Our Thinking

The more we share the thinking, working and practices of ourselves and our fellows, the better

Johnny West & OpenOil: Refining the Extractive Industry

His success is not just good news for oil-producing developing nations and their citizens, but also for openness, transparency and the balance of power. In an industry hidden behind a veil of secrecy, smoke and mirrors, Johnny and the OpenOil team use and translate existing information to increase awareness of the real value of natural resources.

Johnny joined the Shuttleworth Foundation community in March, 2014 to work on OpenOil. We caught up with him to see what’s happened since and reflect on his experience in the Fellowship.

OpenOil: A Crude Primer

Ask almost anyone about the high levels of secrecy in the extractive industries and whatever side of the environmental or political divide they reside; there will be recognition. The reality, however, is a little more complicated.

Yes, there is secrecy, and calls for more transparency are growing ever louder from those fighting corruption, averting social crises, and curing political ills. But there is also data. And by using open data techniques and innovation, it’s possible to peel back those opaque layers and establish a more level playing field between governments, people and corporations.

Organisations have run exposés and publish-what-you pay campaigns on the oil industry for decades, and while some have been highly successful in tweaking the narrative, the overall story remains the same. Johnny West believes the conversation needs to move on, and OpenOil is the platform he’s using to shift it.

“Our theory of change is that climate change and other global boundaries absolutely require a global level policy,” he explains. “But we know that the political will to implement that is a long way off.

“There’s no need to labour that point, but there is also a technical aspect to it. Let’s say we magically woke up tomorrow and the political will was there to figure this out, and we suddenly have to stop producing two-thirds of the fossil fuels we currently produce. Which two-thirds are we going to stop?

“It’s a similar kind of deal in climate change, water use, land use, and biodiversity,” he continues. “The latest thinking in biodiversity says maybe half of all land should be left fallow. But that suggests you might have extremely intensive agriculture in the other half.

“These are all complex issues, but they are all very distributed. It needs massive international, commercial and government collaboration. And you can’t do that without an open data framework.”

It’s this framework that forms the basis of Open Oil. Johnny founded the organisation in 2011 on the premise that by building a comprehensive database of the world’s natural resources, you can enable a greater understanding of the actors around them. And by establishing financial models based on searchable, open data, you can create a tool for the public and governments that informs them of everything from revenue flows to market sensitivities around the oil industry.

Johnny’s approach is refreshingly radical. It’s easy to point at the problem areas of the extractive sector and scream ‘foul play’ about environmental damage, the pillaging of national resources, and profits over people. It raises awareness, but in practical terms, it achieves little.

“We’re waiting for that political will to happen, but until then we see an addressable auxiliary solution. If we do our work well enough, we will have saved the world three months or even six months of figuring out the policy implementation details. For five people in a room in Berlin to speed up global policy by that length of time would be awesome.”

From Reuters to the Shuttleworth Foundation

Johnny’s background is in journalism, and he spent two decades working as Middle East correspondent for Reuters, before picking up a role at the United Nations Development Program to help the Iraqi government understand the oil industry.

“In parallel, I’ve been in and around the open world since before it had that label,” he explains. “I left Reuters to start an internet news agency with a couple of colleagues in the mid-90s. It was pre-CMS, pre-blog, pre-everything. So we had to develop the tech skills to build these websites ourselves.

“After doing a year for the UN in and around Iraq, I thought it would be interesting to figure out what could you do if you tried to take open data and apply it to these extractive industries.

“The ideas for OpenOil came about in late-2010. We were full-on with it almost straight away, apart from a blip during the Arab Spring. There was a lot of scrabbling around for money here and there involved before the Shuttleworth Foundation came along, and I remember writing desperate emails to about $8K projects - it was a tough time.”

Johnny first learned about the Foundation from then-Fellow Adam Hyde, who worked with OpenOil within his Book Sprints and FLOSS Manuals projects.

“Adam told me to try Shuttleworth,” says Johnny. “I applied and got to the final round but didn’t get in.”

But Johnny’s Fellowship almost didn’t happen. His project proposal was intriguing beyond question, but we had reservations and serious concerns.

Could anyone really shine a light through the dense fog of disinformation renowned in the extractive industries and make openness a reality rather than rhetoric? And given the unstable nature of the oil-producing countries over the past twenty years or so, could we guarantee his security? We needed convincing.

