Sharing What We Learn

Monkeys sharingIntellectual property issues have been important to Creating the Future from Day 1. Now, it is not only our board and our attorney who are anxious to see policies and guidelines in this area – it is now also an area of concern from the IRS, as they are weighing our application for tax exemption.

Questions arise such as:
When an organization is founded upon the intellectual property of one individual, who will own what?
What will the rules be?
Who will be permitted to do what?

And while these are critical issues, they come from a place of protection and suspicion. They come from concerns over plagiarism and lack of attribution and – well, a whole lot of stuff that Creating the Future is not only NOT about, but is anathema to what we ARE about!

In each of our immersion programs, our grads want to know: Under what circumstances, and in what ways, are we permitted / encouraged to share the vast information we receive in the course?

Now that begins to get to the heart of the matter!  It’s not about protecting as the FIRST question. That first question is instead about sharing.

As part of our immersion programs, students receive instructional videos. They receive a +100 page workbook with ongoing updates to that workbook for life (really). They receive handouts and forms, posters and sayings – we share everything we know, to help create the conditions for them to be as effective as possible in their work as social change agents.

And so, when participants are asking about sharing, they aren’t talking in esoteric terms about some vague intellectual construct. They are talking about nuts and bolts:

Can they blog or do speaking gigs about the frameworks and how they are using them? If so, under what conditions?

Can they teach these frameworks in workshops? If so, under what conditions?

Can they share the forms and exercises with their clients? If so, under what conditions?

Given that the mission of Creating the Future is to have effective change methods become the norm for every group seeking to improve our world, sharing information is critical to that success. But under what conditions? And by whom?

For guidance in these matters, we have relied upon the amazing folks at the Creative Commons – a group that has developed an open source alternative to strict copyrighting. Here are the two factors their licenses address:

1) How can people use your work? Can they share only “as is” or can they modify it? Can they use your work for commercial purposes – to make money in their business, or only for non-commercial purposes?

2) How will the work be attributed? Must the party who developed the material be acknowledged every time it is used? Or is it just open for anyone to call their own?

In the coming year, more and more of our grads will be blogging for Creating the Future. We are also hoping to have a series of books emerge from the work of our R&D labs. That’s in addition to my own sharing of some significant new thinking – some of which will be happening very soon!

All of which means that questions around “attribution” and “usage guidelines” and “sharing licenses” will become more and more prevalent in the coming months.

To avoid the traditional legal litany of what if’s and unhappy endings that tend to dominate conversations about “the need to protect our IP,” let’s begin this conversation by instead aiming at the best possible scenario for sharing information. And then let’s figure out together what it will take for that best possible scenario to emerge.

  1. What does sharing this information make possible, and for whom?
  2. Under what conditions would that high potential outcome be most likely to emerge?
  3. Under what conditions are people most likely to share what they are learning and developing?

What do you think? What environment would be the most conducive to sharing information AND to encouraging our community members to share?

Photo credit: Many thanks to the folks who posted those darling monkeys at Wikimedia Commons – a place that is all about sharing “intellectual property.”

10 thoughts on “Sharing What We Learn”

  1. When it comes to ideas and concepts, one aspect that seems important to me, is connecting ideas to a wider body of thought/knowledge. So identifying sources and related resources would reinforce ideas and indicate that they are not one individual’s off hand remarks, but ideas that fit a framework, have been tested and refined. Such context reinforces and empowers ideas.

    A second thought is that connecting ideas or extending an idea has the potential to either enrich a concept or to make it more accessible to a wider audience. When there is an openness about sharing and variations on ideas are welcomed there is likely to be more opportunity to create an impact.

    These thoughts obviously apply to ideas and concepts, not to plaigarizing (which I view as passing off as one’s own work) written documents, graphics or tools.

  2. To achieve our highest potential we need to make it as easy as possible for people to learn and apply the concepts. I find people react a lot better to “you’ll find great free resources here” than “buy this book!”. Some percentage of people finding good introductory resources will then buy the book or take the course or whatever. The absolute number of buyers increases with the absolute number that follow the link in the first place. But revenue from books written by Hildy or CTF grads doesn’t likely go to CTF, and right now courses are dormant.

    That leaves two big issues. One, how does CTF fund itself if resources are free? I don’t like an ongoing reliance on grants and you can’t use crowd-sourcing all the time. Perhaps we could make it easy for people downloading resources to be given the option to contribute back once they see the value. And people will pay for online courses as well as in-person ones. It’s just really hard to create the kind of trust we build on day one in CTF weeks.

    The second is maintaining the message as people, including me, adapt it to their own comfort level and language. But we don’t have a monopoly on the guts of our message; I’m seeing more and more similar approaches out there such as at (really worth subscribing to; check out the lion one). And we acknowledge building on older thinking such as AI and asset-based community development. Perhaps the board could approve a policy on what grad materials will be promoted by CTF (perhaps for a small share a revenue, similar to an Amazon button) and what won’t. It might involve a peer review group.

  3. What a good discussion and I can sense the complexities of the issue.

    Like all approaches, there may be simple and complex elements, perhaps the latter deserving deeper learning or discussions. The simple elements are already the portal to invite deeper conversations.

    I too am reluctant to share any templates or concepts from another person’s brain without clear permission. I can imagine the point of having key documents clearly stamped with a “Creating the Future – Certified Sharable” logo (yep, I know that I am jumping to a tactic). In my mind, I can see the surprise on people’s faces that they are being encouraged to share materials … plus CTF continues to be branded as a community-building entity.

