Open Philanthropy?

As I continue exploring the various intersections of technology and philanthropy, I have come across several references to the “open” movements: open source, open access, open data. Last week, for example, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard voted to allow open access to their scholarly articles online.

The ideals behind opening up access to information would seem like a natural fit for foundations. I find myself wondering: Do foundations ever seek to ensure open access to the data, technology or other findings generated with the help of their funding? Is there a significant movement among foundations to open up access to their own knowledge stores? Is the foundation world in general a friend, foe or neutral party to the “open” movements?

Foundations have long been criticized for being nontransparent, and the foundation community is buzzing in earnest about how to increase transparency and demonstrate effectiveness and accountability. What place, if any, do the “open” movements have in that discussion?

Tactical Philanthropy’s posts about Open Source Philanthropy certainly provide some hearty food for thought in this regard (which this curious blogger is still digesting!), and I would appreciate the opportunity to hear any thoughts that people reading this post might be willing to open up about.


3 Responses to “Open Philanthropy?”

  1. 1 Mark Surman February 29, 2008 at 2:33 am

    My experience is that foundations are ‘generally a foe’ to open movements. This is not so much because they won’t back open source or open access (sometimes they do), but rather because the values and practices in these movements don’t fit with mainstream philanthropic practice. I’ve got the amazing job of going against this grain in my role as open philanthropy fellow at the Shuttleworth Foundation ( My sense is that people behind the book Creative Philanthropy ( are headed the same direction. It would be good to gather those who see the connection between ‘open’ and ‘philanthropy’ into some kind of conversation. It’s an obvious idea, but not one that has much traction yet.

  2. 2 Claire Baralt February 29, 2008 at 7:43 pm

    Mark – Thanks so much for commenting on this post. When I first read your comment, I was curious to hear more about what you meant by “the values and practices in these movements don’t fit with mainstream philanthropic practice.” But then I followed the link to your blog, and I found it immensely helpful and articulate in exploring the notion of open philanthropy and how it differs from current practice. In particular, I found your Theory of Change, Meme-ing of Open chart and What is Open Philanthropy posts illuminating and intriguing, to say the least. I’m still processing all of this, but am grateful you stopped by! I’m definitely adding commonspace to my blogroll, and will be eager to read your next post related to open philanthropy.

  1. 1 Shared-Access Models « Philanthropy Re-Wired Trackback on February 28, 2008 at 1:21 am

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