“I think they were nervous about whether it was doable,” he recalls. “And also worried about security. I remember telling them - and it’s counterintuitive to many people - that I was comfortable working in countries around the Middle East. The risks you would run into by angering governments in that region are not personal, physical risks because they are just too dysfunctional for all of that.

“But the Foundation didn’t really buy that the first time around. So I redid the plan for the next round, asked to re-engage and discuss what was missing, and eventually got the Fellowship.”

Fuelling the Fellowship Years

It was a good decision. Johnny became a Fellow in March 2014 to work on bringing openness to the extractive industries. It was - and is - a bold vision of the world, and a necessary one.

By uncovering the publically available data and presenting it in a way people can quickly consume and understand, it gives context and empowers citizens, governments, and consumers. They can make more informed decisions about managing these critical resources, and it also offers corporations an opportunity to engage with the social potential of Open Oil. The point is not to expose them; instead, to highlight the benefits of playing fair.

But as all our Fellows experience, being amongst the first to solve social issues like these isn’t easy. Over the course of his Fellowship, Johnny faced significant challenges.

“I think we tried to do everything too quickly,” he recalls. “There were a few white elephants - a curation engine we developed and a whole bunch of geospatial stuff. It might be picked up by someone in a few years, but those were two significant ‘learnings.’ I also did some really poor hiring, initially.

“Over time we became much more focussed on financial and commercial analysis. We are now genuinely preoccupied with similar things to people in the City, except we are doing it on behalf of governments rather than companies. Put it this way: I now have three suits and wear them all frequently. It’s our bread and butter now, but it took a few iterations to get there.”

Serendipity - and the open source community - has also played a significant role in getting OpenOil established. After two years of trying to come up with a viable financial analysis structure, Johnny stumbled across an open standard around financial modelling. It gave OpenOil a new level of coherence and was key to bringing advocacy success.

“We just tripped over it one day,” he recalls. “The IMF wasn’t even aware of this standard, and they didn’t have an explicit financial analysis standard. We exposed it to them, and now they have implemented this approach at scale in their modelling work in three countries.

“But it was the fact the project was still alive after two years that allowed me to trip over it. I wouldn’t even call that a learning. It’s just having the ability to survive through the long winter. Going all pop culture, I suppose one way to frame the Shuttleworth Foundation is that it guarantees you get through ‘winter is coming.’”

Personal Reflections

“The Fellowship gave me this extraordinary validation and a sense of optimism that something like this exists in the world,” says Johnny. “I feel there should be a dozen Shuttleworth Foundations.

“Without going all hobbit-like, it is a Fellowship. There is no competition between any fellows because we have such radically different sectors - and we are all such lovely people - so nobody trips over anyone else.

“Yet we have an extraordinary aggregation of values, techniques, skill sets and common problems. It just massively coheres. And then the permissiveness of the environment - the extraordinary trust - is something that creates a much higher quality of interaction between us and the Foundation, and the Fellows with each other.

“But also, although companies are a minority within the Foundation in relation to nonprofits. there is friendliness towards making money to achieve your mission. Don’t forget; we are relatively market-friendly. We have to be.”

Part of the Foundation mission is to encourage all Fellows to aim for sustainability. Three years may seem like a long time, but most Fellows will tell you it goes quickly. And when you are trying to get into a room with ministers and high-ranking officials dealing with an area as sensitive as the oil industry, you won’t succeed unless you look the part.

“I couldn’t get access to governments as an NGO,” explains Johnny. “They wouldn’t even let us in the door. We’re consultants, they are the commissioning client, and they’re the boss - that’s all they understand. We simply couldn’t occupy our niche as an NGO.

“But I’m delighted to be post-NGO where you have to bend over backwards to not make money. There is this ridiculously lazy thinking in the development world which suggests any sense of engaging with commercial mechanisms or incorporating as a company must be in some sense be some kind of betrayal of the mission. It’s nonsense.

“The attitude of the Foundation is different and leads them towards a significant minority of people running businesses, and the nonprofit people are also very intent on hard-nosed attitudes towards raising revenues.

“Now, we run as a business and under 20 percent of the money we earn is from grants, with the rest is from completing contracts.There are a whole bunch of other market-friendly options which we haven’t pursued because they interfere too much with the mission. As a result, we are less disadvantaged than some other Fellows in their ability to seek open, unrestricted funding of a scale and duration - and that allows me to dream big.”

