Loomio
Tue 14 Oct 2014

Long-term financial sustainability for Loomio

AI
Alanna Irving Public Seen by 415

This continues to be a very rich and multifaceted discussion. A big thanks to everyone who has participated! Here’s a high-level summary so far (but this isn’t the end! please keep sharing your thoughts).

  • We asked the community for input about scalable, sustainable financial models aligned with our values and mission

  • We had a temperature check proposal where the vast majority of people affirmed the basic idea of some people paying to use the software - with some concerns raised about how that might be implemented in practice

  • We reiterated some basic facts about how Loomio is set up, to consider in the context of business models (with the software under AGPL3 and the company incorporated as a worker-owned cooperative social enterprise with a constitution that puts the social mission first).

  • Great questions were asked, great ideas were shared, and we had a wide-ranging discussion about not just Loomio’s situation, but the larger questions around funding large-scale mission-driven projects and open-source tools.

  • We shared details about our current financial situation and why we need to bring in resources

  • We explained the business model experiment we’re currently testing (asking people to self-select as commercial users, putting them on a free trial, and reaching out to learn from them), and showed the screens new users see.

Some highlights from the discussion

Ideas for revenue streams

  • “Pay as you can” where people can pay zero, or what they are able to.

  • Consulting and training around collaboration and engagement. We already do this work and enjoy a bit of income from it, but it’s not scalable in the same way a SaaS business model is, because it relies on people’s time directly.

  • Online facilitation services, and a network of facilitators that can help groups on Loomio to be effective. This is a potentially scalable idea, and we’re excited about it, too. But it takes quite a long time to build something like that up, and it still only scales to people’s time. We’re taking first steps to develop training materials now.

  • Straight up asking for donations. People in the community say they are willing to give. But overall, even the most successful donation campaigns only have moderate conversion rates and only turn into significant funds at very large scale. Running a campaign takes significant resources in itself. And we need to be wary of donor fatigue.

  • There are some innovative funding models out there we should look at, like Gittip, Gartipay, Patreon, Flattr, crowdfunding for specific costs (like features or servers), etc.

  • Relatively traditional SaaS model, freemium/premium. Need to find a way to make these successful models work that’s aligned with our values. There are some services - like custom domain names - that businesses care about a lot but that don’t affect others that much. However, we never want to deny core functionality to people just because they can’t pay. Ideas like “you have to pay to make your Loomio private” aren’t a good fit for us because we support, for example, activists in politically volatile situations who need private spaces to deliberate.

  • We should consider and learn from the business models of other free software projects, such as paid turnkey solutions for private servers, or help setting up your instance. Examples: Discourse, Github Enterprise, Wordpress.

  • Another alternative funding stream could be the Loomio API, with a decision-making engine supporting different UIs, embedding Loomio in other platforms, etc.

  • Philanthropic funding is a natural fit for our social mission vision, and we have already gratefully received grants and are on track to potentially get a large amount of grant funding down the line. Long term, Loomio needs a business model, even if we’re also supported philanthropically. So it’s part of our plan, but can’t be the whole answer.

Things to consider in implementing a business model for Loomio

  • Sharing stories and case studies might inspire people to pay even even they don’t strictly have to, to support others who can’t. The idea that you could “sponsor” groups doing great work through Loomio has appeal.

  • There are ways other than money to support the project, such as raising awareness to potential new users and growing the community. We could ask people to contribute in a range of ways, money being just one.

  • Transparency around Loomio’s finances is an important factor in people feeling good about supporting the project with money.

  • Many users here are very positive about their groups paying to use Loomio, since they get a lot of value from it. Some are able to right now, some aren’t, but many want to.

  • The main people who many expect to pay are those who use Loomio in a commercial context, but many community groups, NGOs, government, and other groups might be able to pay, too. And some people using Loomio in companies won’t be able to pay. It’s not black and white.

  • Users really want clarity about “how much does it cost” and it’s important that we do good messaging about whatever revenue model we try out.

  • We have to be careful what we incentivise and what we tax with the revenue model. If we make things we actually want to see more of less appealing by charging for them - like people inviting more users into their groups to collaborate - it could be counter productive. Many software companies focus on getting lots of users before nailing down the revenue stream for a reason.

