developer team. We work in the open, and can draw on the open source community, but to do that we need the capacity to develop our own prototypes and tools, maintain our services to licensors, and work with contributors. We’ll also strengthen our communications team to tell the story of the commons, our partners, and our community — watch for an announcement on that soon.

Collaboration is about helping creators across sectors, disciplines, and geographies, to work together to share open content and create new works. CC’s role is to facilitate greater cooperation and engagement in the commons, realizing the unique benefits of open across many of the communities that rely on open content.

To do this work, CC will play an active role in developing and facilitating solutions for cooperation and engagement in communities like OER or open access. Solutions which will often then scale up to other communities — imagine helping to build more effective search for open educational resources, or The List, a mobile app that allows users to request images and others to submit them with a CC BY license to a public archive, as simple ways to facilitate collaboration that can scale up across multiple communities. CC will assign staff to develop partnerships with platforms and creative communities that create and remix content, and help improve the experience of sharing and working in a public commons.

Advocacy is about CC’s vital role in advocacy and policymaking. Creative Commons has a powerful and respected role in pushing for positive reforms. We are frequently called upon to lend our voice to important open policy debates, and to explain the impacts for the public good of particular policies, while identifying areas where new or existing policy impacts the ability of users to apply or rely upon CC licenses. However, the fight for copyright reform is a global one, and will only be won if we activate the power of many interconnected global communities.

To do this work, CC will focus on strengthening and supporting the global affiliate network — chapters in over 85 countries comprised of some of the world’s leading experts and advocates in open content and knowledge. At our most recent summit in Seoul, South Korea, the energy and excitement from the network was inspiring — but we have to ensure that energy turns into action, and there’s an urgent need to create a global network strategy to connect it all together. CC may not have the capacity or expertise to manage dozens of copyright reform campaigns globally, but the CC affiliate network does, if properly supported and engaged. With a strong team in place, micro-grants for local projects, and better infrastructure, CC will put collaboration at the centre of our approach, as we have been successful at supporting and collaborating with connected communities that advocate for policies that strengthen the commons, like the Open Policy Network and Communia.

This is where you come in

What’s next? We’re now developing program implementation plans, including consultation with the CC global affiliate network and key partners. We expect that work to be complete by the end of February.

We want to hear from you about how we can truly light up the global commons. This will be a transformative change for Creative Commons — a new direction that is more focused and will have even greater impact. We don’t have all the answers, and we can’t do it alone. I hope you’ll join us as we shape the projects and programs that will bring this strategy to life.

So tell us: What’s your idea to help CC make the commons more vibrant and usable, and to foster communities of collaboration and gratitude?