Working in the Open: lessons from open source on building innovation networks in education

Rafi Santo, Dixie Ching, Kylie Peppler, Christopher Hoadley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: This article makes the case that the education community can learn from professional learning and innovation practices, collectively called “Working in the Open” (or “Working Open”), that have roots in the free/open source software (F/OSS) movement. These practices focus on values of transparency, collaboration and sharing within communities of experimentation. This paper aims to argues that Working Open offers a compelling approach to fostering distributed educational professional networks that focus on co-constructing new projects and best practices. Design/methodology/approach: Insights presented here are based on three sources: expert perspectives on open source work practices gleaned through interviews and blog posts, a qualitative case analysis of a collaborative project enacted by a group of informal learning organizations within the Hive NYC Learning Network, a community of over 70 youth-facing organizations in New York City, as well as an overview of that network’s participation structures, and, finally, knowledge-building activities and discussions held within the Hive NYC community about the topic in situ. From these sources, the authors derived general principles to guide open work approaches. Findings: The authors identify five practices deemed as central to Working Open: public storytelling and context setting, enabling community contribution, rapid prototyping “in the wild”, public reflection and documentation and, lastly, creating remixable work products. The authors describe these practices, show how they are enacted in situ, outline ways that Hive NYC stewards promote a Working Open organizational ecosystem and conclude with recommendations for utilizing a Working Open approach. Originality/value: Drawing from the F/OSS movement, this article builds on standard practices of professional learning communities to provide an approach that focuses on pushing forward innovation and changes in practice as opposed to solely sharing reflections or observing practices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)280-295
Number of pages16
JournalOn the Horizon
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2016


  • Communities of practice
  • Educational innovation
  • Free/open source software
  • Innovation networks
  • Innovation networks
  • Open innovation
  • Open innovation
  • Peer production
  • Professional development
  • Working Open

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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