  • A model that helps users who pay feel more like members than customers seems like a natural fit for a community-driven project like Loomio run by a worker co-op. Something inspired by a consumer co-op maybe. Involving users in decision-making about Loomio is an important value for us already (and we don’t want to limit that to paying users).

  • Maybe everyone should get messaging that sets an expectation that they will pay, but if they really can’t, they can opt for free access.

  • Making access and payment easy (recurring payments, robust user support, great user experience) is key in people feeling good about paying money.

  • It’s super important we constantly check back in with values and mission alignment - a really successful business financially that fails to achieve Loomio’s social mission and stick to its values is not a success in the sense we care about.

  • Utimately, successful businesses thrive based on the value they provide to customers, not based on their internal needs. Loomio wants to not only scale up itself, but hopefully generate surplus that can go toward supporting other aligned projects too.

  • People see the essential tension between needing revenue and wanting as many people as possible to use Loomio. A model where a small number of people pay more and feel good about it, so many more people can pay nothing, might be good. But we need to make sure we don’t then skew our focus toward only the needs of that small number of users who are paying.

Wider issues affecting this discussion

  • Finding “patient” scaling capital that’s values-aligned is a very common problem for a lot of social enterprises and cooperatives. Out there in the world, mission-driven financing is still under-developed. This is a problem we all should think about if we want more mission-driven ventures to succeed in our society.

  • We recognise some serious issues with mainstream venture capital funding. This also touches on really big issues with the capitalist system, centralised currency, and other deep problems in society (mostly out of scope for this particular discussion).

  • There’s discourse going on online about a fundamental shift of users understanding that if they don’t pay for the product, they are the product (such as on advertising-based social networks that sell user data). But no one really has the answers about that yet.

  • There is a big and diverse community of people out there working on various ideas in the space, including Snowdrift.coop, fair.coop, P2P Foundation and Commons Based Reciprocity Licenses, the Open Value Network, and many others.


Original Post

As we get closer to completing the massive six-month working bee that the generous support of the crowdfunding campaign enabled (on track for the end of November!), we’re thinking a lot about the long-term sustainability of the Loomio project.

We’re a social enterprise, meaning we place our social mission first: making it easy for anyone, anywhere to participate in decisions that affect them. Our software is open source, and helping all kinds of groups collaborate - not just those with money - has always been our vision. At the same time, we think we can best achieve that social mission if we have the resources to scale, and to keep improving Loomio.

We’re figuring out how to make Loomio financially self-sufficient, without resorting to pushing ads on people, selling user data, or other unfortunate business models that so many online tools use. Up to now, we’ve gotten money via donations, loans, and the team doing some consulting around collaboration/engagement - but these are not sustainable and scalable solutions. We’re committed to keeping Loomio free for noncommercial use for all the community groups, social movements, and other people using it to do great things in the world.

Right now we’re writing lots of grant applications and talking to social impact foundations who support tech-for-good projects like ours, so we can find some bridging funds to keep going while we figure out the business model. The funding landscape for social enterprise isn’t as developed as capital for nonprofits or for-profit companies, but we’re committed to pioneering in this space because we think that should change.

We’re finding out more about the many companies, government departments, and other formal organisations using Loomio in their work. Over the next couple of weeks we’re going to try out some ways of making it easy for “commercial” groups like these to pay a modest per-user subscription for using Loomio. We don’t want this to come as a shock, so we’re hosting this conversation with the community now.

If you’re part of a group that is using Loomio and would like to pay for it, we’d love to hear from you. Also, if you have any questions or suggestions about our revenue model, this is the place to share. Transparency and community input is incredibly important to us, and we deeply believe that the answers to complex questions like this are best discovered by listening to all the voices.

Here are some questions for you:

  • How do you think Loomio should go about charging some users to use the software so others can use it for free?
  • How can we communicate this commercial/non-commercial differentiation so that users can self-select effectively, and both types feel welcome and appreciated?
  • Do you have any brilliant ideas about revenue models for Loomio? How would you go about making the project financially sustainable in a way that’s consistent with our values?
BH

Bevan Harrington Tue 14 Oct 2014

Pay As You Feel or Pay As You Can

Maybe Loomio could trial a 'pay as you feel or pay as you can' model for commercial and non commercial groups alike. This model includes free and also has an unlimited cap on potential income.

