Handing over quietly

There was no cake, no champagne – not even a speech. And it’s only now that I’ve been able to take a breath, that I can say this about my decision to hand over the public leadership of Creative Commons South Africa to Dave Duarte.

In 2004, I came back to South Africa after an incredible 9 months at Stanford working with Creative Commons as part of my Reuters Digital Vision Fellowship programme, supported by Benetech. Benetech had funded my fellowship because I had originally pitched to the digital society entrepreneurship programme a project to use GIS systems to predict conflict in the African Great Lakes region. But a few months into the project, having been volunteering for Creative Commons, I realised that my passion was with this young organisation. Benetech supported my decision, even though it would have no direct contribution to their work in conflict management. For that, I cannot be more grateful.

After coming home in 2004, so many people need to be thanked for their help in growing this fledgling cause. I remember feeling like a bible salesman when I first started making appointments to go and see people I thought might be able to support, since at that stage, Creative Commons was only a year old and very unknown: a crazy idea by some funny-looking white American man that I believed South Africans should take ownership of.

My parents funded Creative Commons for the first few months. After that, the incredible Anriette Esterhuysen from the Association for Progressive Communications agreed to allow me to host an awareness-raising programme funded by Osisa with the APC, and then two amazing women, Luci Abrahams and Alison Gillwald agreed for the LINK Center at Wits University to host a two-year programme funded by the IDRC called ‘Commons-sense: Towards an African Digital Information Commons’ which supported Creative Commons in South Africa as part of its mandate. Two years ago, I started with iCommons – a new international organisation, incubated by Creative Commons, with HQ firmly on African soil. Since then, the team at iCommons has done an incredible job flying the CC flag with the fabulous CC Salons and consultation work that we’ve done to help organisations, communities, companies and individuals to understand the application of Creative Commons.

There are so many more people to thank – everyone who volunteered and supported Creative Commons when it was unknown but offered just the kind of vision they were looking for, everyone who listened to my continuous sales pitch about why CC was so great, and my dear friends who came to listen to me speak about Creative Commons when they made up 70% of the audience.

I decided to hand over my public leadership mainly because iCommons is now separate from Creative Commons in the sense that Creative Commons is no longer the sole member of iCommons – still a member but now one of four. At this very critical stage of iCommons’ independence, it is important for us to forge a new identity, separate from Creative Commons but still tied to the broad, common vision that we both share.

Handing over to Dave was an incredibly easy task. Dave is already a passionate volunteer. He has done some incredible things already in his teaching and community work to raise awareness of Creative Commons and its potential for innovation and sharing. Most of all, Dave fundamentally ‘gets it’ and he’s also a bit crazy in his own way which makes him exactly the right person to carry on the Creative Commons South Africa story.

I’m certain that we’ll still be working together in the many, many areas of mutual concern, and I can’t wait to see the great things that will happen to CCSA in the next few months.

Good luck, dear Dave. May the force be with you.

3 thoughts on “Handing over quietly

  1. Heather, you are such a star and an inspiration. I hope to honour the legacy which you have passed on to me with more fun events, awareness and talks attended by friends:) Looking forward to working with you and iCommons here and helping put SA be even more of an icon of uBuntu, openness, creativity and sharing!

  2. Heather! My Google alert for APC pulled this out, otherwise I would not have seen it.

    Tks for calling me incredible.. but not sure I deserve it, other than in the sense of incredibly overworked, fat and middle-aged and, frequently, incredibly irritable đŸ™‚

    Your passion was convincing. APC is honoured to have hosted the project, and through you APC learnt about CC and have been using it ever since. I personally learnt a lot and am very grateful to you for this. The South African project therefore influenced APC’s practice worldwide.

    All the best with this David.. and well done Heather. You should feel very proud.


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