In the Pipeline

Today, Johnny and Open Oil are in a good place. They are making money and well on their way to sustainability while continuing to push openness into a field most people would think was impossible. The path ahead will have its potholes, of course, but the organisation’s influence is growing into significant areas.

They are filling an interesting space, advising everyone from governments to environmental organisations, and achieving significant successes - not least their recent $7 million exploits in Africa.

“That feels very good,” reflects Johnny. “But it’s not nearly as good a result as it needs to be. We think they should be getting twenty million.

“But if you want to judge that regarding value for money, we are profit-making, not profit-maximising. In that one deal alone we have earned around five dollars for the public budget for every penny that has ever been spent on us.

“It might sound crazy, but over the next fifteen years or so I aim to be an ‘other people’s billionaire’ - to raise that money on behalf of others. But, you know…I do think if I’m earning a billion for other people, I wouldn’t mind getting paid some myself.”

Final words?

“The Shuttleworth Foundation community is a genuine professional family,” says Johnny. “The validation and confidence it gave me are sustaining well beyond the end of the formal relationship.

“I once conceived of this idea, if you had one word to describe the Foundation approach - that word would be ‘love.’

“I don’t mean that in a wooly-headed sense and know it seems an inappropriate transposition in this particular domain. Neither do I mean ‘they are all tree huggers.’ But that extreme trust given to you by the Shuttleworth Foundation, effectively, translates into love.”

We’re delighted we gave Johnny the opportunity to move OpenOil forward. While he believes there is a long way to go for his organisation, his work with publically available data and financial modelling has led to significant breakthroughs in our understanding of the extractive industries. He has made a fine Shuttleworth Fellow and has embraced the ethos of sharing knowledge, community and contributing to a better world. And he has shifted our thinking towards a belief that the seemingly unachievable might - possibly - be anything but.

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Esra'a Al Shafei & CrowdVoice: Amplifying the Unheard

by Chris McGivern & SF Team, 27 December 2018

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Daniel Lombraña González: Human Stories in Citizen Science

by Chris McGivern & SF Team, 27 December 2018

But most importantly, he has broken citizen science free from its box. Once the preserve of hard research, Daniel has taken a crowbar to open up crowdsourcing and made it accessible for a range of diverse people and fields, from researchers through to volunteer citizen scientists. The story of PYBOSSA, Crowdcrafting and, eventually, Scifabric have been told before. This time, we spoke to Daniel to hear in his own words about his inspiration, journey as...

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Steve Song & Village Telco: A Foundation in Telecoms

by Chris McGivern & SF Team, 26 December 2018

Steve’s project developed into the Village Telco initiative, using open source software and low cost wireless mesh technology to build affordable community telephone networks, without the need for mobile phone towers or landlines. Village Telco remained an ongoing commercial concern until 2017, but our investment in Steve continues to provide a social return to this day. He is a Fellow at Mozilla, a research associate with the Network Startup Resource Center, and a hugely influential...

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Sean Bonner: The Seismic Necessity of Safecast

by Chris McGivern & SF Team, 26 December 2018

Born 18 months earlier as a reaction to the multiple meltdowns of a nuclear power plant in Fukushima, Safecast has made significant progress in enabling people to gather and view reliable, verified environmental information on a highly localised level. Over the last few years, Safecast has collected the largest ever dataset of background radiation measurements, changed thinking in the field, and empowered communities to better understand the environments they live in. Sean’s story is an...

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Rory Aronson: Cultivating FarmBot

by Chris McGivern & SF Team, 24 December 2018

This was an idea that promised to be part of the solution to the problems of quality, scarcity and security of food. With corporations enjoying increasing control over our food supplies and the potential damage from climate change on crops of the future, society needs solutions. FarmBot has the potential to enable and free people to grow their own food at a local level and offer them more control over their diets. While Rory’s Fellowship...

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Kathi Fletcher & OERPUB: Connecting OER

by Chris McGivern & SF Team, 24 December 2018

How can real human beings - teachers, for example - author, remix and share material with others when the OER toolset was almost impenetrable for non-technical people? In the early days of OER, anyone wanting to create and remix open textbooks needed reasonable knowledge of markup language, complicated models and coding. By making the process simple and natural to teachers and educators, OER could come closer to realising the wider benefits of open beyond sharing...

