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Free Technology Academy

About the FKI

Liberating Knowledge

Vision

Our vision can be summarised as:

Knowledge and Technology for a Free Knowledge Society

Top-level goal

The FKI is a hub connecting networks and communities in multiple domains facilitating and enabling the study, sharing and collaborative development of free knowledge and free technologies for a socially just, free knowledge society.

Values

The Free Knowledge Institute values freedom and sustainability through collaboration and empowerment. These encapsulate a host of related values illustrated below.

FREEDOM

Sustainability
human dignity
Collaboration
inclusivity
participation
sharing
solidarity
cooperation
Empowerment

equity
access to knowledge
personal autonomy
privacy
transparency
meritocracy

plurality
innovation
respect
community spirit
wellbeing
diversity of perspectives, culture and life


Context

General Context

Our societies are facing unprecedented challenges in terms of sustainability. The economic, social and environmental issues are interrelated and inherently complex, requiring attention at international and local levels, and the pooling of knowledge from diverse sources and across cultures for innovative, sustainable solutions.

For such global cooperation to be effective, citizens (of the world) must be free to share and adapt knowledge resources to enable a common understanding of the challenges to permeate society, as we develop the collective wisdom to bring about global sustainability.

We see four main barriers which need to be overcome for this process to be successful:

  1. the artificial scarcity of immaterial goods (including software and other digital resources, ideas and knowledge), that have been privatised by "intellectual monopolies" [1] using patents and copyright
  2. the false conception that there is an abundance of material goods (environmental resources)
  3. the belief in continual growth as a requirement for a functioning economy.
  4. the lack of awareness and guidance on what available knowledge is most relevant to moving the global knowledge society towards a path of sustainability.

The FKI is a hub of free knowledge communities addressing these barriers by educating people about the core shared concepts of free software, free culture and free knowledge, and their application in selected domains.

The FKI community engages in discussion, learning activities and advocacy around contemporary issues such as copyright reform, software and other questionable patents, proposed legislation which restricts citizens' freedom to participate in a free culture, use of free software in education and the public sector, and free knowledge for global sustainability.

Sharing knowledge and collective innovations are also emerging in the realms of physical goods and energy production. In practical terms, the FKI explores and educates organisations about new horizontal forms of organisation, peer production, do-it-yourself, self-organisation and different ownership and governance models, such as the commons. These new approaches, enabled by the Internet, are gaining momentum and beginning to define a new economic paradigm.

  1. Note that the term "intellectual property" should be avoided as it lumps together very different concepts, such as patents, copyright and trademarks into one confusing term. Furthermore, the very idea of "property" in the context of immaterial goods is under debate. See also Words to Avoid.

Specific Context

The Free Knowledge Institute promotes free knowledge in all its forms. Our aim is to provide equal access to the tools for production and sharing of knowledge. We work towards this aim together with a local and global network of autonomous actors.

Since its creation in 2007 the FKI has coordinated several international projects in the areas of Free Software, Open Standards, Open Educational Resources, Access to Knowledge. Through these activities the FKI core team has increased its experience, obtained specialised skills and has built a considerable international network of partners and peers from research and educational institutions, industry and third sector organisations. These assets allow us to assist organisations who want to explore alternative business models or to tackle specific issues in the multiple fields where knowledge plays an important part.

The primary focus of the first five years (free software, open standards and establishing an education platform) has positioned the FKI community to grow and to broaden its horizons to include new domains. These will be proposed and driven by community members with a passion for the relevant fields (see Domains). A primary function of the the FKI in these domains is to educate existing and emerging communities about the freedom issues core to a free knowledge society and to advise and participate on a practical level.

Mission

The mission of the FKI is to educate people about free knowledge and free technology to a level at which they become effective participants in their domains of interest thereby enriching the broader free knowledge society.

Objectives

In service to the top-level goal:

The FKI is a hub connecting networks and communities in multiple domains facilitating and enabling the study, sharing and collaborative development of free knowledge and free technologies for a socially just, free knowledge society.

