The 5 principles of ‘open’ and 11 case studies of how governments, industry and education are using them

Sparks of Openness by Visual Thinkery is licenced under CC-BY-ND

What do we mean by ‘open’?

Most people will have heard of open source software but being in wider cultural and working contexts can be harder to define. So what is ‘open’ and how can it be used?

Opensource.com defines the 5 principles of open as:

  1. Transparency
  2. Inclusivity
  3. Adaptability
  4. Collaboration
  5. Community

When we think about open in the way outlined above, openness becomes an attitude, an approach that can be used to motivate collective ideation, collaborative solution-making, and generate a sense of belonging.

So while an open approach can be used for creating software (where many contributors contribute to the code, building a more resilient…


5 ideas for using open approaches to empower citizens to recognise learning that happens everywhere, and contribute to resilient education structures

Over the last year, I have been working with government leaders to explore how they can use open approaches to deliver better, more resilient services. Then the Covid-19 pandemic happened, throwing a vast range of structures and services into chaos. This event has highlighted that approaches that empower us to adapt to change, are more vital than ever.

Adaptability by Visual Thinkery. CC-BY-ND

In a recent live Question & Answer chat with my associate Jen Kelchner, we discussed how we can build resilience into our education structures using open approaches. …


Engaging openly early because more perspectives are better than one

Despite the benefits, working in the open can be daunting for teams and organisations. It requires the courage to share things that aren’t quite right yet, that are works in progress, rather than presenting a finished product. It requires developing an open mindset, one that tends towards sharing early and often and inviting contribution from others. It requires effective engagement with communities:

As part of We Are Open’s work with…


What’s next, based on distance travelled in 2019?

In my last post I took a look back at developments in the field of Open Badges over the course of 2019. Overall, it felt like a signficant shift had taken place, with increased usage, awareness and engagement from a wide variety of actors. Developments seemed to accelerate in 2019, which made me wonder where things might go in 2020.

Photo by Pablo García Saldaña on Unsplash

A note: I use the name Open Badges in the title as a catch-all term but in this post it can be exchanged for other names and related developments, such as badges…


A retrospective on developments over the course of last year

Last year felt like a significant year for Open Badges. I think a shift took place. As I followed developments through my work editing The Learning Fractal, a monthly magazine on Open Badges and related credentials, I noticed there seemed to be increased usage, awareness and engagement from a wider variety of actors. It felt like the Open Badges movement accelerated, leaving me wondering what is in store for us in 2020.

Photo by Brian Erickson on Unsplash

A note: I use the name Open Badges in the title as a catch-all term but in this…


Based on lessons learned from people who are autistic…

Photo by Artem Sapegin on Unsplash

Last week I had a really useful learning experience via twitter. I read a thread about the experience of an autistic person, (twitter username: A_Typical_Psychiatrist), while they were attending a course. It provided a fascinating insight into something I had been ignorant about before — the effort autistic people put into “autistic masking” in order to “fit in” with people who aren’t autistic, often referred to as neurotypical or allistic people.

It led me to wonder if there was more I could do to ensure the design thinking workshops I run would provide as comfortable an experience as possible for…


Members of We Are Open have played a key role in the digital credentialing landscape since helping to lead and shape the Open Badges standard. Along the way we’ve learned that there are a few key things that will help a digital credentialing initiative succeed. I thought I would share some of these here.

Photo by Silas Köhler on Unsplash

Openness and control

It may seem somewhat counter-intuitive to suggest that taking an open approach to digital credentialing, provides greater control but ultimately we think it does. Using the Open Badges standard enables credentials to be taken out of institutional silos, and puts the control of the credential into…


A few years ago I started making soap and following requests if I would consider selling it, I commenced the process of setting up a natural cosmetics company. This grew organically, I created (a few) logos, spent hours on packaging and developed new products.

I got to a stage where I realised I needed to take stock of the messages behind what I was selling and how to present these in a cohesive way across all my product ranges. It was clear that I needed to think about my story.

At the same time, I continued to keep my other…


How we describe ourselves has consequences…

Recently a number of people have shared that ‘creativity’ was listed by LinkedIn as one of the most desired skills by employers for 2019. This got me thinking that how we describe ourselves has consequences, and led me to reflect on a job that intrigued me recently on LinkedIn. It said I wasn’t a good match for the job because I didn’t have entrepreneurial or creativity skills. …


Some lessons I’ve learned in supporting this approach…

Last week I shared some of the lessons I have learned in working with cities to develop and embed a ‘learning city’ approach, with the Connected Spaces project. This project is one of a few that are developing place-based, technology-enhanced approaches to support lifelong learning and access to enrichment opportunities, (which for ease of reference, I’ll call a ‘learning city’ approach). I thought I would share these lessons here too.

Bryan Mathers CC BY-ND

Lessons learned from Cities of Learning UK

Last year I was part of the team that developed the Cities of Learning UK blueprints, which we created in partnership with the cities of Brighton, Manchester and Plymouth. …

Gráinne Hamilton

Consultant, facilitator and connector. Specialising in open leadership, open recognition and lifelong learning.

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