Looking at the long term financial vitality of Social.Coop...
Although there is some overlap to what other groups may be covering and some other discussions already in progress I wanted to present a few semi-connected ideas around budgeting, membership fees, allocations, and admin remuneration along with some potential policy tweaks for feedback.
1: Member-Owner Capital Contribution – Right now there doesn’t seem to be a clear point to where someone becomes an official Member (owner) beyond signing up, getting a handle, and hopefully starting (and continuing) to pay a subscription fee. Does that mean we consider people that signed up but never paid a subscription to be member owners or are they users? Are people that paid a subscription fee at one time but stopped paying no longer considered member owners? Are non paying users allowed to use the platform if so is there an optimal percentage of “users” to paying members that the platform seeks to maintain?
One way to address some of the gray area around membership status could be to designate a certain amount of fees paid (say $4) as the initial Capital Contribution needed to bestow Membership (ownership) and once that is done the continued payment of the standard subscription would determine “Active” or “In-active” membership status with either governance and/or platform privileges a part of active status.
This way everyone attains member-owner status equally and if they were to choose to put their subscription on hold at some point they would not lose ownership status only access the whatever the cooperative deems a privilege of subscription.
This would also allow the capital contribution to be tracked and allocated separately in the event that a system of patronage was established at a later time.
2: Operation Critical Admin Remuneration/Budget Allocation – In order to provide seamless coverage (especially as SC scales) while still maintaining the fluidity of member volunteer engagement it could be beneficial to provide incentives for Operation Critical admin duties. There may be a point where it is necessary to create revolving/contractor status roles but in the meantime a somewhat simple way to accomplish coverage goals could be to create allocation accounts for each area of critical admin management. Each "Operations Team" would provide diversified coverage by members with needed skill sets or desire to learn. The groups would self manage to ensure adequate coverage with hours tracked and the monthly pool split pro rata between the volunteers.
Note this kind of remuneration would be for OPERATION CRITICAL duties (however that is defined) and not for general governance duties for which there is an expectation that all members participate in some way at their own chosen level.
Three initial allocations pools might be for Tech Admin, Community Admin, and Finance Admin. Admin Ops Team Proposal In Progress
3: Base Subscription Price/Voluntary Initiative Funding – The sliding scale subscription price of $1-$10 doesn’t seem to have a clear connection to what the base cost per user is to sustain and grow the platform. Though this will change as greater efficiency of scale is achieved we could start with simple pro-forma budget based on a certain user counts and operations allocations.
For example using a target of $2/month per user and a minimum rolling paying member count of 150 a monthly operating budget of $300 and $3600 yearly (minus transaction fees) could be created. With this budget cooperative could address base costs of keeping the platform physically up and running, create sufficient reserves, and add (incentivized) volunteer admin roles as the community scales.
Having one affordable set base subscription price would bring all member owners to same level in regards to supporting the platform. Additional advantages of setting say a $2 base over say $1 is that the transaction cost of revenue is less % wise.
Later if the user numbers were to grow by a large amount, and the operations cost level out, a simple system of patronage could be created to offer rebate credits that would effectively bring down the subscription price.
Of note a low base subscription price would likely only cover base operations costs and provide a reserve buffer. Any other activities or expenditures could be funded through additional revenue sources, specifically by offering additional monthly initiative donation options.
What if someone wants to be member but their current circumstances don’t accommodate a $2 subscription?
Currently Open Collective shows 90 total paying members with a breakdown of (25/27%) $1, (16/18%) $3, (21/23%) $7, (6/7%) $10, (8/9%) $1x12, (7/7%) $3x12, (2/2%) $7x12, (5/5%) $10x12. On paper this demonstrates a strong demand for the $1 (as well as the $3 and $7) but it is likely with greater transparency on subscription price use and operational need a $2 subscription would prove desirable and attainable to the majority of members. A solution to accommodate members that are temporary unable to contribute all or part of the $2 subscription price is to create an Assistance fund allocation in the base operations budget or through a voluntary $1/month contribution. This way the base cost per user is still captured and tracked in conjunction with the overall assistance demand and ability to accommodate.
_What if people want to contribute more so the coop can achieve more? _
By creating additional donation tiers it would be possible to fund specific initiatives that have strong interest and have been approved by the members. These initiatives could be managed through volunteer working groups with expenses funded through their corresponding allocation account.
Some potential initiatives might be;
Mastodon Development – Dedicated to supporting the software that the entire Mastodon fediverse relies on. This could take the form of providing a monthly contribution to Mastodon developers while advocating for community requested fixes as well as pushing for an organized federation representation structure.
Mastodon Platform Cooperative Solid Fund – Dedicated to helping other instances inside of the Mastodon fediverse to start or transition to a cooperative ownership structure. Support could come in the way of small development grants as well as best practices documentation.
Discussion in progress
Blog.social.coop – Dedicated to supporting a blog to spread the word about not only what Social Coop is doing but happenings around online privacy, the shift away from surveillance tech, and platform coops in general.
Discussion in progress