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.
The Open Source Guild complements other initiatives that aim to change how people work together, including:
The links below offer further information:
- A4 information sheet (PDF).
- A4 flyer (PDF).
- Downloadable A3 poster (PDF).
- Working paper by Justin Larner and Chris Mason on the dilemmas of stakeholder involvement in social enterprise governance.
- Working paper by Robert Merges on open source and medieval guilds.
- The book Open Sources: Voices from the Open Source Revolution edited by Chris DiBona, Sam Ockman and Mark Stone.
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.