Starting with a small but inspired and dynamic team with a shared vision for the future, the FKI aims to play a key role in effecting a free knowledge society. The role requires an institute which is sustainable, efficient, and effective in its own right as it inspires and enables growth of free knowledge communities in multiple domains.

Central to our strategy is establishing sustainable communities of participants around the FKI: a stable network of partners and peers covering our collaboration needs, and a critical mass of learners each year who stand to qualify with degrees including free knowledge components and become active participants (learning by doing).

For this to work the FKI needs to be in touch with learners, sensitive to trends and be able to anticipate student learning needs. The FKI continually explores innovative models for sustainability - both monetary and non-monetary.

The FKI develops a modus operandi which supports and nurtures the relationships needed to sustain the FKI itself and the surrounding communities of learners, researchers and domain practitioners.

This in turn speaks to our internal efficiencies and operational effectiveness. Well managed internal relationships extended to partners and peers translates to positive relationships with the communities associated with the Institute.

With strong relationships at the heart of our success, a communication strategy keeps us on track with all the required information sharing and interactions to keep the relationships vibrant and active.

Ultimately the FKI is sustainable in the true sense, beyond economic models, on account of the social impact it is making, and support of communities striving to make this world a better place.

Modus operandi

The FKI consists of a core team supported by a distributed network of partners and collaborators working on various mission-driven activities. In order to accommodate diverse groups of participants collaborating on tasks of varying complexity and criticality, the following principles have been established to foster a working environment conducive to effective peer-production.

Shared Purpose

We start off with a clear vision for the FKI and a common understanding of the goals and objectives towards which we strive. The IO Map serves as a radar and guide in designing, selecting and prioritising activities.

Flexibility

We recognise that members are diverse in terms of culture, positions held, experience, interests, language, geographical location, time zones, and have different levels of commitment or participation: activities vary from informal volunteer support to formalised project work. For this reason, almost all our interactions are conducted with a combination of synchronous (usually IRC) and asynchronous (e.g. via wikis and discussion fora) communication to maximise the benefits of both.

Collaboration

When needed, and especially when there is a sense of urgency, we facilitate focused goal-directed face-to-face, teleconference and/or IRC interactions using free software tools to enable and record the interactions on-the-fly. Examples include free software for VoIP such as Ekiga, IRC tools, MediaWiki, LibreOffice with change tracking, etc. To facilitate the community and teams various services are run on our servers, like mailing lists and web-based platforms, most noticeably the FTA Campus environment and the community platform.

In addition to facilitating participation and transparency, this streamlines recording of proceedings and enables involvement by others who are not able to be physically present at the time. The Induction Manual summarises various collaboration tools available.

Shared values

Our values - also expressed in our Founding Principles - drive all our activities, and while we respect everyone's freedom of expression, our Code of Conduct suggests ways of being and behaving to maximise productive interaction among diverse participants.

Communication

Communication is central to this strategy and merits a separate document.

Value proposition

Summarising, our value proposition is the following. We offer a shared vision and common platform for education, collaboration and advocacy in free knowledge and free technology. The online platform is completely based on free software and free knowledge and is organised in a bottom-up manner. On top of that, there are learning, economic and activist opportunities. Transversal through all these are the following characteristics:

  • freedom: any individual or group has the same rights to the knowledge produced in the context of the FKI, be it software, course books, articles or other digital artefacts; while collaboration within the community has its advantages, everyone has the freedom to fork and continue the way he or she sees fit (no lock-up);
  • consistency in values: walk the talk, practice what you preach: use free software and knowledge in every aspect, share knowledge with peers;
  • flexible, self-directed collaborative learning;
  • accreditation via partners, and recognition by peers;
  • low-cost services for those interested;
  • agile on-demand course development;
  • autonomous development teams working together through the Free Technology Guild;
  • a common platform to participate in and run campaigns along these lines.

This page is derived from the FKI's Strategy process that took place in 2012. You can see more details in the wiki.