Work in Progress

The Hewlett Foundation Blog




Investing in Openness 

January 19, 2016 — By Larry Kramer

2015 was a great year for people who believe that openness can drive change. It was a year in which governments around the world, including many here in the United States, embraced new policies requiring open licenses for work they fund. Major private funders did the same, like Gates and Ford (in addition to us), starting a trend that should bring open licensing to whole new fields of study. Best of all, 2015 was the year we began to see open educational resources (OER) move from eccentric curiosity to mainstream adoption.

Creative Commons logo​At the root, or maybe I should say the heart, of these successes lies the work of Creative Commons. The organization’s open licenses—now used in connection with more than a billion works—provide the legal underpinning for sharing. More important, its leadership has been pivotal in shaping a new understanding of the importance and feasibility of making art and research and all manner of information easily accessible and useable.

When Creative Commons was founded, in 2001, the notion that content creators would routinely allow others to use, modify, and even commercialize their work seemed far-fetched. Today, that idea is nearly conventional wisdom—and on the way to becoming conventional practice. The journey has at times been arduous, but open licenses, and the idea of openness more broadly, have succeeded due in large part to the tireless efforts of the people at Creative Commons.

The Hewlett Foundation was an early supporter of Creative Commons, and we have watched its growing influence with pride and admiration. It has been a privilege to support this vital work, and we are pleased to continue that support with a new grant of $10 million in unrestricted general operating support—the largest gift we have made to the organization.

Our hope is to give the people at Creative Commons some room to breathe: an opportunity to think and try new things—to create—without having to curtail or constrain their ongoing work. Creative Commons is the chief steward of a large and growing movement for openness, a movement to make knowledge more freely available, to foster sharing and collaboration, and to spur advances and improvements that make the world a better place for everyone.

We can’t wait to see what they do next.