Case studies / user stories could be used as 'inspiration' to act as a guide to payment levels and the mindset being cultivated.

This social proof creates a multi dimensional culture of positive feedback and would highlight the experiences people have had around Loomio and how they have been motivated to support the project and how that has impacted their lives / understanding in positive ways.

Low budget members could be especially encouraged to share the platform with others etc. This system would also provide valuable metrics around who can pay what in various sectors. The other benefit is that when extra funding is needed you can have a campaign to raise funds from existing members to increase participation, this could be a one off extra donation or an increase in monthly commitment.

​Cheers,
Bevan

JB

Jacob Bloom Tue 14 Oct 2014

I really like pay as you feel pay as you can, with explanations of what that donation pays for and where it is going, and possibly even with transparent budgeting. Subscriptions and regular donations a dollar a month are key.
Also just from other experiences subscribing members tend to get more benefits, and I was thinking those could be training's/conference calls on how to use loomio and get everybody in your group engaged, or by linking up with other subscription based project management platforms.

J

Joum Wed 15 Oct 2014

Keep reminding us. Our group Senator Online, (which is changing its name to Digital Direct Democracy or Online Direct Democracy) has no funds. We are all volunteers and we do not have any bank account let alone money in one.

But eventually we will and we would be happy to contribute. And if things get tight for loomio then let us know and pass the hat around. I love what you do and I gladly contributed to your funding, even though I am not on big money.

Thanks so much loomio. This is a great place because it has the heart of the people who create it.

J

Joum Wed 15 Oct 2014

Sorry, I forgot the main topic. Long term, charge the people who use this in the process of their paid job. Just ask the people who use loomio (for a role that is paid) to give something. You could make it a voluntary amount in the beginning.

RDB

Richard D. Bartlett Wed 15 Oct 2014

Yep we're certainly excited about the 'pay what you can' model, and I'm sure it will form an integral part of our income in future. We've tried it out in the past, but we didn't do a great job of the messaging, and we found it really confused the commercial users.

The rationale behind this group subscription model is that commercial users want a clear, straightforward, consistent answer to "how much does it cost?" We're going to try to provide a simple answer to that question.

In the longer term, we'd like to work on a community-driven gift economy model for noncommercial users who want to support the project. This is just the first step :)

G

Gray Wed 15 Oct 2014

Challenge being faced by many Socents. Almost by definition, Socents develop with sig underfunding, often with clients with limited capacity to contribute financially.

[If this wasn't the case, there probably already would be a commercial prod/service]

Long term need to develop more innovative sustainable business models for socents.

  • Also perhaps need Exchange for connecting cash & complementary currency economic models.

eg. Christchurch City Council looking at ways to intro community currency. eg. to swap social contributions for abatement on rates etc. [Participatory Citizenship!]

  • Enable easier use of instant electronic cash exchange.

  • regular payroll gifting (via Xero etc)

  • commodify 'likes' to break the $/hr association.

  • aggregated micro-gifting

  • enable bitcoin payments

a few ideas.....

J

Joum Wed 15 Oct 2014

G

Gray Wed 15 Oct 2014

Sorry, twitter speak. #socent is commonly used hashtag on twitter for these type of discussions. Apologies for obfuscation.

P.S. Not an abbreviation for [Tolkien] Sociopathic Ent's ʕ•ᴥ•ʔ

M

Mitar Thu 16 Oct 2014

What about linking money with trolling? If you are trolling in discussions (as decided by the rest of the community), you have to pay for participation.

Alternatively, you could also be paying if you are too often in opposition to what majority of the community wants. If you want to stay in opposition, pay. Otherwise learn to compromise.

G

Gray Thu 16 Oct 2014

Dissenters are an extremely valuable, if not necessary, part of any community. So long as dissent does not become toxic or deliberately harmful/destructive, it has its place in the ecosystem.

Interesting things happen out on the edge of chaos. One of the reasons why the Block option exists. Something which should be used very sparingly though. Small amount goes a long way.

