It is with regret that due to recent circumstances within Open Knowledge International, we have come to the conclusion that it is necessary to cancel the planned Open Knowledge Festival 2018.

This announcement has been a very difficult decision for the team at OKI, however with such a short time frame ahead and a lack of secured funding for the Festival, we felt that we could not guarantee a successful event for all our participants.

However, we want to take the opportunity to gather the Open Knowledge Network on the same dates, facilitating an event that embraces our network and is a better fit for where we are today. In this post we outline our alternative plans for Thessaloniki in May 2018.


Dear Network and partners: We are in a period of change at Open Knowledge International.

After the resignation of our CEO Pavel Richter we took the time to reflect and think about the state of affairs.

We recognise that we have not been as actively communicating as we should have been at Open Knowledge International.

There have been some notable successes with initiatives such as Frictionless Data, the School of Data network, Open Data Day and the Global Open Data Index.

It is very clear to us that those successes would not have been possible without the passion and commitment of our wider diverse Open Knowledge Network.

Similar, if not greater, successes have been achieved by you in the network. Only two of these are the wonderful Prototype Fund project in Germany, and the MyData conference in Finland and Estonia. Full credit for that goes to Open Knowledge Foundation Deutschland and Open Knowledge Finland, only two of the amazing Chapters and groups that make up the Open Knowledge Network.

But when we look in the mirror at Open Knowledge International we don’t think that we have excelled in the way that we intended over recent years.

We did not communicate clearly to you, our partners, how our organisational strategy was evolving and where we were going as an organisation.

We did not engage you, the Open Knowledge Network, on equal footing.

We asked for your involvement and contributions at specific points but did not engage you sufficiently on the bigger question of the overall journey we are on together: aiming for juster and more open societies.

We are very keen to change this.

The world of open knowledge has grown, developed and matured in the last couple of years. Ten years ago we were mostly talking about governments publishing data openly. But now, our collective open knowledge universe includes many other areas like open access to academic publications and open research data. Many groups are actively involved in the area of personal data, where we citizens demand more control over the data we share with corporations on a day-by-day basis.

We believe our vision is still very much valid: we still look ahead to a future where everyone has free and open access to key information, enabling every human, citizen, and consumer to understand and shape their lives, homes and the world.

Our values are also as relevant as ever: open knowledge, as defined by the open definition, forms the cornerstone of what we do. We value respect and tolerance, collaboration not control. We are pragmatic, not fanatic, we make & talk, and we focus on making change in the world.

The Open Knowledge Network is a lot more than just an aggregation of its parts. We know that we must keep these parts in constant relation. And we propose that the best way to do this is to keep the Network linked  through specific domains. This idea builds very much on the concept of Working Groups we have had for many years in the Open Knowledge Network. We have been inspired by the School of Data network who already work in this way – they develop their mission and align strategies between the various organisations that are members of the network – achieving great impact in data literacy in this way.

We propose to develop thematic networks within the other domains that are important to multiple Open Knowledge groups. For example, based on a recent survey among Open Knowledge groups we think there is sufficient level of engagement around topics such as Fiscal Transparency, Open Data infrastructure, Open Science, OpenGLAM, and Personal Data. Such a network already exists in the area of data training with the School of Data network. There are opportunities, we believe, to benefit from more dedicated collaboration, exchange of ideas and plans and possibly even develop shared objectives in these areas among Open Knowledge partners.

Unfortunately, due to the circumstances at Open Knowledge International, we are not in a position to organise the Open Knowledge Festival we envisioned, and that many of us fondly remember from Berlin (2014) and Helsinki (2012).

Not going ahead with the Festival as planned is a very difficult decision for us. However we are keen to ensure that we hold an event that will be successful for the entire Network, taking the opportunity to gather the Open Knowledge Network on the same dates, to do something that is better fitting for where we are today. We are looking forward to bringing our partners together at an Open Knowledge Summit event in Thessaloniki in May 2018 that will help us all collaboratively build the future of the Open Knowledge Network.

We will follow up with you, our partners in the Open Knowledge Network, over the next couple of weeks to work together on the idea of the domain networks that we started to outline above. We want to hear from you, if you feel this is the right approach for developing the Open Knowledge Network and incorporate your ideas. Together with you, we want to take the network to the next level in the build-up to May 2018, so that we can all come together in Thessaloniki as an opportunity to meet each other in person and work together within those domains that matter to us. More will follow on this in the next couple of weeks and months.

Finally, we want to give a big shout-out to our partners at Open Knowledge Greece. We are very grateful for the hard work that they have put into making the event in Thessaloniki the best it can be, and we look forward to continuing our collaboration with them as amazing hosts for the Open Knowledge Summit.

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Sander is Programme Lead for Fiscal Transparency at Open Knowledge Foundation. Furthermore, he's responsible for the team at Open Knowledge Foundation that works in the areas of Research, Communications, and Community. Sander combines a background in Computer Science with Philosophy and has a passion for 'open' in all its form, ranging from open data to open access and open source software.

7 thoughts on “OKFestival 2018 becomes Open Knowledge Summit May 2018 in Thessaloniki”

  1. Hi Team OKF,

    This is a tough decision but a hopeful one. You’ve had a period of transition and a lot of change, and this is a responsible move to make. Totally respect it and so glad a summit will still happen. The community you convene is powerful, heartening, and full of impact—so bringing on a doable summit is great news.

    You’re not alone as so many “open” organizations struggle to define themselves and their revenue/financial sustainability models during rapid change in our field and in governments around the world.

    I believe in your work and that a more stable, growth phase is ahead for OKF. Please add me to any groups or convenings you have coming up for community engagement.

  2. Is now an OKFN Festival 2018 in Thessaloniki or not. There are contradictory statements on the website and I cannot find an exact date and place.

    1. There will not be an OKFestival happening in 2018. Instead, we are planning an Open Knowledge Summit event in Thessaloniki in May 2018 for our Open Knowledge network – more information on that will be shared in the near future.

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