Applying openness beyond software has been at the heart of our experiment in philanthropy since it began in 2007. We thought deeply about the rationale, benefit, and strategic value of open. We were forerunners of the philanthropic trend to commit to open licenses: the legal agreements we designed to make all of our investments compliant with strict open processes have been widely used and adapted by other foundations.
But open is not just about licenses; it is also about mindset and practice. We want to collaborate and receive contributions from outside our professional circles. We want others to review our processes and make them better and help others improve, too. Working openly encourages others to experiment in different environments and spreads our tools, ideas, and practices well beyond the limits of our immediate reach and imagination.
We practice open philanthropy because it makes sense: giving others permission to use, adapt or build on our assets extends their lifespan exponentially and promises greater returns on our social investment. Conversely, hiding knowledge behind intellectual property rights does not make sense if the goal is social change. Restricting access to data, content, tools, or thinking limits their potential. Furthermore, if those ideas fail, the knowledge is lost forever, and the next generation of change agents will make the same mistakes.