Around the world, we want to see societies where everyone has access to key information and the ability to use it to understand and shape their lives. We want to see powerful institutions made comprehensible and accountable. We want to see vital research information which can help us tackle challenges such as poverty and climate change available to all as open information.
We want to see open knowledge become a mainstream concept, as natural and important to our everyday lives and organisations as green is today.
Knowledge is power. With key information openly available, power can be held to account, inequality challenged, and inefficiencies exposed. With the latest research openly available, everyone has the potential to understand our world, and the knowledge they need to tackle major challenges such as poverty and climate change.
This key information includes how governments spend our money — both their plans and the reality — so that they are accountable to citizens, and the laws which govern us, the results of elections, maps and postcode information — the plumbing of modern society. It includes how companies are owned and controlled so that poor governance and damaging social and environmental practices can be uncovered. It includes data about global challenges such as poverty and climate change, and the findings of publicly-funded research, so we can start to understand these, tackle them, and know if our solutions are working.
We see a world where information helps deliver a balance of power; where we are free to make our own choices, with key information and insights available to all.
The concept of openness is critical: meaning that information is free for anyone, anywhere, to use for any purpose, so that everyone - citizens, scientists, activists, entrepreneurs - has access to the information they need.
What it means to be open
We set the standard for genuinely free and open sharing of information with the Open Definition. Although we can express this succinctly, there are more technical and legal forms which help people use it day to day where licensing and legal matters must be considered.
‘Open knowledge’ is any content, information or data that people are free to use, re-use and redistribute — without any legal, technological or social restriction. We detail exactly what openness entails in the Open Knowledge Definition. The main principles are:
- Free and open access to the material
- Freedom to redistribute the material
- Freedom to reuse the material
- No restriction of the above based on who someone is (such as their job) or where they are (such as their country of residence) or their field of endeavour (including whether they are working on a commercial or non-commercial project)
Open knowledge is what open data becomes when it’s useful, usable and used - not just that some data is open and can be freely used, but that it is useful – accessible, understandable, meaningful, and able to help someone solve a real problem.
So open knowledge is empowering – it helps us effect change and improve the world.
We are a worldwide network of people passionate about openness, and we use advocacy, technology and training to unlock information so everyone can benefit from open knowledge.
Open knowledge is a cross-disciplinary endeavour and needs people with diverse skills and experience, and so we collaborate internally and externally to deliver the best results. A core strength of Open Knowledge International is that we can work well with both deeply technical and deeply specialist groups and bring them together with shared understanding for strong collaborations.
We work in the open wherever possible and practical, and all our tools and materials are released openly. Although we strive to be open in our work for reasons of efficiency, when being open conflicts with our ability to get things done we may not always choose to be open - it is more important that we have a positive impact through our work.
We try to be pragmatic in our work; not everyone will believe equally in all parts of our vision, but the open knowledge network is a “big tent” where participants are welcome regardless of their specific motivations. We are enthusiastic, collaborative and inclusive. We are engaged, not complacent. We are not just thinkers - we are doers, making things happen, building, investigating, training and learning, writing and analysing.
The Open Knowledge Network is not ours. It belongs to the people who form it. We acknowledge this with community governance structures and a carefully “light touch” from Open Knowledge International in how we support the network, respecting its diversity and expertise. The network is a space where any and all open projects and communities are welcome to find a home - by contrast, Open Knowledge International may have more specific focus to its direct activities.
All our activities are connected to open knowledge. The Open Definition sets out what this means:
Open means freely shared for anyone, anywhere, to use for any purpose.
Whether we are convening communities, developing tools, creating open material, or seeing it used to effect change, open knowledge should be at the heart of what we do.
We hold firmly to the Open Definition as the defining concept at the heart of the open movement, and will call out attempts to weaken or misuse this definition, and strive to maintain this clear, shared definition of open.
Respect and tolerance
Respect and tolerance are pre-conditions for all our work, and essential to working as a collaborative community.
Respect others and their capabilities and capacities. Recognise differences as a creative force: when discussed openly and without aggression, they allow us to find the best way forward.
Collaboration not control
To achieve our vision we cannot work alone. Collaboration, both across our teams, the network and outside it, is central to how we operate.
Whilst we must remain mindful of our aims and values, we do not seek to control the activities of others. Our collaborative projects are often jointly-lead. Our Chapters and other groups in the network can pursue open knowledge in whatever way they see fit, without control from the International organisation (except in that we share a vision, and require that they adhere to these values).
Pragmatic not fanatic
We are strong believers in “open” but our commitment is animated by a desire to make change, not to establish our moral superiority.
Though we will never create closed knowledge we must recognise that others may do, and that, for example, being most effective may sometimes involve the use of non-open tools.
Making & talking
We value making and talking equally and thrive on their creative tension. Advocacy through thought leadership, evangelism and convening ensures open material becomes available, is valued and is effectively used by others. Direct involvement in making use of open knowledge and making change with it (for instance, by building services or analysing data) ensures we remain aware and engaged with real challenges and real needs.
We want to see change in the world and we want to make this happen today not tomorrow. We are focused on important societal problems, challenges and opportunities. Our approach may be indirect – working to improve knowledge flow and use – but it is always in the service of solving real problems and addressing real needs.