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Next application round

by SF Team, 26 October 2018

We are pausing applications until then to fully capture the outputs and outcomes of the fellowship programme to date and to explore potential new themes we want to support, as reflected in Fellowship forward. We will also seek out communities we have not yet reached. We invite potential applicants to take the time to reflect on the future you would like to see, and then focus your idea on the contribution you think you can...

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Fellowship forward

by SF Team, 26 October 2018

Over the past 6 months we have dissected every aspect of this model, from recruitment to alumni, from Fellowship highs to Fellowship lows, to really understand the value and effect of every component. We have examined the arc of the programme over the past 10 years, Fellow by Fellow as well as cumulatively. What we learned has helped us determine how we might continue our Open Philanthropy experiment. What have we learned? The fellowship programme...

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Welcome Andrew

by SF Team, 12 September 2018

Shari Steele, the Honorary Steward for this round, has selected Andrew as an exceptional candidate with tremendous potential to improve people’s lives - particularly those suffering greatly in disaster relief areas. The Foundation team are delighted to offer Andrew a warm welcome to the Fellowship Programme. We look forward to learning from his contributions and experiences and supporting his journey as a Shuttleworth Fellow. Introducing: Andrew Lamb Background: A systems engineer focussed on improving the...

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Shari Steele: Honorary steward September 2018

by SF Team, 26 June 2018

Shari is a respected advocate for the Internet freedom movement and served as executive director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation and The Tor Project. She brings decades of experience in a breadth of fields including law, education and business, and has a keen understanding of nonprofit operations and foundation-level funding. Openness is central to the Foundation’s philosophy and integral to our funding policy. But without Internet freedom, security and privacy, much of the work we...

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Welcome Jenny & Karla

by SF Team, 3 March 2018

We’re delighted and excited to award Jenny Molloy and Karla Córdoba-Brenes places on the Shuttleworth Foundation Fellowship Programme. Our Honorary Steward, Sunil Abraham, has chosen two exceptional candidates who offer a creative, innovative and open vision for a better world in two distinct areas: the future of the global bioeconomy, and alternative, community-driven currencies. Sunil is a social entrepreneur and policy expert, who combines a wealth of experience on funding selection panels with a keen...

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2017 Year in Review

by SF Team, 12 January 2018

We had such a strong intake of Fellows in March 2017 - 4 Fellows from fields new to us, doing challenging work, driven by visions much larger than their projects. The September 2017 round brought applications from individuals doing important, valuable, even groundbreaking work. We had the privilege of interviewing dozens of them, getting some insight into their thoughtful and passionate ideas for solving real problems. In the end, however, the applications fell short of...

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Philipp Schmidt & P2PU: Community-Driven Learning

by Chris McGivern and SF Team, 18 December 2017

He might not admit it, but there’s a slight rebellious streak running through Philipp Schmidt. He’s spent his career questioning conventional wisdom, experimenting with innovative ideas and taking on projects many others would call risky. It’s an attitude that’s served him well. Almost a decade after starting the Peer 2 Peer University (P2PU) project, he is now Director of the Learning Initiative at the MIT Media Lab, exploring the fringes and potential futures of teaching...

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Mark Horner and Siyavula: Opening Access to Education

by Chris McGivern and SF Team, 12 December 2017

Imagine yourself as a young student from an under-resourced community in South Africa. You are bright, eager to learn and hopeful your education will lead to opportunities for a better life. However, circumstances are against you. Your school and parents struggle to afford the resources you need, and teachers are ill-equipped, under-trained and lack the speciality knowledge you need to master your subject. The chances are you will never know what you can achieve. You...

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An Open Approach to Funding

by Chris McGivern and SF Team, 6 November 2017

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Telecoms: Our story so far

by SF Team, 26 September 2017

Having spent many years working in ICT for Development in Africa, Steve Song joined the Foundation in 2008 as one of the first Fellows. He articulated the missed opportunities for users and regulators alike resulting from overpriced data access in emerging economies and made a number of regulatory policy recommendations based on his experience and research, along with mapping the progress in undersea cables around Africa. In the absence of a telecommunications industry with a...

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Progress is more than just innovation - The Copenhagen Letter

by SF Team, 19 September 2017

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Thinking of applying? Do it

by SF Team, 14 September 2017

This is not an easy Fellowship to get, the process may be simple, but the competition is stiff. Approximately 1% of applicants are offered a fellowship. The personal investment you have to make in contemplating this fellowship is substantial - you have to really, honestly and purposefully think through what your contribution to positive social change will be and that is tough. However, it could be the first step towards realising your big vision. We...

