Open Knowledge



IssueLab advocates for, and supports, the adoption of open publishing in the social sector. We believe that these practices bring all of us closer to why we produce and invest in social sector research to begin with: to better understand and raise awareness about pressing social problems, and to deepen the impact of the work we do to solve those problems.


But open publishing also serves our needs as individuals and organizations, making it easier to find the research we rely on, reach new audiences, archive our work in the public domain, and better track its use. It is an enabler of better knowledge management.


In the summer of 2015 IssueLab convened a group of evaluators, researchers, and learning officers from 15 different foundations and sector support organizations to ask, and answer, the following: 

Why does it matter that we fund and produce knowledge in the social sector? What principles can guide the production and publishing of that knowledge so that it best serves its purpose?

Together, we acknowledged that openness and an orientation towards sharing are at the very heart of our research and learning efforts. And together, we drafted the following principles as ones that guide our efforts to fund, produce, and share knowledge about social problems and their solutions. We hope they can serve to guide our work as knowledge producers and mobilizers and encourage their adoption by other organizations and individuals.

  1. We recognize the social sector’s unique responsibility to ensure that knowledge products resulting from the investment of charitable dollars in the public interest be subsequently shared as a public good.
  2. We recognize that all knowledge is, in essence, co-created and that new knowledge is built on existing knowledge. We honor those contributions by giving proper attribution to those who have come before us.
  3. We have a responsibility to do no harm and recognize that our knowledge sharing practices have real consequences for individuals, organizations, and communities
  4. We believe that open knowledge sharing will reduce the number of mistakes that are replicated, maximize opportunities for improvement, and ensure that scarce resources are best utilized by minimizing the amount of effort that is duplicated.
  5. We value transparency around our information sources, our funding sources, and the research methodologies we choose to employ in the production of social sector knowledge.
  6. We believe that the value of social sector knowledge is in its exchange and use, not simply in its production.
  7. We value lessons from all organizations and all communities and recognize the need to create practices, technologies, and environments where all voices and perspectives can be raised up and heard.
  8. We value peer experience, and believe that practice-based evidence carries unique value. Organizations benefit from the lessons and experiences of others, allowing them to evolve, improve, and adapt more effectively and efficiently.
  9. We believe that social sector knowledge should be made publicly available at no cost and without any obstacles to reasonable and consistent access.
  10. We recognize the valuable role that archiving plays in organizing and providing ongoing access to the knowledge gained by foundations and nonprofits over the years.


IssueLab supports organizations in adopting practices that make sharing the “default” rather than something we reserve for only select works.

If your organization is interested in adopting open knowledge practices, we encourage you to read and use our set of simple guidelines:







See a full list of foundations who have adopted open licensing practices as part of their commitment to transparency. Transparency-Trends-Pinwheel