SC

Steve Coffman Thu 16 Oct 2014

How about organizing a periodic fundraising "Pledge to Loomio" campaign...like public radio does in the US? Develop a budget for the next 6 or 12 months. Set a fixed window of time for the campaign, 3 to 4 weeks.
Have a progress indicator unobtrusively off to the side of each page to show timing and funds raised to date.
Pledges can be a one time or monthly donation option.
Somewhere explain what the funds will be directed towards (someone else mentioned transparency).
Not a hard sell situation. Make it fun. Offer rewards for certain donation levels (a Loomio t-shirt or coffee mug for $35 to $50)....or whatever. Be creative!
In some way show/describe the benefit Loomio has/is offering to its users around the world (who's using it, how, for what purpose, and where). Express the feeling sense of a Global Loomio Community working together towards developing a better world...."As together we choose...together it will be".
Describe your vision for the future of Loomio. Generate buy in for the vision.
Explain that the campaign is to keep the Loomio platform free of advertising, user data mining, etc.
Maybe crowd source the campaign...like you're kind of doing already. Delegate...spread the work around to reduce burnout. Ask for donations for the rewards from your users.

All the best...I love what you are doing...and would/will definitely donate.

G

Gray Thu 16 Oct 2014

I'd love to believe that this was possible. The concern is donor fatigue, especially as crowd-funding moves beyond the novelty phase.

The other aspect is staff time & commitment. Talking yesterday to an association which is on the brink because the sheer effort, time/energy of routine external funding apps etc. was eating up too much staff time. Meant they were not able to deliver core services effectively.

Perhaps there is also a psychological element of wishing to believe an idea is economically viable & truly sustainable. Always living on a 'handout' isn't a terribly life-affirming situation. Having someone committing to 'buy' your product feels much more definitive.

An oft repeated line at Startup Weekends is that if it is a great idea but doesn't make any money, it must be a Social Enterprise. We need to be able to change that mindset !

M

Mitar Thu 16 Oct 2014

Or just use Gittip/Gratipay: https://gratipay.com/

G

Gray Thu 16 Oct 2014

Looks very similar idea to the NZ site, Givealittle.
http://fundraise.givealittle.co.nz/

JL

Jessica Lee Thu 16 Oct 2014

Hi, I run a crowd-action app called HandStack that deals with the similar nature of things regarding pricing. We're thinking we'd be free for individuals and grassroots groups, and start charging nonprofits, political campaigns, universities, and religious groups by per volunteer per month. We might do a flat fee for a certain # of volunteers and apply a per volunteer per month fee beyond the flat fee. We're also in the midst of figuring this out, so let's brainstorm together..

AI

Alanna Irving Thu 16 Oct 2014

We really appreciate everyone who donated to the crowdfunding campaign, and it was amazing to raise some money that way and be able to keep going this year. But it's not a sustainable model - looking at the amount of time and effort we put into the campaign, it was borderline if it was financially advantageous (it was definitely worth doing to raise our international profile, get in the media, make new connections, and engage our community, but you can't repeat that every year). Considering the market value of the programmers and consultants we have working on Loomio, it might have resulted in more money to just have them work other jobs to give back funds to Loomio (some cooperative members are doing that right now). But we don't want that - we want to work on Loomio!

One of the main reasons we decided to be a social enterprise instead of a non-profit or a loosely defined open source project is about scale - in order to really have positive social impact, we need to scale way up and make Loomio available to millions of people. To accomplish that, we can't keep going back for donations forever, unless we find a scalable way to do that.

Here's a great talk by Sue Gardner about the issue of scalability for social impact projects - there's capital out there to rocket amoral profit-driven ventures to scale, but not for mission-driven ones. This is an issue for all of us in society... we need to find a way to support validated social enterprises to scale, if we want to scale their positive impact. It's very interesting that this talk is by Sue, since she was the executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation, and Wikipedia is perhaps the example of an open collaboration project that has managed to reach scale and massive impact through a donation model. But we need to find a way to support dozens more Wikipedias - it can't be the only one, or we all miss out.

M

Mitar Thu 16 Oct 2014

I like Gratipay because it makes regular donations really easy. One click and it is done. I haven't seen something so simple. And you then can really do small amounts, but they then pile together. One hackerspace here in Oakland for example receives donations in this way: https://gratipay.com/sudoroom/ $500 per week.

G

Gray Thu 16 Oct 2014

So question, then. What are the barriers to Loomio marketing itself as an app for Android/iOS with the usual minimal (scaled to volume) payment?

