Sustainability, governance and partnerships of Decidim
Participatory process to define Decidim's management model and sustainability strategy
Currently, the Decidim Association is highly dependent on public funding. Specifically, it receives two subsidies from Barcelona City Council (100k) and the Generalitat de Catalunya (50k). This income allows it to support the Technical Office and pay for other minor expenses. In addition, there is a contract from Barcelona City Council through which Decidim's maintainers are hired.
However, depending so much on public funding and so few institutions is a risk. As we have already seen, we can lose that money for bureaucratic reasons - as happened to us with the 50k from Barcelona City Council last year - or because of changes in governments, which could lead to the withdrawal of institutional support. This is why it is imperative to work to diversify the Association's sources of funding, both qualitatively and quantitatively.
This debate seeks to discuss what strategies to follow in order to ensure the long-term sustainability of the project.
Questions for the debate
- How can the Association obtain resources from all the economic activity generated around Decidim?
- How can we expand the number and type of actors that can support the project, beyond Catalan institutions? In particular, would it be possible for public institutions, NGOs, etc. that are users of the Decidim SW to support the project?
- What kind of services can the Association offer?
- What other sustainability strategies should we explore?
*It is necessary to take into account those aspects that are already defined in the Statutes of the Association:
Article 4.3. Defines services as an activity of the Association.
Article 20. The management of public and private subsidies corresponds to the coordination committee.
How can I participate?
- By leaving your comments below. You can answer the questions or write your thoughts on the topic addressed in this debate.
- Upvote for the comments you agree with. Your votes will be taken into account when drafting the document.
Remember to express your opinion respectfully.
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Conversation with Carol Romero
Hi everyone! Thank you for all the contributions to this debate, which in my opinion is the most critical of all, because unfortunately sustainability is a recurrent challenge for free software projects.
I think it’s important, as Maite mentioned, to have an idea of what budget would the Association need to maintain a stable team. Last year we did this exercise with the coordination committee. To sustain a small team, between 7 (minimum) and 11 (ideal) people, we need aprox between 250k and 400k euros per year.
The partnership policy should be a strategy to be further developed, and iterated if needed. As I see it, it is about fostering a symbiotic relationship between the core project and the ecosystem it generates around it.
It would be good that most of the service providers were partners, especially those that build their business model entirely on Decidim.
As partners are those entities that are contributing to the commons to sustain it, it is natural that the Association promotes collaboration with its partners in a preferential way (more on this below).
To make the partnership policy work we don’t need to have a large number of providers, since it’s designed based on the number of services that Decidim's user organizations hire.
Back to the numbers, partner contributions (assuming that the current ecosystem remains stable) could cover at least 30% of the financing.
As I mentioned, the partnership policy makes it easier for Decidim's user organizations to contribute to the main project _through_ the service providers. We could work to improve how we convey to organizations the importance of taking care of a digital commons.
As Xavier said, an alternative would be that user organizations become members, but in the case of public institutions this changes the rules of the game, since they’d automatically become part of the governing bodies. Therefore, the Association would be subject to a similar dynamic to the current one. It would also be governed by public procurement law. And being a project born of public funding, we have already learned the problems it generates. Still, it would be an option if we are willing to go down that road.
Regarding the signing of agreements w/public institutions, let’s keep in mind that for them it is tremendously complicated to find a way to give funding, since the process is subjected to political balances and bureaucratic circuits. As an example, the current agreement with the City Council and the Generalitat took more than 2 years to materialize. But depending on the potential funding we could obtain, I’d explore the possibility of signing agreements with other governments, prioritizing those where Decidim is consolidated as a democratic infrastructure.
Thanks for the input Carol,
Just to clarify my point on letting cities becoming members of the association :
I don't see the issue you are referring to, a city (or state) would be a member but in the condition of the association and will be able to take part to the governance of the project. I don't see it as an issue on my side but rather as a strength.
The membership should not be conditioned to some specific contract and should not give more rights from others members.
Hi Xavier, maybe I didn't explain it well enough, sorry! What I mean is that the Association is regulated by the Catalan law. If any public entity becomes a member, automatically the association would be equated to any other public administration in contractual terms (governed by the public procurement law, with the restrictions that this implies). It is a legal issue.
Their participation in governance is not a problem, on the contrary! Actually, several cities have been doing so from the beginning, and I would look for ways to include many more. But if we talk about their participation as members (paying a fee and participating like any other member), we need to know the legal aspects.
I'll make my point here also : 400k for 11 people seems very low, not counting that the association will need helps from outside the association office and could be great to support initiative in the community and also giving a compensation for the meetings of the committee. We need to dream bigger as Decidim as made his point, is a big project and trying to solve a very big issue, 1mio to 2mio/year budget should be the target at least IMO.
As a member of the team that sustains the project with precarious means, completely in favor of dreaming big. These were the numbers to cover in the short term only in HR. Sure, let's aim for 2 million :)
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