What is the Open Master's?

A self-declared master's degree

"I'm doing an Open Master's."

A grassroots learning

"I'm part of the Open Master's."

It's an unconventional education you design for yourself around a vision of the person you want to become.

We use it to bring focus and structure to our long-term goals, and to weave together all of the different things we want to do to get there, such as reading, courses, work, travel, apprenticeships, and dream projects.

Just like college, learning is more fun with others.

We organize our own small, informal learning communities to learn together and to hold each other accountable to our visions. 

Because we do not organize formal courses or confer degrees, some say that we are like a homeschooling network for adults.

How we serve the learning revolution:

Supporting bold, creative learners 

We inspire, connect, and tell the stories of self-directed learners and community builders creating their own learning experiences in new and imaginative ways.

We have developed a framework and process for completing an Open Master's through a self-organized, grassroots community. We also create tools and resources and facilitate shared experiences like Beginnings, retreats, and short-term learning challenges.

Sharing the tools and culture

We serve the broader movement by partnering with organizations, providing program design and support, workshops, and self-guided toolkits. We work with schools, leadership programs, non-profits and civic organizations, and companies seeking to invest in their employee's growth and learning. 

We also design creative pop-up events for experiential learning and spontaneous, delightful love-mischief.

We didn't invent this.

(Above) Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Study Circles' traveling road show.

(Banner) Septima Clark and Bernice Robinson organizing Citizenship Schools in South Carolina.

(Below) Newspaper for the Midpeninsula free university.

Throughout history, whenever average citizens have found it difficult to access the formal education they wanted, they have banded together to design their own small learning communities.

From Highlander Institute to Danish Folkschools, grassroots popular education movements have been instrumental in bringing education to marginalized communities whenever they could not find what they needed from―or were outright unwelcome at―formal institutions.

A hundred years ago, self-organized Chautauqua Study Circles formed around kitchen tables in the American Midwest and made it possible for women to attend "school" in a time when formal schooling was not an option to most of them. Half a century later, blacks living under Jim Crow oppression in the American South created their education through Citizenship Schools.

We're in such a moment again. Students, of many different backgrounds, are finding it difficult to get the education they want without indenturing themselves or putting their dreams on hold.

Whenever institutions are unable to meet the needs of so many, citizens organize in creative ways to meet their needs. In fact, this was exactly how the modern university system first began: small groups of self-declared scholars gathering to share resources (books, in that case) and learn together.

The Open Master's follows in these footsteps.

Three years ago, the first Open Master’s group was organized in Washington DC by a group of twenty-somethings seeking an alternative to grad school. We wanted to learn but thought that there must be better, more affordable ways to do it. Besides, we wanted to learn things we that went beyond the curriculum of almost any degree programs we found.

Immediately after the first group formed, two other groups launched independently in the Netherlands and San Francisco. In 2014, after three years and three groups, a few members stepped up to take on the responsibility of organizing us as a whole. These organizers are working to keep the community strong as it grows, stewarding the commons we have been creating to ensure that it's maintained and remains open, as well as developing a more intimate and consistent process for new members who want to join.

This movement would happen with or without us, and we are only a part of it. The human impulse to learn cannot be contained. But those of us who have been drawn to the Open Master's have been united by a common belief that...

“When we're not able to find or afford the kind of education, community, or opportunities for growth that we want, we can create what we need together instead.”

— The Open Master's

(ABOVE) Arlene Goldbard's tribute to the impressive history of autodidacts and "self-authorizing citizens."

Welcome to the movement. How do you want to begin?


Bring support and structure to
your goals by joining our
community of learners.

Energize learning in your community with the tools & culture of
the Open Master's.