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Institute for Open Leadership

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Creative Commons will develop an Institute for Open Leadership to train new leaders in education, science, and public policy fields on the values and implementation of openness in licensing, policies, and practices. By training new leaders, connecting them to each other and helping them complete their first capstone open project in their institution, we will prepare them to guide emerging movements in open science, open education, open government, and open culture. These movements are using Creative Commons licenses to broaden public access to knowledge, data, culture, and research around the world, creating new opportunities for education, innovation, and creativity.

The Institute for Open Leadership will select twenty applicants in year one and twenty applicants in year two, through a competitive application process, to participate in an intensive weeklong training session with leading experts in open fields. Each participant will develop an outcomes-based plan for a capstone open project, and report on progress within one year. Through training and the project period, participants will develop the skills, relationships, and motivation to become leaders for openness in their institutions and fields.


The Creative Commons (CC) vision is nothing less than realizing the full potential of the Internet — universal access to research and education, full participation in culture — to drive a new era of development, growth, and productivity. The Open Policy Network (OPN) initial phase, is committed to facilitating adoption of open policies around the world by improving access to resources and expertise for advocates of open policies. The Institute for Open Leadership (IOL) will be a tangible initiative within the broader OPN; all Institute projects will have an open policy component. The mission of the OPN is to foster the creation, adoption, and implementation of open policies and practices that advance the public good by supporting open policy advocates, organizations, and policy makers, and providing hands-on assistance when policy opportunities arise. The IOL complements and strengthens the OPN mission, and generates open policy projects by training a new cohort of leaders to be ready and able to inculcate open policies and practices in their institutions and across their professional communities.

The IOL will address the need to cultivate a new generation of “open leaders” with the dedication, skills, and relationships to continue growing and guiding the rapidly emerging fields of open educational resources, open access, open science, open data, and open GLAM (galleries, libraries, archives and museums). Creative Commons and other members of the Open Policy Network (OKFN, EFF, Wikimedia, OCWC, SPARC, etc.) are closely connected to these communities, with ongoing relationships that inform our understanding of both the needs of these groups and the support that they require to succeed. Leadership development is a critical requirement for all open fields: leaders serve as catalysts for increased adoption of openness in existing organizations, institutions, and governments. In turn, increased adoption is key to increasing access to and reuse of education, science, and public sector data. Our work with the US Department of Labor TAACCCT grantees has shown both the need for and potential benefit of developing new informed and connected leaders and champions for openness.

Problem/Theory of Action

A small group of pioneers with expertise in technology and law created Creative Commons licenses in response to the limitations of copyright law in addressing the massive potential for online sharing and innovation. These pioneers focused on building legal and technical tools to easily share creative content. While there has been tremendous growth in open education, science, journals, data, policy, culture, and other open initiatives in the past ten years, there has not been a focused effort to develop a pipeline of leaders to sustain and expand the open movement.

There is significant and growing demand for leaders to support open initiatives in educational, cultural, and scientific institutions, as well as governmental agencies. As a central player in open movements/initiatives, Creative Commons is on the receiving end of this demand for leadership to support open initiatives. At the organizational level, our capacity to meet this demand is limited. Yet we believe that there is strong potential to transfer and scale our leadership experience to new champions for openness, and to systematically cultivate a broad network of leaders to meet demand. There is also increased interest among discretionary institutional funding programs (such as publicly funded national and state/provincial grants) to learn about and use CC licenses. A new and broader group of leaders could address this interest by reaching and educating institutions and professional communities about copyright and the benefits of open licensing and open policies.

As open movements approach mainstream status, there is a vastly increased need for additional leaders who share the values of open licensing, the understanding of openness best practices (e.g. open technical formats, modular design, and accessibility standards), and the desire to guide some portion of this ecosystem. Failure to fill the gap between the open pioneers and end-users is straining the ability of existing leaders to respond to both requests for assistance and new open policy opportunities. The IOL will relieve the strain on existing leaders and resources by recruiting and training a new group of experts who can meet the demand for expertise on open licensing, pursue new opportunities for publishing and using open content, and directly influencing policy decisions in institutions and across fields of work.