  4. Great stuff so far, gang! I don’t want to get too down the rabbit hole of revenues – it is really important that we stay with the issue of what will encourage sharing of information. Because that is the mission of this organization, and if we can’t walk the talk of what we teach, we shouldn’t be doing this work!

    So what would sharing information make possible, and for whom? Under what conditions are people most likely to share what they are developing and learning?


  5. I am more likely to share the information if CTF continues to have a visible, credible online presence,and especially if the names of CTF grads are there to confirm our connection to CTF. I am proud to be part of CTF and want to shout it from the highest mountain!

    I am more likely to share the information if I can customize it to a Canadian context, a sub-sector, a specific organization, an audience, etc. For example, I might choose to present the Pollyanna Principles in a different order to highlight the one most relevant to a current discussion. Editable is therefore important to me. I would still give credit to CTF, but sometimes as “adapted from”. I am willing to let people do the same to my own resources.

    I am more likely to share the information if there is a specific URL that takes people directly to more information about the same topic on the CTF web site. People don’t want to search through treed information. Once hooked though, they might follow many links within the site. Make the first hit free and easy.

    Do any of these conditions resonate? What ones would you add?

  6. Ok, here’s what I’m getting so far – and this is amazing stuff!!!!

    What Does Sharing Make Possible?
    • First, sharing makes possible more opportunity to create an impact. (Bill)

    • Sharing makes it possible to build community (Anne) – to be “proud to be part of CTF and want to shout it from the highest mountain!” (Jane)

    • Sharing makes it possible to connect ideas to a wider body of thought/knowledge. And THAT makes possible the reinforcing and empowering of ideas, by knowing they are not one individual’s off hand remarks, but ideas that fit a framework, have been tested and refined. (Bill)

    • Sharing makes information more accessible to a wider audience (Bill) and for more people to learn and apply the concepts. (Jane)

    • Sharing makes it possible to meet people where they are, whether that is with a book or a free article or a website. (Jane)

    • Sharing makes it possible to adapt ideas to one’s own language and local context, sub-sector, specific organization, audience, etc. (Jane)

    • Sharing makes possible to incorporate other thinking (Jane) and thereby enrich a concept (Bill)

    • Attribution to Creating the Future and/or to the person who developed the work, whether wholly or “adapted from.” (Jane and Anne)

    • Whether talking about ideas and concepts or actual written documents, graphics or tools, attribution is critical (i.e. not plaigarizing / passing off as one’s own work) (Bill)

    • It must be easy to find information. (Jane)

    What else does sharing make possible??? And what other conditions are necessary for that potential to be reached?

  7. I’m also smiling as I’m thinking about all you guys have talked about so far, especially as all 3 of you mentioned attribution. And my smiling is that there is no downside to attributing – and only upside. I know that people who don’t attribute do so because of their own feelings of inadequacy, but it is so interesting as I’m thinking about it – that, as you noted specifically, Bill – attributing actually provides strength! Perhaps our new slogan can be, “When in doubt, attribute!”

  8. I agree, Jane. CTF is about benefitting the community, so it seems that acknowledging our own community (CTF grads) openly would underscore our shared values around transparency and accessibility.

    And those are also values I think should be reflected in how “our” community shares with the broader community the core concepts of the CTF model. How else will it spread and grow?

    I often find myself referencing Hildy and her work / intellectual property in discussions with clients and colleagues and encouraging them to delve more deeply into all that she has authored. And I love sending them to a specific virtual location.

    I would posit that the reason the CTF model resonates with all of us is because it points to fundamental truth that we were each moving toward individually. Hildy shines by having articulated that truth so clearly, translating it into real life application, and gathering all of us to support that. The highest potential as I see it is for that truth to be fully realized everywhere.

    I have no problem crediting CTF – and really wouldn’t want to do anything but that. The stronger the CTF community becomes, the more readily we should share what we’ve been fortunate enough to see and experience ourselves. A mentor of mine early on used to say, “imagine how much we could accomplish if it didn’t matter who got the credit.” It seems to me that by being part of the CTF community we are honor bound to one another by the vision and values of CTF to hold this knowledge with as open a hand as possible. I know, sounds just like Pollyanna! I can’t say I have the answer to your questions, Hildy – but they oviously resonated with me!


  9. The question of “what sharing makes possible” has been well-answered. I agree with all of those.

    I would add to the conditions that we should be more explicit about the pedagogy, if you want to think of it that way. I’m taking (and attributing) a paragraph from Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way from the back material regarding “Creative Clusters.” She is talking about how to do this work in groups:

    “There are no ‘accredited’ Artist’s Way teachers. I chose not to franchise The Artist’s Way but to offer it as a gift, free of charge. It is my belief that creative recovery at its best is a nonhierarchical, peer-run, collective process. In this it is differs from the academic and therapeutic models. Any professional using The Artist’s Way should realize that autonomous, peer-run creative clusters must retain the eventual goal. Facilitated groups can serve as a sort of bridge to this end.” (p. 212)

    So as to the conditions that would lead to this sharing is that: 1) materials that are “official” — not for the sake of claiming ownership, but for the user’s need for credibility and integrity of the process and goals for which the material is intended, 2) temporarily facilitated groups to bridge toward the eventual goal of peer-run groups (which themselves require us to embrace conditions of shared processes, goals, etc.), 3) materials that lend themselves well to self-facilitation.

    Thanks for the opportunity to think about this!

  10. Kim:
    Wow – thank you. You have now given all of us tons to think about. I wanted to be sure to respond to say that, even though I haven’t had a chance yet to put it all together. You rock for moving this issue so far forward!


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