Where we went
After accepting leadership roles in 2007, we were tasked with redesigning the Shuttleworth Foundation from the ground up. We were in an unusual position: our funding came from relatively ’young’ money, and, being based in South Africa, not the United States, we had few peers to offer us wisdom. It was far from straightforward but a challenge we embraced. We could test things out and experiment, approaching ideas from angles that would never occur to traditional philanthropy. We made many mistakes - a lot - but that part of the process held significant value, too.
We learned on our feet at an exciting time, with the Internet maturing rapidly and the philosophy of the free and open software movement continuingly at the back of our minds, shaping much of our thinking. In addition, the World Summit on the Information Society highlighted the transformative way that access to digital assets and knowledge could make vast improvements to people’s lives. Taking what we knew to be true from our previous work for the Foundation and combining it with these hugely influential ideas signposted a way forward.
A new model for the Shuttleworth Foundation began to take shape, initially with two clear areas of focus. First, we would be open and apply the philosophy of the open source software movement to all our work: our philanthropy, legal agreements, and operations. And we would shift our support from projects to people, based on our experience that the passion, learning, and drive of individuals continue to affect change long beyond the life of any given grant or organisation. The concept of fellowship later became a more integral piece of the model than we first imagined, as individual experiences blossomed into community learnings and long-term relationships were developed and maintained.