The field of open educational resources (OER) will especially benefit from a larger cadre of well-rounded and well-prepared open leaders. Current OER advocates are unable to respond to all of the open education requests for assistance and open policy opportunities. Creative Commons’ work with the US Department of Labor TAACCCT grantees has clearly shown a massive need for leaders who understand open licensing, open best practices, and how to explain the value of openness to faculty at community colleges and universities.


Application and selection process
The IOL draws inspiration from the successful EDUCAUSE weeklong leadership institutes3 Creative Commons will solicit applications for a competitive process to select a maximum of twenty participants each year for two years (Cohorts #1 and #2). Those selected must be rising stars in their institutions or fields. We plan to target persons who are mid-level managers and/or leaders who are not currently involved in the open movement, but who are moving toward leadership positions in their institutions or fields of work over the next 5-10 years. The selection criteria will include an evaluation of which candidates the committee estimates will have the highest impact when they return to their home institution / government. Part of that impact depends on the person, part on the support they receive from their institution, and part on their proposed project. For the first cohort of participants, Creative Commons and other Open Policy Network members will use the reach of our expansive networks to solicit applications from around the world and encourage high impact candidates to apply.

All applicants will be required to propose a capstone open project they will complete after attending the IOL. These projects must contain a strong open policy component and contribute to increasing openness within their institution and field. While we will target new people, we will also require a significant demonstration of prior accomplishment and an endorsement from applicants’ institutions/employers to confirm their ability to pursue and complete their proposed project. CC will host a pre-application webinar to explain the goals of the Institute, brainstorm open project ideas, and answer questions from prospective applicants.

Prerequisite activities
Once selected, participants will be required, prior to attending, to complete any two online School of Open4 courses (e.g., copyright5 and open licensing, open education6, open science7, etc.) All courses will be free and openly licensed.

Immersive training period
The IOL will be held at a hotel, conference facility, or University campus. All participants and teachers will stay in the same accommodations and eat meals together, creating the potential for informal discussions and relationship building. By so doing, we hope to Institute instructors will be drawn from the top leadership in the fields of open access, open science, open educational resources, open culture, etc. For example, SPARC is a leader in open access, CC is a leader in open licensing and OER, and OKFN is a leader in open government data. CC will draw on its network and work with other Open Policy Network members (OKFN, EFF, Wikimedia, OCWC, SPARC, etc.) to identify instructors. We will work with the community to identify persons in categories where we cannot ascertain the best instructor. Each day will feature a concentration on open licensing in one of the fields and include time for participants to consult directly with the instructors on their own open project plans. Most instructors will be asked to stay for only 1-2 days as these open practitioners are already overstretched and it will be difficult for them to commit to a full week at the Institute.

Ongoing capstone project work
By the end of the week, participants will have polished and expanded their proposed capstone open projects and have integrated open policy aspects more thoroughly based on their newly acquired expertise and the assistance of the instructors. Participants will also work during the week to embed metrics and a research component into their open project plans to allow for the collection of new data that can inform open policies and practices globally. After the Institute, participants will attend follow-up webinars at three, six, and twelve months. The first two webinars will allow for group problem solving, as graduates begin implementing their open projects. The point of the capstone project is to transform the concepts learned at the Institute into a practical, actionable, and sustainable initiative within his/her institution. Capstone open projects can take a variety of forms depending on the interests of the participant and the type of institution where the project will be implemented. Common features of a successful capstone open project will be to:

  • Increase the amount of openly licensed materials in the commons;
  • Increase awareness among colleagues or related stakeholders about the benefits of openness;
  • Propose an open policy within the participants’ institution with an action plan to implement the open policy;
  • Demonstrate measurable results and complete report after 12 months that analyzes project progress, challenges, and sustainability.

An example of a successful capstone open project might be a librarian at a university that is able to foster an open access policy at their institution whereby university faculty agree to contribute publicly funded research into the university repository under open licenses.

In addition to the written reports (shared under CC BY), there will also be a webinar scheduled 12 months after the Institute to share the outcomes of each participant’s project. All webinars will continue fostering the development of a new open leadership cohort. Creative Commons will work with Mozilla to explore issuing an Institute for Open Leadership badge to graduates upon completion of their project.


  • June - July 2014: application period
  • January 2015: weeklong institute