Freemium model of limited users on free trial then more open/functionality on payment. If team members sign up individually, paying a few dollars (or equiv), shouldn't be too much of a barrier to participation?

Especially if follow-through on pending collaboration with the likes of airesis etc to add value with range of diverse toolbelt functionality.

SC

Steve Coffman Fri 17 Oct 2014

Wikipedia has in the past posted a fundraising appeal by Jimmy Wales in a banner ad at the header of their webpage. Seems like setting up a similar ad for Loomio would be relatively simple. Could be an annual appeal that lasts a month or so.

G

Gray Fri 17 Oct 2014

"What if swiping your card on a food purchase also meant solving a social problem in Tonga or Timaru? Ever heard of the “double bottom line?” Welcome to the new world – a lateral way of viewing enterprise, humanity and everything in between."

Just received some promo material from the fine folks at Flint & Steel Magazine, launching Vol 2. Haven't read in detail yet, but sounds like it may have some connection to this topic?

http://flintandsteelmag.com/
http://www.maxim.org.nz/

M

Mitar Fri 17 Oct 2014

What about non-monetary sustainability through solidarity economy? Developers do not need directly money, but housing, food, and other things.

AI

Alanna Irving Fri 17 Oct 2014

Some stats about Wikipedia: in fiscal 2013-14, 2.5 million people donated $37 million (avg $14.80/person). Only 3% of Wikipedia users donate. Wikipedia has famously relentlessly optimised its banners and donation methods, requiring a decent investment of resources in itself.

If Loomio could achieve the same results as their wildly successful and highly optimised campaigns the first time we try banners asking for donations (and running the campaign cost us nothing), using the most generous statistics (total registered users, as opposed to active) we would bring in... $20,000. I mean, we would love to get $20,000, but that's not a sustainable solution.

Maybe someday when we have 100x as many users, that model could make sense. But how do you scale to that level without resources in the first place? I'm not knocking donations. In essence, since we'll always offer the core tool for free to those who can't pay, any payment will be a donation. But I think a fully through through SaaS revenue model that gives generous free access when needed is a very different concept than banner adds at the top asking for donations.

I'm not trying to shut down any lines of inquiry here, I'm just sharing some of the realities of the effects of scale.

AI

Alanna Irving Fri 17 Oct 2014

Interesting @mitar - maybe we could explore the idea of a membership model further. As a community-driven project, thinking of users as "members" more than "customers" might make sense.

M

Mitar Fri 17 Oct 2014

I talked with some people interested in cooperatives, but with an interesting twist idea: that you combine worker and consumer cooperative: that buyers of your product are also "shareholders" or members and they also have a say in how you do that.

Maybe we could explore similar idea. At the end it is also a governance question: who makes decisions.

J

Joum Fri 17 Oct 2014

Another idea/suggestion.

Everyone can afford to pay something. If all new users get a free trial period after which they must pay a voluntary amount.

Comercial users are another matter. Those who use loomio for their paid work should contribute more but I imagine some of these people would use it for personal reasons too. If you put a price to host business zones it might discourage the business, unless perhaps they paid per member. But then how would they invite people from outside. Give them the ability to have short term guests? Starts to become more and more complex.

G

Gray Fri 17 Oct 2014

Perhaps commercial clients can have a coy branded version embedded into their existing office software systems. (With a discreet "Powered by Loomio" link)

Also, trending in Market Research is creation of brand orientated, online focus communities. Loomio could be a way to stage aspects of those conversations with committed brand loyal customers.

MR

Mads Ringblom Fri 17 Oct 2014

What about offering you'r expertise in online group decisions for companies that wan't an online collaborative space.
You could offer to install an instance of loomio, style it and deliver advice on how best to use the software to achieve great decisions-making between meetings.

Advice on how the organization get the best workflows, how they avoid death by mail-thread and so on.

Maybe combined with voluntary donations to create new functionality (What if you had a "make it happen" button on you trello list)

VM

vivien maidaborn Fri 17 Oct 2014

It is wonderful watching along in the conversation, both. Ideas for the wider activist and open source user community and also now reaching more into commercial users of Loomio. So many of the ideas are things we have thought of so it feels very reassuring and like we are on track with what we are thinking, but also challenges us to keep looking listening and creating new pathways. For commercial use I would be interested to hear what payment mechanisms people like the most when you do pay for software use, especially if you have an experience of that as part of a group? Some of the things we are interesting in are

  1. License fee based on small large or huge group categories
  2. License fee based on specific number of users
  3. Perhaps based on level of activity
  4. Or maybe more based on additional features like has been suggested, branding, customised feature set etc.
AW

Aaron Wolf Fri 17 Oct 2014

Hi, I should have gotten involved with Loomio long ago, but I'd been putting it off.

