Built by the community for the community, the site has fostered a membership body that seeks to use the Academic Commons as a means of fulfilling its highest aspirations for integrating technology into its academic missions of teaching, research, and service. The CUNY Academic Commons seeks to support the public educational mission of the City University of New York through the active development of free and open source software released and broadly disseminated for the public good.
In their case study of the CUNY Academic Commons, published in On the Horizon, Gold & Otte (2011) note that, prior to the CUNY Academic Commons, little "cross-campus communication" between like-minded faculty and graduate students existed. CUNY was a "loose federation" of campuses, largely represented by static websites. The need for a university-wide means of sharing knowledge was perceived by CUNY Committee on Academic Technology, and discussions began in early 2008 to find a solution.