Open Policy Network

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Open Policy Network: Ensuring open access to publicly funded resources


In 2011-2012, Creative Commons (CC) and other open organizations were contacted by multiple institutions and governments seeking assistance to develop materials and strategies for open policies. The need for open policy support was amplified at the CC 2011 Global Summit in Warsaw, Poland. CC Affiliates from 35 countries called for a central hub where open policies could be shared and discussed. They were clear: without clearly defined support, open policies are significantly less likely to be introduced and adopted. In October 2012 Creative Commons continued this exploration by convening a meeting of “open” leaders to brainstorm possibilities and challenges in developing resources and services to increase open policies.

As open advocates, organizations and policy makers recognize the potential for open policies to significantly increase the amount and quality of publicly funded education, research, data, and software, there is a pressing need to provide them support so they can successfully create, adopt and implement open policies. Open policies promote open licensing of resources financed through public funding in order to maximize the impact of the investment.

Open Policy = publicly funded resources are openly licensed resources.

If we are going to unleash the power of hundreds of billions of dollars of publicly funded education, research, data, and software, we need broad adoption of open policies. For the purposes of open policies that contribute to the public good, we define policy broadly as legislation, institutional policies, and/or funder mandates.

We have observed that current open policy efforts are decentralized, uncoordinated and insular; there is poor and/or sporadic information sharing. There are at least two major barriers that have prevented broad open policy adoption. (1) There is limited support for open policy advocates, organizations and policy makers who want to create, adopt and implement open policies. (2) Existing policy makers need help in articulating and messaging how open policies can increase the impact of public investments.

The open community needs access to existing open policies, legislation, and action plans for how open policies were created, discussed and passed. Advocates need to know what barriers were encountered and how they were overcome, and because politics and opportunities are local, open advocates may need support customizing an open policy solution and strategy.

If we get this simple idea right, open sustainability could cease to be an issue because: (a) there is plenty of public funding to build and maintain all of the education, research, data, and software the world needs, and (b) “open” becomes the default and “closed” becomes the exception for publicly funded resources.

Description and rationale

Open policies promote access to, and open licensing of, resources financed through public funding. Open policies can maximize the impact of public investments in science, data, education, libraries, archives, museums, software and other resources through the efficient use and reuse of resources for the public good.

The Open Policy Network (OPN) supports the creation, adoption and implementation of open policies around the world. It does this by:

  • mapping the open policy space across open sectors;
  • identifying open policy gaps and opportunities within and across sectors;
  • communicating the social and economic value of open policy;
  • networking together those trying to develop open policies with organizations, communities and individuals who have open policy expertise; and
  • curating case studies and open policy exemplars for others to use or adapt.

In addition to supporting the creation, adoption and implementation of open policies, it is equally as important to support the updating of existing policy frameworks, so open policies can be effective and long-lasting. Existing policies need to be reviewed and modified as needed to support the implementation of open policies. For example, an open policy that leads to the creation of new open textbooks is less impactful if textbook procurement policies do not allow schools to adopt open textbooks.

Open policy advocates need to present a coordinated case to policymakers that 21st century legal and technical tools can be used to significantly improve the effectiveness of investments in publicly funded resources. The global reach and increasing speed and bandwidth of the Internet; the decreasing cost of hardware and near zero costs of digital storage, copying and distribution; open licensing, and the popularity of mobile devices is making accessibility to digital content universally possible. When policy makers understand the power of open policies, they can avoid the lock-in of stale frameworks and existing financial models, so they can maximize the positive societal impact of publicly funded resources.


The mission of the Open Policy Network 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, connecting open policy opportunities with assistance, and sharing open policy information.

Guiding principles

Operational Work Plan

OPN will:

  • Connect policy makers and other interested parties to expert open policy advocates and organizations who are able to provide assistance and support when open policy opportunities arise.
  • Identify and build new open policy resources and/or services only where capacity and expertise does not currently exist, by providing needed resources, information and advice.
  • Provide a baseline level of assistance for open policy opportunities as they arise, to ensure no open policy opportunity goes unfulfilled.
  • Link to, catalog and curate existing and new open policies and open policy resources from around the world.
  • Connect open policy advocates and organizations on a listserv and monthly phone conference to maximize knowledge transfer and cooperation.
  • Operate in a manner respectful of member organizations’ existing messaging, communities and business models.
  • Release all content produced by the OPN under CC BY and data under CC0.

Priority services and resources

These priority services and resources would be identified (if existing) or created (if not) across various sectors, possibly including: Open Science, Open Data, Open Educational Resources (including OCW & open textbooks), Open Access, Open GLAM, and Open Software. Should an organization not wish to be listed on the OPN or be alerted when there is an open policy opportunity in its “sector,” the OPN will respect the organization’s wishes.

First tier:

  • implementation kit with slides and talking points
  • consulting / mentoring / networking
  • data driven research: curating what exists into policy briefs, identifying gaps, synthesize reports
  • evaluation of existing policies / laws & policies documented in ROARMAP, OER Policy Registry, etc.
  • Media / PR work

Second tier:

  • develop model open policies and bills
  • OPN fellows
  • graduate students
  • business school “open” competitions
  • meetings / convenings
  • education / training; link to School of Open, webinars, conference presentations


We did not discuss funding for the OPN at the Oct 4 meeting. CC has allocated (pending Board approval) a small amount of staff time and resources to support the launch phase of the OPN, but more resources will be needed for the OPN to thrive. CC is willing to help explore additional funding, and can act as fiscal agent if useful. Alternatively, CC is happy to partner with other organizations interested in helping to secure funding and managing finances for the OPN.

Another piece to consider is how to address advocacy and grassroots / direct lobbying especially with regard to funding restrictions from foundations. It might be helpful to have a pool of unrestricted funds that could be used for lobbying should such an open policy opportunity arise. This should be discussed in detail given the sensitive nature of the topic.