In January, we wrote about Team Open, a project documenting some of the many artists, teachers, and scientists using Creative Commons licenses to share their work. Since then, Creative Commons launched a new project to help entrepreneurs, organizations, and governments use Creative Commons licenses and still generate income.

The Creative Commons Open Business Models Initiative aims to show how Creative Commons licenses can be used to create financially sustainable organizations. Funded by a grant from the Hewlett Foundation, it was developed in response to a question frequently asked of the Creative Commons team: “How do I earn a living, pay the bills, and keep the lights on if I openly license my work and give it away for free?”

Paul Stacey, the organization’s Associate Director of Global Learning, explains the project's goal:

“We aim to help businesses see how to use and contribute to the commons in a way that aligns with the norms and values of the commons, while at the same time operating as a business. We want to show what sustainability models look like. We’re planning to generate designs for how to move from closed to open. We want to provide models for businesses whose aim is to provide products and services that have both economic and social value. We aim to make visible how open business models work and provide tools and strategies for designing and developing your own.”

To create these open models, Creative Commons is calling for participation from the community. If you’ve designed an open business model or would like to try your hand at designing one, the Open Business Models Initiative provides an opportunity to share what you’ve learned with others. Using a set of interactive tools, you can model an open business model for a startup or an existing organization.

Participants are being asked to share analysis of their own open business model and provide suggestions for the improvement of the open business model toolkit.

Here are ways you can participate:

  • Design, develop, and iterate a set of interactive Creative Commons open business model tools that anyone can use to design an open business model.
  • Use these open business model tools yourself to generate your own open business model(s).
  • Share the results of your participation including the open business models you generate.
  • Provide feedback and recommendations for improving the Creative Commons open business model tools and process.
  • Partner directly with Creative Commons on developing an open business model for your specific initiative.
  • Participate in a Creative Commons workshop on generating open business models.
  • Contribute to a Creative Commons open business models report.

The Creative Commons Open Business Models Participation Activities document provides more details on each of these activities, including specifics for participation, and links to the tools. Please contribute!


Image by Libby Levi (CC BY-SA). Follow @CatJohnson on Twitter

Cat Johnson


Cat Johnson | |

Cat Johnson is a content strategist and teacher helping community builders create strong brands. A longtime writer, marketing pro and coworking leader, Cat is the founder of Coworking Convos and