The Open Source Guild

Open source is a way of collaborating with others through an online commons of shared knowledge. Linking open source to the historical concept of the guild creates the open source guild business model. A strength of the open source guild model is that it offers a mechanism to grow a micro-business with no external investment, where the community that develops around the commons creates the capacity for a business at its core. Members of the guild can benefit from a larger overall market and economies of scale while remaining an independent micro-business.
How it was developed
The open source guild model has been developed by Justin Larner as part of his PhD research at Lancaster University with the emergent micro-businesses Shrimping It and the Northern School of Permaculture as co-researchers, inspired by:

  • Problems with existing governance models for social enterprise, particularly in terms of stakeholder involvement.
  • The potential of open source to create collaborative communities.
  • The original medieval guilds, which combined openness and secrecy, enabling an entire industry to prosper through shared knowledge.

How it works
The founder establishes the guild, chooses who can be a member of it, establishes their own micro-business to service the guild, maintains the commons and protects the proprietary intellectual property (IP). Sharing of the proprietary IP (which can be just a name or logo) is restricted to members of the guild to allow them to develop their businesses around the commons. Each guild member can operate as their own micro-business (with its own guild if they wish). See the information sheet for a diagram of how the open source guild works in practice.
Other initiatives
The Open Source Guild complements other initiatives that aim to change how people work together, including:

Further reading
The links below offer further information:

The open source guild has been developed through research by Justin Larner at Lancaster University, partially funded by the UK Digital Economy Programme (RCUK GrantEP/G037582/1), which supports the HighWire Centre for Doctoral Training.