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Economic sustainability

Decidim as a digital commons

Although more and more people are using a digital commons such as Decidim, the sustainability of the project depends to a large extent on the public funding model. To date, this is the source of income that supports the hiring of a small team of professionals who, with great effort and commitment, have supported a large volume of work. Currently, the Decidim Association's Technical Office is made up of two people: a senior developer and a person dedicated to management and administration tasks. Indirectly, there are other people who have been able to dedicate working hours to the project thanks to alliances with the Barcelona City Council and Localret, who take on the hiring of these people.


For its part, the regulations for the Coordination Committee state that its members must be volunteers who do not receive any remuneration for carrying out the functions of their posts and are responsible for ensuring the democratic quality of the project. However, the conditions and needs of the project have led the Coordination Committee to take on management, administration and coordination tasks. This has led to a heavy workload, which has been sustained mostly on a voluntary basis, overburdening members of the team.

Sustainability strategy

Economic sustainability is essential for the democratic and technological quality of the project. The project has to be sustainable to guarantee the quality of the code and the necessary innovations and future developments and infrastructures, but it also has to be sustainable to defend the social contract, the mission of the project, the community and the organisation behind it.


Until now, the project has been completely dependent on public funding and this has led us to a critical situation in terms of sustainability. While we should not renounce public funding, the percentage of the total budget that it represents must be reduced.


Therefore, the first unavoidable step is to gain economic autonomy and pluralise sources of income. There are different ways of financing that can complement each other in order to achieve a long-term sustainable scenario. The following is a list of possible sources of income and the ideal weight they should have:


- Donations from partners (30%)
- Services offered by the Association (10%)
- Private funds (research, NGO or philanthropic) (30%)
- Public funding (30%)


In this way, combining more contributions from partners, more agreements with public institutions, the entry of private funding and some services, the basic structure of Decidim would be covered. In general terms, the idea is to foster a symbiotic relationship between the central project and the ecosystem it generates around it, creating a logic of collaboration for a common goal: the sustainability of Decidim.


In order to be able to specify how to achieve this scenario, it is necessary to design a strategic plan and an action plan for at least three years, establishing the objectives and results to be achieved in this period. This planning must be respectful of the mission and vision of the project, as this is where Decidim's competitive differentiation lies.


Article 4.3 of the Decidim Association's statutes defines services as one of the activities of the Association. Therefore, the Association can offer all kinds of services related to Decidim.


However, at a strategic level, the Association should not focus on offering installation and maintenance services for Decidim instances. This is to avoid entering into competition with partners and other service providers in the community.


At the technological level, the Association should work to ensure that the Decidim project allows others to build services on top of it. But at the political level, it should participate in those projects that are more strategic, offering consultancy and occasionally some development if necessary. Whenever possible, these services will be in collaboration with a partner, thus generating a dynamic of collaboration between the partners and the Association.


To give an example: If a government contacts the Association because it wants to start using Decidim, the Association can offer an introductory service and initial training. Subsequently, the installation, maintenance and functional advice would be provided by a partner. In this way, the Association can start generating income from services that, until now, it was offering for free.


Some services that the Association could offer are listed below:
* Technical advice
* Product advice
* Functional advice
* Onboarding to new organisations
* Courses and certifications


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