The Open Knowledge Foundation (OKF) is a non-profit organisation founded in 2004 and dedicated to promoting open data and open content in all their forms – including government data, publicly funded research and public domain cultural content.
The Foundation is an international leader in its field and has extensive experience in building tools and community around open material. Our software development work includes some of the most innovative and widely acclaimed projects in the area. For example, our CKAN project is the world’s leading open source data portal platform – used by data.gov, data.gov.uk, the European Commission’s open data portal, and numerous national, regional and local portals from Austria to Brazil.
The Open Knowledge Foundation’s award winning OpenSpending project enables users to explore over 13 million government spending transactions from around the world. We have an active global network which includes Working Groups and Local Groups in dozens of countries – including groups, ambassadors and partners in 21 of Europe’s 27 Member States.
Tens of thousands of people from a wide variety of backgrounds take part in Open Knowledge Foundation discussions and activities. We run numerous events – from small hands on policy workshops and code sprints, to our annual international events, OKFestival and OKCon, the last edition of which convened over a thousand people for five days of activities in Helsinki, Finland.
In 2011 the Foundation ran the Open Data Challenge, which was Europe’s biggest open data competition to date, attracting 430 entries from 24 Member States. Along with the EJC we coordinated the production of the Data Journalism Handbook, a free reference book on how journalists can use data to improve the news with contributions from leading media organisations from around the world – including the BBC, Financial Times, Guardian, Le Monde, New York Times, Zeit Online, Wired, and many others.
We believe that a vibrant open knowledge commons will empower citizens and enable fair and sustainable societies.
What is Open Knowledge?
‘Open knowledge’ is any content, information or data that people are free to use, re-use and redistribute — without any legal, technological or social restriction. We detail exactly what openness entails in the Open Knowledge Definition. The main principles are:
- Free and open access to the material
- Freedom to redistribute the material
- Freedom to reuse the material
- No restriction of the above based on who someone is (e.g. their nationality) or their field of endeavour (e.g. commercial or non-commercial)
Open knowledge is what open data becomes when it’s useful, usable and used. The Open Knowledge Foundation believes in open knowledge: not just that some data is open and can be freely used, but that it is useful – accessible, understandable, meaningful, and able to help someone solve a real problem.
So open knowledge is empowering – it helps us effect change and improve the world.
We believe in the power of openness
We seek a world in which open knowledge is ubiquitous and routine – both online and offline. We promote open knowledge because of its potential to deliver far-reaching societal benefits which include the following:
- Better governance: openness improves governance through increased transparency and engagement.
- Better culture: openness means greater access, sharing and participation in relation to cultural material and activities.
- Better research: for research to function effectively, and for society to reap the full benefits from research activities, research outputs should be open.
- Better economy: openness permits easier and more rapid reuse of material and open data and content are the key raw ingredients for the development of new innovative tools and services.
Much of our work is done through volunteers in our active global network. Community activities are organized around individual working groups, regional communities and projects, each focused on a different aspect of open knowledge, but united by a common set of concerns, and a common set of traditions in both etiquette and process. This community is open to everyone and is organised as a meritocracy based on open discussion and tolerance.
Running through all of our activities is a strong emphasis on decentralized collaboration. In particular, a primary aim is to help others develop open material as well as creating it ourselves. We believe that the future lies in collaboration between a multitude of different groups and that no one group or organisation can, or should try to, “do it all”. It is when we work together that we are the strongest.
One of our major functions is acting as a hub for work on open knowledge, drawing together representatives from across the knowledge society – from academics, public servants and entrepreneurs to data experts, archivists and web developers.
All our activities are connected open knowledge. Whether we are convening communities, developing tools, creating open material, or seeing it used to effect change, open knowledge should be at the heart of what we do.
Respect and Tolerance
Respect and tolerance are pre-conditions for all our work, and essential to working as a collaborative community. Respect others and their capabilities and capacities. Recognize differences as a creative force: when discussed openly and without aggression, they allow us to find the best way forward.
To achieve our vision we cannot work alone. Collaboration, both across our network and outside it, is central to how we operate.
Pragmatic not fanatic
We are strong believers in “open” but our commitment is animated by a desire to make change, not to establish our moral superiority. Though we will never create closed knowledge we must recognize that others may do, and that, for example, being most effective may sometimes involve the use of non-open tools.
Making & Talking
We value making and talking equally and thrive on their creative tension. Advocacy through thought leadership, evangelism and convening ensures open material becomes available, is valued and is effectively used by others. Direct involvement in making use of open knowledge and making change with it (for instance, by building services or analyzing data) ensures we remain aware and engaged with real challenges and real needs.
We want to see change in the world and we want to make this happen today not tomorrow. We are focused on important societal problems, challenges and opportunities. Our approach may be indirect – working to improve knowledge flow and use – but it is always in the service of solving real problems and addressing real needs.
The Open Knowledge Foundation supports the global open knowledge and open data community, is a home for projects of all kinds (especially software and data projects), investigates and explores topics and innovation around open, and offers a variety of professional and technical services.
We are trusted, pioneering, passionate, and practitioners as well as advocates. Our community changes the world by educating, advocating, creating and making.
Many of our activities are detailed on our Projects page.
Read about our governance, board of directors, annual reports and accounts on our Board and Governance page.
The Open Knowledge Foundation Limited (OKF) is a not-for-profit organization. It is incorporated in England & Wales as a company limited by guarantee with company number 05133759. The registered office is St John’s Innovation Centre, Cowley Road, Cambridge, CB4 0WS, UK and it is to this address that all correspondence should be addressed.
The Foundation is registered with the UK ICO and is on the Data Protection Register under the terms of the Data Protection Act 1998. The Open Knowledge Foundation Limited is registered for VAT in the United Kingdom with number 984 4049 89.