I'm co-founder of Snowdrift.coop — a site not yet operating but working specifically to address the precise issue of long-term sustainable funding for Free/Libre/Open projects. We have developed practical solutions to coordinate all the community of supporters to help projects like Loomio.

We want Loomio to join us as a project as soon as we get launched, which we hope to do by early 2015.

It's too much to get into here, but at https://snowdrift.coop we have discussed all the relevant issues and how our system will address them while running the whole platform as a multi-stakeholder cooperative.

I should add that I have thoughts about all the complex things everyone's discussing here, but it's a little hard to get into all at once. I really strongly discourage the use of commercial restrictions! It does not serve the Loomio community to exclude a business that may not have the resources to pay much just because they happen to be involved in commerce. It's much better to encourage both use and funding contributions. Of course, it makes sense to charge for personal service or for hosting expenses or custom features etc.

I really think the best answer is that we need to partner and keep working to get Snowdrift.coop going and then use it to fund Loomio.

Cheers,
Aaron

G

Gray Fri 17 Oct 2014

@vivienmaidaborn A few thoughts on factors affecting willingness to pay.

  1. Uniqueness. If there are 20 others which do more/less the same, will just grab cheapest (free).

  2. Fit of solution to problem. If yours is the one that does exactly what I want in a way no other does, much more prepared to pay for that.

eg. I pay for one service which I absolutely detest in every way (Meetup, shhuush!) Terrible service/UI/UE but only product that does what it does at affordable level. But I badmouth it at every opportunity!!

  1. Scale of problem solved. If your solution solves a major issue & does it well, hell yeah I'll pay. Minor problem/annoyance, not so much.

  2. Connectivity/Access/responsiveness. Huge bonus if I can connect with 'real' people in solving issues (with product usability etc).

Makes the connection/shared story much more personal. Bit like CSA (community supported agriculture) Will pay more than it's worth, just to help keep them going. (Commodifying 'Likes')

  1. Structural issues matter eg. ease of payment system, no cascades of spam emails, language, upgrades etc.

eg. Really impressed with websites with unobtrusive 'Live Chat' "Anything we can help you with there, Sir/Madam?"

  1. Trend towards min monthly charges (discount for longer) eases pain of payment & allows matching of cost to periods of peak use.

  2. Data migration. A new one as data becomes more shareable. How easy can I get my data (eg transcripts) out, either for archival use or migration to other platforms.

  3. Community. Nice when product helps create a sense of community.

SC

Steve Coffman Sat 18 Oct 2014

@alanna Does Loomio have a projected budget for the next financial cycle? Are you comfortable putting out a ($) number that you would like to raise? It might help give some sense of what Loomio is working towards.

M

Mitar Sat 18 Oct 2014

One story from my experience, working on one community-oriented project. We are offering free Internet to everybody as a community wireless network and community participates by sharing their Internet bandwidth and donating to the project to grow. Many people asked me why we don't make a business model where we would involve money at different aspects of it: people who are using the network would pay, people who are sharing Internet would get a share, network as whole would get income. That this would increase our market share and we would be able to spread further.

But what they are forgetting is that our 1% market share would not grow to the 30%, but it would be replaced by it. People who are currently contributing would go away, and other people would replace them, because values would be different.

I prefer to have only 1% market share with community who does not operate on money and even if we don't have income keeps the project running, instead of having a 30% market share and then immediately when we would have income issues people would leave because they would not be getting their share anymore.

So the question is what kind of community you would like to build. A paying community which also expects a lot and immediately stops paying if there are any issues, or a community which is more tolerant, because they feel as part of the project, just in a different role.

M

Mitar Sat 18 Oct 2014

Should we contact Michel Bauwens, he is researching this questions for a long time now.