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Thinking of applying? It could be you

by SF Team, 13 September 2017

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Thinking of applying? Be different

by SF Team, 12 September 2017

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Sean Bonner - fellowship review

by SF Team, 1 September 2017

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Seamus Kraft - fellowship review

by SF Team, 1 September 2017

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Peter Bloom - fellowship review

by SF Team, 1 September 2017

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No fellowships awarded for September 2017

by SF Team, 4 July 2017

While it was a difficult conclusion to come to, we have always been prepared not to offer fellowships if we did not find any applications we felt truly met our criteria. In communicating the decision, we want to be honest, open and transparent in order to find future Fellows we do feel we can support and would benefit from our help. We would like to live in an open knowledge society with limitless possibilities for...

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Sunil Abraham: Honorary steward September 2017

by SF Team, 19 April 2017

At the Shuttleworth Foundation we support individuals to bring about positive change in the world. Individuals carry their learnings, experiences, passions and hopes for the future with them throughout their lives. Investing in and supporting them to work on what is broken in their world, equips them to continue to affect change far beyond the life of a specific project or organisation. Similarly we seek out individuals who are bold and brave in re-imagining the...

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Aaron, Jesse and Johnny - new alumni

by SF Team, 3 March 2017

Aaron Makaruk Something has got to give in how we produce, distribute and consume food. The current system requires too much natural resource while creating pockets of feast and famine, sometimes even within the same city. While large scale systemic change is needed, we believe targeted individual action can make a difference. This lead us to Aaron Makaruk and his work on easy to do, affordable urban farming. He had 2 objectives - eliminating urban...

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Welcome Alasdair, Anasuya, Mad & Tarek

by SF Team, 3 February 2017

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Cory Doctorow selects new Shuttleworth Fellows

by SF Team, 3 February 2017

“It was an honour and a conundrum to serve as steward: an honour, because (obviously), I was in a position to help some remarkable people do transformative work; a conundrum because we were so spoilt for choice with remarkable projects and people.” For our March 2017 fellowship round we have been working with the journalist, science fiction author, EFF Special Advisor and co-editor of Boing Boing, the wonderful Cory Doctorow. Cory took stewardship of our...

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Doctorow/Shuttleworth collaboration

by SF Team, 5 October 2016

The September 2016 Fellowship round was the first for which we invited an Honorary Steward to make the final decision on new Fellows. We had a brilliant experience with Joi Ito. He brought his individual experience and perspective. He also invested considerable time and energy in thoughtful review and reflection on the applications and their contextual environments. The result is three new Fellows working in wildly different fields, challenging our thinking as much as the...

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Open for business

by SF Team, 3 October 2016

Four years ago, we wouldn’t have thought we’d fund a music venture. Like most people, we tend to think musicians are doing fine because there’s so much music around. But that’s like thinking journalists are fine because there’s so much news on TV. When culture is centralised in big, closed silos, we lose diversity, and we lose touch with parts of ourselves that we once treasured. And soon we don’t even notice what’s gone missing....

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Welcome to new alumni - Daniel and Waldo

by SF Team, 1 September 2016

Daniel Lombraña González has had the maximum of 3 consecutive fellowship years and is ready to take on the world. Waldo Jaquith is moving on after 1 year, having achieved what he set out to do in this year, to take up an opportunity that will expand the reach of his work exponentially. Daniel Lombraña González Daniel has come a long way with the Shuttleworth Foundation. We first met him as a recent PhD graduate...

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Eating our own dogfood - individuals

by SF Team, 14 July 2016

Individuals carry their learnings, experiences, passions and hopes for the future with them throughout their lives. Supporting them to work on what is broken in their world and share their approach openly, equips them to continue to affect change far beyond the life of a specific grant. Mark Shuttleworth has given the Foundation a clear mandate: Continue to re-imagine the way we work, based on openness and innovation, using the money we have in a...

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Welcome Achal, Isha and Ugo!

by SF Team, 13 July 2016

This round saw the addition of an Honorary Steward, Joi Ito, making the final selection from the short-list. We are very excited to now announce the three new Fellows who will be joining the Shuttleworth Foundation fellowship programme in September: Achal Prabhala, Isha Datar and Ugo Vallauri. Joi brought his unique perspective on openness and technology for social impact, along with his experience as Director of the MIT Media Lab. He has chosen Fellows that...

