6 min. read.
This article presents a proposal for an Open Knowledge Maturity Model to help navigate the criteria, challenges and decisions needed to effectively leverage an organization’s external knowledge sources and share internal knowledge at scale. In general, a maturity model can be very helpful in guiding the actions or an organization, government, or company towards a specific goal by offering a framework for intentional decision-making.
A tool to evolve open knowledge practices
It is undeniable that our lives and our work increasingly take place online. In this context, it’s clear that humanity benefits when well-curated and objective knowledge is made widely available to be built upon and used to create shared solutions. Barriers to access to knowledge have an increasingly high social cost for individuals, organizations, and society at large. Working to ensure that knowledge is widely shared in order to have its largest societal benefit is at the core of the open knowledge philosophy and mindset.
The model we are presenting in this article strives to build on existing conversations around the characteristics of openness. As such, it aims to provide organizations with a way to become more familiar with open knowledge concepts, and acts as a tool to help them become more strategic in harnessing these concepts to increase their overall impact. You may think of it as a sort of GPS-enabled roadmap: it first helps gives you a picture of where you are now, and then shows you the steps you can take to move forward on the journey. It is important to recognize that no matter what the existing capacity of your organization, government, or company may be for open knowledge, you can start exactly where you are.
This model is based on years of practical experience in mainstreaming an open knowledge approach throughout our organization, and its aim is to help you assess your organization’s ability to be a successful promoter of open knowledge. The maturity model offers an assessment along five distinct facets of openness in practice, and defines a roadmap for moving from “Limited” to “Mature” in each one of these facets. The journey is not always linear, nor is the path from “Limited” to “Mature” strictly sequential.
The Maturity Model’s five facets of openness
Facet 1: Legally Open (in policy)
- This facet assesses an organization’s approach to intellectual property and the extent to which policies in place allow knowledge assets, created by the organization, to be published with open licenses and made available for use and reuse by others.
Facet 2: Organizationally Open (in practice)
- This facet explores how an organization creates incentives and builds practices that ensure adherence to policies throughout the lifecycle of knowledge production. It also analizes those measures in place that prioritize recognition and reinforce desired behaviors throughout the organization.
Facet 3: Technologically Open (infrastructure + standards)
- Openness from a technological perspective considers the approach of the organization in terms of structuring digital infrastructure and interfaces used to store and share knowledge. This facet also considers what governance is in place to ensure that technology standards are adopted that facilitate access to, and reuse of, knowledge assets by people and machines.
Facet 4: Created for Reuse (content + promotion)
- This facet explores to what extent knowledge assets are intentionally created for reuse, adopting a digital-first perspective to maximize access and sharing across various platforms and formats, guided by their potential utility to others. It also looks at how knowledge is proactively disseminated and positioned on the internet to ensure reuse.
Facet 5: Socially Open (content + participation)
- Knowledge is constantly evolving to reflect new data, experiences, and insights as they emerge. To facilitate the curation of accurate, up-to-date and representative knowledge, products/assets can be designed in a way that is responsive and adaptive to diverse contributors. The knowledge products can evolve as part of an ecosystem that seeks collaboration, feedback, and frequent updates to maintain relevance and credibility.
Now you know the model but, how do you apply it?
The characteristics described at each level of maturity, within a given facet, serve to guide a strategic reflection process around an organization’s intentions and capabilities in each area. They can nudge changes in behavior by clearly describing expectations at each level of the model. To apply the model in your specific organizational context:
- It may be easiest to focus on and analyze one specific product or practice at a time within the organization. For example, an open data platform (product) or the publishing process of the knowledge assets (process).
- Read the characteristics described at each level of maturity in each facet, and place your organizational practice/process at the level of maturity (negative direction, limited, moderate or mature) to which it most closely corresponds.
- Repeat this process for each facet and keep in mind: this is a tool to guide your journey, not an evaluation of the organization or the quality of its work.
While the adoption of openness may appear to be a relatively new phenomenon, there is a wealth of existing experiences and practices within the field of Open Knowledge that consider how technological, political, and social factors contribute to making knowledge both accessible and impactful. For organizations that publish their knowledge, open knowledge management requires considering factors and concepts that are particular to the collaborative knowledge exchange process at scale. Just think about how Wikipedia has built an interactive global ecosystem of contributors, or think about how the introduction of creative commons licenses (and other efforts to create standards for access to information) have accelerated collaboration and the creation of new knowledge across the world.
The power of open knowledge to improve lives is limitless and the next step is yours to take. What are you waiting for?
By Kyle Strand, Senior Knowledge Management Specialist in the Knowledge and Learning Department of the Inter-American Development Bank.
The valuable insights and contributions of Michelle Marshal, former Editor of Abierto al Público, were essential for the development of this maturity model.