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Open Licensing Initiative

Vancouver Foundation's Open Licensing Policy is designed to promote intentional sharing of socially innovative ideas, resources, and knowledge across the charitable sector. Our goal is to explore how this approach will encourage more collaboration, innovation, replication, and broader exposure of the good ideas we encounter every day.


Vancouver Foundation's Open Licensing Policy is intended to promote sector-wide, intentional sharing of socially innovative ideas, information and resources among our peers and the public. 

We have chosen to use Creative Commons Open Licenses as a mechanism to help us achieve this goal. Vancouver Foundation commits to sharing knowledge with our peers and the public by applying open licenses to our own materials. As of January 1st, 2017, Vancouver Foundation also requires grantees who produce materials funded through our Field of Interest Grant making program to openly license those materials.

To develop this policy, we consulted with multiple stakeholder groups, including staff members, Advisory Committee members and grantees representing a broad spectrum of fields. Together, we explored the complex rights environments of BC's Arts and Culture sector, consulted grantees working with traditional and Indigenous knowledge, and held discussion sessions with those stakeholders concerned about project participant privacy. We have heard from copyright experts, specialists in the rights of artists, and have explored resource development and early outcomes with international peers who have implemented open policies of their own.

Vancouver Foundation commits to learning from, evaluating and adapting our policy in the years ahead to ensure it benefits and supports our sector, and the non-profits and charities we work with. 

Getting to "Open"

Vancouver Foundation has always intended for the research, knowledge and materials we produce to be shared widely throughout our communities, towards whatever goals that knowledge serves best. After many years of requests from partners and the public seeking permission to use and share our data sets, reports and resources, we had to ask: What is getting in the way?

With this question in mind, we began to seek evidence of barriers to sharing in our everyday activities. Various influences, such as staff members whose experiences working in open source, open data and open culture movements offered ideas on how other organizations approached sharing, eventually led us to identify our key question: Is ‘copyright’ getting in the way?

Copyright is usually understood through its limitations - generally speaking, you may not copy, share, or distribute materials you have not created, or you may face any number of complex legal issues.  There are also conflicting interpretations of what can and cannot be done with copyrighted materials. Because copyright is not well understood, many people feel they do not have permission to reuse and share the things they discover.

Vancouver Foundation decided to explore using Creative Commons open licenses to clarify for the public the exact terms they need to know in order to freely use them. When the Creative Commons CC BY 4.0 mark is added to our materials, we have provided others clear and advance permission to reuse every item marked with the license as long as they attribute Vancouver Foundation as the creator of the work.

The Challenge

Open Licensing alone cannot create a sector-wide movement of open sharing and learning among our grantees and peers - but it is an approach being explored by other foundations around the globe. For community foundations in Canada, it is an opportunity to extend the value of the work we collectively do to build healthy, vibrant and livable communities.

There are some exceptions to what is possible with this requirement. Our policy is intended to help, not harm, organizations who accept funding from us. It is important to acknowledge that not everything made by grantees or Vancouver Foundation can, or should, be openly licensed.

There are also potential unintended consequences of this policy requirement that we hope to minimize. While sharing is at the core of the policy, we acknowledge the importance of privacy protection, financial viability for charities, and the protection of traditional and cultural rights.  

Consultations have been held with multiple stakeholder groups to help Vancouver Foundation identify other possible unintended consequences of our policy implementation, such as grantee pressure to produce extra materials, damage to relationships charities might hold with participants and project contributors, or even a trend towards homogenization of grant applications.

Vancouver Foundation encourages our grantees to work with us closely in the years ahead as we continue to learn about the opportunities and impacts of this policy, to provide grantees with support materials and information, and to address ongoing questions and concerns.

We welcome all questions, concerns, ideas and inquiries about our work. Please connect with us about Open Licensing at 

  "Vancouver Foundation Open Licensing Initiative" is licensed under CC BY 4.0 by Vancouver Foundation