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Open Locks: Legal commitments that lock in trust

by Andrew Rens, Arthur Attwell and SF Team, 7 July 2016

Contributors to your open project invest their time and energy because they trust you with their gift to the world. So the challenge is this: How can you keep their trust? Can you seal it in for the long term? There are many successful projects that have managed this, notably in open-source software. Linux, Firefox and Wikipedia are good examples. The practice of sharing knowledge in open-source-software communities is now common among researchers, civil society...

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Ito/Shuttleworth collaboration

by SF Team, 17 March 2016

At the heart of the Shuttleworth Foundation Fellowship Programme are two key values - openness, and supporting individuals. Inspired by the programme itself, we are evolving how we award Fellowships. Not only will we be selecting individuals to support, we have selected an individual to help us make that decision for the coming round. We are excited to announce that Joi Ito will be the honorary steward of the September 2016 fellowship intake. Joi, who...

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Dan & Peter - new alumni

by SF Team, 1 March 2016

Dan Whaley Dan is the founder of Hypothes.is, developing an open, interoperable conversation layer over the web. During Dan’s 3 years of fellowship, Hypothesis has grown from an early stage idea to a fully fledged organisation. They develop essential annotation tools and support annotation efforts in journalism, education and science. Hypothesis is also the hub of a coalition to Annotate All Knowledge. Coalition members have agreed to begin the exploration and experimentation required to understand...

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Welcome Aaron, Peter and Tiffiniy!

by SF Team, 29 February 2016

Aaron Makaruk The World Food Summit of 1996 defined food security as existing “when all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life” WHO, 2016, with both physical and economic access being considered. With increasing urbanisation comes greater distance between the consumers and producers of food. Along with growing demand, this has lead to trade-offs between volume, shelf life and nutritional value. Costs have gone...

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How we measure success

by SF Team, 22 September 2015

Applicants, and sometimes even Fellows, find it difficult to compute the broad question “what do YOU want to do?”. They keep looking for guidance to narrow down the scope of possibility and fit within prescribed parameters. Yes, we want open and innovative, we like technology and we get excited about access. Other than that, and even beyond that, we want applicants to tell us what they want to do, not the other way round. In...

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Welcome Adam, Astra and Waldo!

by SF Team, 3 August 2015

Adam Hyde has a particular talent for helping experts codify processes into manuals for the benefit of a wider audience. His started with technologists through Booksprints and has now turned his attention to academics. As someone familiar with, but not ingrained in, the way academic output is captured and shared, he is questioning the journal publishing process at both the conceptual and practical level. How can we increase the value of scientific output to benefit...

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Welcome Luka Mustafa

by SF Team, 5 March 2015

Luka’s fellowship is centred around the development of Koruza, a 3D printable wireless optical system for connecting buildings up to 100m apart with internet access. Internet connectivity in urban areas is reliant on fibre or wifi. Where neither of these are viable, there are few other options available. Luka’s work could offer a viable low-cost alternative in these environments. This would empower individuals to build last-mile connectivity with their own hands through the organic growth...

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Catharina, David, Jonas & Rory - new alumni

by SF Team, 5 March 2015

Catharina Maracke took on the issue of contributor agreements for free and open source software (FOSS) projects through the Harmony project in March 2012. Where Fellows typically bring their own project into the Fellowship, Catharina was in the unusual position of taking on an existing project with various and varying role players. Hers was a very nuanced role, having to be sensitive to industry and community dynamics. Catharina is a strong legal mind committed to...

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Our experiment in the world

by SF Team, 23 February 2015

This is not where we started and it is almost certainly not who we will be indefinitely. But our experience in philanthropic investment so far has resulted in a couple of key principles that govern how we behave in the world, and specifically how we structure our relationships with those we invest resources in. This is where we are today: We fund individuals in the first instance. Individuals carry their learnings, experiences, passions and hopes...

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Download our legal templates

by SF Team, 6 February 2015

Since 2007 we have required Fellows to apply open licences - first CC-BY-SA and then CC-BY - to all intellectual property created during the fellowship. The same principle applies to works produced within the Foundation. Openly licensed resources are only as useful as the number of people who can access to them, so now we are eating our own dogfood and making our Fellowship Agreement and Project Agreement available on GitHub. These agreement outlines are...

