Open Source Guild

The Open Source Guild


Open source is a way of collaborating with others through an online commons of shared knowledge. The medieval guilds enabled a group of masters recruit members to a community of practice in a specific craft industry. Linking open source to guilds is the starting point for the open source guild business model. Businesses based on the open source guild model have an intellectual commons which is managed and protected by the founder, who admits members to the guild at their discretion. A strength of the open source guild model is that it offers a mechanism for the founder to grow a networked 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 independent micro-businesses.

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), which can be just a name or logo. Sharing of the proprietary IP is restricted to members of the guild to allow them to develop their businesses around the commons. The diagram below shows how an entrepreneur can create a membership community using the open source guild model.

How to create an open source guild

The open source guild model in practice

Lancaster Ethical Trading Association (ESTA) is an example of how the open source guild business model can work in practice. The Association was founded in 2010 as a Community Interest Company with an unincorporated association of members. ESTA works for a sustainable local economy in the Lancaster area, where sustainability is framed in terms of the fourth bottom line of personal values and meaning as well as the first bottom line of economic success. Members are recruited at the sole discretion of ESTA's founder, and are encouraged to get together into interest groups based on common values in 20 sectors. Membership fees enable a micro-business to thrive at the core of the network, thus this is a sustainable business model in economic terms. ESTA website.

Other initiatives
The Open Source Guild model complements other initiatives that aim to change how people work together, including:


Further reading

The links below offer further information:

    A4 information sheet (PDF).
    A4 flyer (PDF).
    Downloadable A3 poster (PDF).


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