Good Corporate Citizens

The company as an organism by David Gray CC BY-ND

In Nov-2015 I had the privilege to hear Kim Thanos Founder and CEO of Lumen Learning give a talk on “The Economics of Open” at the 12th annual Open Education Conference in Vancouver.

I’ve been thinking a lot about her very deep and provocative talk.

Thought I’d share one nugget from that talk as I’m increasingly thinking it is part of what we are finding out in our interviews of organizations and businesses with open business models.

Let me frame this nugget as a series of questions similar to the way Kim did.

  • What is a good corporate citizen in the open community?
  • How should a good corporate citizen behave?
  • What is the role of the open community in defining what a good corporate citizen is and how it should behave?
  • What does the open community want from businesses in the open space?
  • How does the open community incentivize the right behaviours?
  • What are the benefits of understanding how a good corporate citizen acts?

Those who create and license works with Creative Commons make a significant investment in creating those works. That investment and the subsequent licensing of it to be freely available under a Creative Commons license sometimes creates discomfort or angst around subsequent use by others.

The angst is largely around the worry of “free riders” who exploit the works for monetary gain without participating in the open community or giving anything back. The generosity of the open community is high. How can businesses both participate and give back?

Inherent in this nugget is the understanding that there is a new code of conduct associated with open business models, an expectation that use of openly licensed works be fair, ethical, and socially responsible.

As we interview open businesses using Creative Commons around the world I’m fascinated to hear them describe their code of conduct.

I thank Kim Thanos for providing the baseline measure by which to assess it:

  • Give more than you take
  • Add unique value
  • Be transparent around how that is happening

I’m thrilled by the extent to which I see the organizations we interview meet these criteria. Everyone benefits from understanding how a good corporate citizen acts in the open community and I’m pumped about sharing the specific examples we are hearing as I think they provide a framework others can follow.

I’m also increasingly interested in seeing the open community itself engage in defining expectations. I think those who are putting in place open business models are very receptive to hearing what the community wants. I’m looking for the open community to proactively define what good behaviour looks like. What would you add to the baseline measures Kim proposes?