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Arthur & Jaisen - new alumni

by SF Team, 1 September 2014

During his three years as a Shuttleworth Fellow, Arthur Attwell worked on Paperight, a rights clearance house for literary and educational works to allow distributed, local, on-demand book printing. Access to reading materials is critical to learning in its broadest sense. Arthur’s passion is to ensure universal access, with access including at least legal and physical dimensions. Digital is showing promise, but has not yet resulted in the scale needed, and never will if legal...

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Welcome Sean Bonner

by SF Team, 26 August 2014

We are excited about Sean’s work as he is literally putting the tools in the hands of the people who need them, localising the measure-report-decide cycle around environmental risk factors such as radiation and noise pollution. There are may questions around the quality, reliability and cost-effectiveness of open hardware in general, and specifically open sensing tools. Sean has shown that he can address these questions critically and engage relevant stakeholders and experts. We look forward...

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Welcome Seamus Kraft

by SF Team, 26 August 2014

Seamus applied to the Foundation to expand his work on the Madison Project which aims to open up government by increasing transparency and citizen participation in policy-making. We have seen a lot of open government applications in the past, and Seamus’ is the most practical one by far. He is starting off by focusing on a small scope in a very specific context and is uniquely positioned to implement these first steps thanks to his...

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Welcome Peter Bloom

by SF Team, 26 August 2014

Through Rhizomatica, Peter is setting up affordable local mobile phone networks in under-served areas in Mexico. We have invested in telecommunication initiatives before, as communication is absolutely key to be part of society as we know it. As long as you are not connected to the global communication network, you are excluded from participating in human development beyond the limitations of time and distance. Access to telecommunication is a matter of cost, infrastructure, hardware and...

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September 2014 fellowship intake

by SF Team, 26 August 2014

We had submissions from all over the world, exploring areas of science, education, culture, health, privacy and many many more. We spoke to people working on issues from personal safety to universal access to knowledge, from designing open hardware to alleviating poverty. All of the applications showed passion and personal commitment. We continue to be impressed. We were drawn to initiatives that are at the early stages of development and not yet widely funded, to...

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The How of Open

by SF Team, 15 May 2014

This success has also made the term fashionable and sometimes leads to overenthusiastic uses of the open label or, more worryingly, open-washing. It can result in uncertainty and confusion for those who plan to open up knowledge resources for strategic purposes. The detail of how open is open, matters. Although governments and inter-governmental organisations are adopting the creation and use of open knowledge resources, there is a surprising lag by the majority of non-profit organisations,...

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by SF Team, 21 April 2014

We do this because who we are and how we behave has impact on others. We want to present the best, most relevant parts of ourselves in a given context. We choose to ignore the warts and wobbly bits in favour of the identity we’ve claimed as our own in that space. It’s part of being human, being in control of our own lives and choosing what we reveal about ourselves, under what circumstances and...

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Open as a Strategy for Philanthropy and Social Change

by SF Team, 3 March 2014

The more we expose the thinking, working and practices of our organisation, our ideas and our projects, the better. Exposing this information allows other organisations, project implementers, funders, policy makers, change agents, advocates and academics to learn from what we have done. We have found that being intentional about making knowledge resources, funded and/or produced by us, freely and openly available creates a number of strategic opportunities: You can buy one copy, give 1000′s free....

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Application pointers

by SF Team, 20 February 2014

Prospective applicants often ask us to narrow down the parameters for applications and be more specific about what we’re looking for. We are not planning on doing that, as we want to be surprised and intrigued by applicants, no matter how unconventional the idea may be. However, we can provide some thoughts on what to keep in mind while developing your application for our fellowship. We hope these are useful, for applying for the Fellowship,...

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From Traditional Funder to Today

by SF Team, 16 February 2014

Our main goal was to improve the quality of education in South Africa. We invested in projects that offered unique and innovative solutions to educational challenges in a developing society, focused on the areas of science, technology, entrepreneurship and maths in education, as well as propagating the use of open source software. The Foundation operated as a traditional funding agency – we accepted proposals and funded them. Grantees implemented their projects and came back with...

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by SF Team, 15 January 2014

The open source software movement has not only created widely used software but million dollar businesses. Although the model is well established for software development, distribution and use, it is not the case for education, philanthropy, hardware or social development, to name but a few important endeavours. The default imposed on knowledge resources by copyright law is automatic lock down. This default makes little sense if your agenda is social change. We wanted to understand...