Advocacy of libre knowledge

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Advocating Libre Knowledge can be challenging! The following might help (please add/edit/etc.).



Sharing knowledge in an open and transparent manner is essential to enable the collaboration required to address complex challenges - on any level (think global, act local, ..., national, organisational, inter-personal, etc.).

Moreover, a culture of sharing and willingness to share ideas and perspectives, and to engage in discussion and debate, to embrace and transcend diverse views is needed for the next level solutions to emerge.

.... Educational exercise: discussion group: expand on these thoughts and update this Introduction.

This page could be about more than just libre knowledge. It could be about bringing about a "libre culture" ... and the general vision of libre knowledge:

Knowledge for all, freedom to learn, towards collective wisdom.
Enabling communities to empower themselves with knowledge.

With the lofty vision in mind, put it aside, and develop a pragmatic approach that will work in your particular context, within your sphere of influence.


The aim is to liberate knowledge by convincing people and organisations that hold the keys. Advocating libre knowledge may be done from various perspectives (e.g. ethical, pragmatic) and occur at various levels (personal, organisational, national, etc.) and spans the knowledge hierarchy (data, information, knowledge, wisdom) and access infrastructures (hardware, software, networks).

This page is the start of a collection of learning resources around advocating libre knowledge - an educational process in itself.


Stephen R. Covey
Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood.

Its is all about communication.

  • Know what you are talking about
    • Present a clear rationale supported by facts
  • Understand the context
  • Approach the right people (e.g. within an organisation or institution)
    • Top-down
    • Bottom-up
    • Both
  • Approach them in the right way
    • Some are looking for pragmatic solutions and approaches
    • Others may be more interested in transparency and ethics ...
    • Be respectful
  • Know the (FUD) arguments against and be ready to respond
  • Tailor the pitch for the specific audience
  • Emphasise the benefits
  • What will it mean for them in practical terms?
  • Encourage people to try it by connecting them to existing, active communities
  • Showcase prominent examples such as Wikipedia, PLoS, ..., and find examples close the hearts of the audience.
  • Use metaphors
    • See for example this article and related discussion on open source / libre software which uses metaphors to explain.
      • Learning activity: write an article on libre knowledge which uses metaphors and post a link to it from an appropriate place in this collection of learning resources.
  • ...

Issues and Ideas

  • Educating the audience
  • Not all knowledge should be liberated (privacy, security, company differentiating knowledge, ...)
  • Parallels with FLOSS advocacy
  • Collaborating with the free culture and open knowledge movements
    • when to support, when to criticise.
  • Countering Misinformation, Disinformation and various biases.


  • Knowledge is power, but only wisdom is liberty. (Will Durant).

Campaigns and Declarations

Interacting with related initiatives

... such as the open education, open source and free software movements.

In general, be appreciative of any activities which support the cause and critical of those which do not. In being critical, orientate criticisms towards educating people about the subtle but powerful differences (e.g. focus on ethics vs pragmatics, educators vs learners, freedom vs price ... as appropriate).

Some sensitivity is required here. For example, trying to educate and convince influential people within one paradigm (e.g. the pragmatic, current reality, property-based "open" paradigm) to become champions of the cause of freedom to learn (an ethically based, more implicitly learner-centric than educator-centric and future reality orientated paradigm) and bring their followers along, might not work. Reasons include:

  1. Influential people might have invested years in the other paradigm and be reluctant to risk losing status, followers and appreciation of their prior efforts by moving to another position.
  2. Some might already be making a positive impact with considerable community momentum, and be reluctant to risk losing this momentum.
  3. Some might not "get it" - e.g. those who conflate the issues of price and freedom and/or not understand the rationale for a freedom-centred approach as a well reasoned route (e.g. including the freedom to make a plan for low cost or gratis access) to a more inclusive, self-determining and learner centric learning space.
  4. Some might "get it" but believe one or more of the following[1]:
    1. A more positive impact can be made by living within the current reality (e.g. of copyright) and dominant paradigm (e.g. the "open source" or "open education" perspectives) using terminology they can understand and relate to.
    2. The community of current followers wont follow into a different way of thinking (e.g. it would spark off unwanted debate potentially splitting the community and dampening their joint impact).
    3. It makes little difference; when "open" is done properly, the core freedoms apply.
      • Some in this popular camp go to great lengths to define open to mean almost exactly the same as libre. They might believe that using the term libre to describe what they regard as the true sense of "open" would be counter-productive. Consensus on the meaning of "open" has proved difficult to achieve in some communities. For example, in the broader open education community many MOOCs and prominent OER initiatives use non-libre licences.

        They might be right! The freedoms do apply.
        The open education and open knowledge communities have succeeded in liberating and producing impressive volumes of libre resources.
        There is room for everyone (cf a dual strategy).
        Work together if possible.

Remember the aim is to develop synergies with "related" initiatives, not to antagonise them. But be aware that this might not be enough - one's motives can easily be misinterpreted, hence the need for sensitivity.

Public sector

How one goes about this depends on the specific situation and state of negotiations. Most of the principles of interacting with related initiatives (above) apply. Bear in mind the purpose of the public sector is to improve the lives of all citizens and that the people working in the public sector should be motivated to do so.

Finding or developing champions within the public sector is one of the keys to bringing about libre knowledge policies.

Q and A

  • Why should knowledge be free as in freedom?
    • explain here ...
  • What are the dangers/barriers to this vision?
    • list them here ...
      • and indicate how to mitigate ....

Multiple Languages

Learning Activities

  • Always be ready to demonstrate libre software and libre knowledge.
    • For software, set up virtual machines on a laptop which can run a few contrasting distros (e.g. with different display managers, or oriented towards different user-bases such as science, education, ...) simultaneously.
      • Include relevant libre knowledge resources and some applications.
    • Present a demo to fellow students role playing as different types of audience.
      • If you will be using a data projector for the demo, test it first with your host GNU/Linux distro.
  • Cross-pollinate: FLOSS advocacy.
  • Write a code of conduct for your advocacy efforts (something like this but different).
  • While surfing the web you notice a site which expresses values consistent with libre knowledge but notice that its content and policies seem to contradict these values. For example, the site includes embedded videos which are not viewable with libre software and provides quick links to download a non-free plugin). Write a letter to the organisation pointing out the error of their ways and providing guidance on taking corrective action.
    • Where applicable, write a tutorial on how to support those values more comprehensively (e.g. media file conversion, where to host the files, how to embed them in a page seamlessly for both free and non-free software users, choosing a libre license, etc.). Link to your HowTo/tutorial below:
  • Not all knowledge should be liberated (privacy, security, company differentiating knowledge, knowledge which threatens the safety of people or other beings etc., ...) - discuss.

See Also

Notes and References

  1. See for example David Wiley's Response to George on “Openness”,, December 30, 2009: "At the end of the day, the educational materials we create and share as open content / free culture / free content / libre content / OCW / OER / FORE / FLORE / other-labels-out-to-infinity will not be judged on their license or label. They will be judged on how effectively they teach, and how critical the content they teach is."