It’s 2017 – Where’s that Policy?

February 17, 2017

We promised you answers in our last blog post – here are some of the big ones!

When we published our last blog post in late November of 2016, we had just shared that we had a ‘stop moment’ realization. What we were trying to accomplish and for whom wasn’t as clear as it could be. Our staff had questions and concerns we needed to answer to ensure we all could support the Open Licensing project.

We found time to address these questions, while hosting three additional stakeholder sessions. One session involved a deeper dive into understanding the work of our Arts and Culture grantees, who explained the complex rights ecosystem that affects their projects. We also met individually with two organizations whose work involves creating, recording and teaching materials that involved working with traditional indigenous knowledge.

And since we last connected, we completed our Policy, conducted our legal review process, and are now implementing our *slightly* delayed, but better for it, Open Licensing Policy roll out.

We have a lot of ground to cover to share the story of how we got to here – so get ready for a wildly transparent series of posts that will share the rest of our journey from concept to launch.

Once more, with feeling!

We needed to define – better than we had before – what Vancouver Foundation hopes to achieve as an organization with our open licensing policy.

We had our stop moment, and once we dug in to work with staff again, a variety of new ideas, concepts and concerns were revealed that our first conversations hadn’t uncovered.

We’ve mentioned before that very few people at Vancouver Foundation had ever heard of open licensing or Creative Commons, and that many people didn’t initially see how the sharing they did on social media and email differed in any practical way. Sharing is sharing – so why add a layer of complexity to the process?

Those who knew a bit more about open culture recalled other projects they had participated in, where teams built repositories of materials that eventually faded into obscurity due to lack of use, lack of updates, and lack of strategic support from the organizations who built them.

Trina and I realized that we needed to explain the ‘invisible barrier of copyright’ better, and to more effectively define how this work integrates with our organizational goals. Those two efforts would help to make more clear what kind of shift Vancouver Foundation is trying to inspire in the non-profit sector.

It all comes back to Vancouver Foundation’s roadmap. Our three-year roadmap is organized into multiple ‘pillars’ – with each pillar containing specific activities that fulfill strategic goals. Our Knowledge and Sharing pillar includes activities like ‘developing methods to support capacity building in other charitable organizations’, and ‘capturing and unlocking knowledge created through our grantmaking, consultations, research and community dialogues’.

Once aligned directly with those activities, it was easier to define the value of exploring how Vancouver Foundation’s knowledge, research, and data could be reused, and we could explain through that lens how inviting our Community Foundation peers to join us makes sense too.

We are the ‘biggest’ of the 191 Community Foundations in our network, but we are not always the most technically advanced, nor are we always as ‘innovative’ in our processes and strategies as we’d like to be. We have plenty to share, but also plenty to learn from our talented peers. A new focus on intentional sharing throughout our network could benefit us all, especially those who will continue the work after us.

To explore why we landed on using Creative Commons open licenses to help us with that vision, Trina and I focused on exploring content with the Field of Interest team – looking at how it is used, how it is shared, and when we find content we want to make use of – what stops us, what do we think about, and how do we wish we could adapt or change that content?

We played content sorting games to spark discussion about what is valuable to share and what isn’t, to explore copyright questions, and to identify barriers to sharing. Do you need to get permission to use song lyrics on a poster? Should a template be openly licensed, or the final result, or both? How would you stop people copying something you’ve made on social media? Who is responsible if mistakes are contained in content you re-use? And how do you quote part of a blog post and do it ‘the right way’?

Our discussions helped to surface the kinds of barriers to re-use we see every day in the non-profit world, and helped build internal support for the work Vancouver Foundation plans to do throughout 2017 to unlock and share ‘what we know’ through open licensing.

We promised we’d get specific about our Q&A with staff – here are the highlights:

Are we building a repository of openly licensed content?

No. We will be hosting Vancouver Foundation’s content online on our website, but we will not be creating a directory or website to host grantee content.

Creative Commons has been working on the CC Search project for many months – they are the ideal organization to ensure licensed materials online are more discoverable. This will help reduce the burden on charitable organizations to develop, host and maintain repositories of content. For now, we ask grantees to host their work on their own websites, or publish it on another platform that offers CC licensing options.

Is sharing with CC licenses better than just sharing on social media and email?

Yes – because once the content is discovered, the person who wants to do more with the materials understands what is possible immediately. That person will also be introduced to a mechanism that will allow them to to make their version of the work more accessible to others. Social share plus an open license doubles the opportunities for others to use and re-share the work with others.

Will taking the time to learn about Creative Commons and our policy become a burden to Vancouver Foundation staff?

Not as much as you’d think. ‘Working openly’ is an organization-level effort. Just as Vancouver Foundation is upgrading and refining other platforms and processes, this work should be considered a process we all need to incorporate into our everyday understanding of ‘how to share our knowledge and boost capacity throughout the non-profit sector’. We are focused on making active participation fun and rewarding in our staff learning sessions – and we will be sharing our project roadmap (adapted to include what we’ve learned these last few months) with others who wish to create open licensing policies within their own organizations.

What if staff don’t know enough to answer grantee questions – we have so much to explain already!

We don’t expect our staff to be copyright and open culture experts. This would be especially hard to do, since there’s not a lot of information out there about working with so many diverse grantees on this kind of project. Some unknowns can be answered by those staff members who have some ‘open culture background’, and other times staff questions will lead to “I don’t know, but we’ll work on that and get back to you.” But as we said earlier in our post about Vancouver Foundation being ‘big’ – sometimes being big means you have more room to experiment and learn, you can take a risk and maybe fail, and if you do well, you can make it easier for others to join you.

If you have any questions, about our progress or about open licensing, we’d love to hear from you!

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