ST

Stacco Troncoso Sat 18 Oct 2014

Hi @mitar I work with Michel at the P2P Foundation and we'r e very interested in the possibility of Loomio/Enspiral being a pilot project for Commons Based Reciprocity Licenses. The Licenses are a means to and end, however, and that end is an ethical entrepreneurial coalition that is self sustaining. http://blog.p2pfoundation.net/a-short-video-on-commons-based-reciprocity-licenses/2014/09/21

ST

Stacco Troncoso Sat 18 Oct 2014

Another idea would be to have Loomio be a member of Fair.coop cc @enric2

http://www.shareable.net/blog/faircoop-using-cryptocurrency-to-bring-economic-justice-to-the-world

PF

Paul Fenwick Sun 19 Oct 2014

  1. This is brainstorming.
  2. I haven't read all the comments above. This makes me a terrible person. :)

A common revenue model I've seen for free software (and supporters of free software) is to have paid and supported turn-key solutions for private servers. If someone wants to run Loomio inside their business, then rather than having to maintain their own install, they can get one from Loomio. That may be on cloud-provided systems that Loomio provides, or on target machines of the client's choice. Github does exactly this with Github Enterprise ( https://enterprise.github.com/ ), and travis-ci is looking at doing the same.

I would suggest that Loomio becomes "free for public projects, paid for private ones" (which is very common in the FOSS-supporting space), but I don't think that fits Loomio's goals. However having paid plans for closed, commercial use feels like it's fine.

Paid customisations that mostly target businesses but otherwise don't affect core functionality are also a potential revenue source. The most obvious of these is domain name customisation; it's not hard to have someone pay a subscription to have their discussions under your-voice.well-established-business.com rather than on the loomio.org domain.

ST

Simon Tegg Sun 19 Oct 2014

@staccotroncoso I'll be in touch.

T

Tekarihoken Sun 19 Oct 2014

I have seen a presentation about Open Value Network from Sensorica. And I think that this view fit very well to Loomio since it do not produce value directly but help people to produce value.

However if you are using crowdfunding or something like that please let the possibility to European people to pay in euros in order to avoid changing fees.

BK

Benjamin Knight Sun 19 Oct 2014

So much great thinking in this discussion! It's really heartening to know that there are so many people engaged in the same challenge as us - figuring out how to align sustainability and scale with building a public good.

I really like Quinn Norton's commentary on the controversy around Ello, which I think has some relevance here. She's articulating the compromised situation that taking traditional venture capital puts startups in, regardless of how good their intent might be in the beginning. This really drives home the importance of Loomio being able to fund itself properly, to maintain independence and stay aligned with the interests of the people using it, and to scale the social purpose.

ST

Simon Tegg Mon 20 Oct 2014

My 2c.As @staccotroncoso mentions, I think commons-based reciprocity licenses try to get to the heart of the issue. I'm unsure how far away they are from succeeding though, and whether this will work for loomio in the short to medium term.
Currently, we can imagine a conversation with a prospective paying loomio client going something like this:

prospect: "I'm confused I can sign-up and use the hosted service for free but you're telling loomio costs how much per month"

loomio rep: " yes, loomio is open-source software, many groups use the service for free. We're asking your group to pay. Your payment helps keep the tool free for social good groups"

prospect: "oh, so Loomio is a charitable organisation? Give me the charity number so we can get a tax write-off"

loomio rep: "err..not exactly"

A CBRL would allow the the loomio to rep to say with confidence: "Yes, (as it says here on our license) [groups of status x] pay for the software (unless you contribute to the code)."
Of course, the tricky thing is deciding what makes a "group of status x". In the CBRL framework "commons oriented/mission-driven" groups use the software for free (but can donate) and others pay unless they contribute to the code. I can think of lots of edge-cases, and look forward the p2p foundation's work in this area.

cc @chelsearobinson, @vivienmaidaborn, @richarddbartlett

AI

Alanna Irving Mon 20 Oct 2014

You can have the most perfect license in the world to make sure funds are handled properly once they arrive, but if people aren't pouring money into the system in the first place it doesn't much matter.

I find the discussion of licenses interesting, but I feel like it's kind of answering a tangential question. I actually think Loomio has a pretty robust, fair structure set up already, with the software under AGPL3 and the company incorporated as a worker-owned cooperative with a constitution that puts the social mission first. The worker-owners, the board, and everyone with core decision-making stakeholding will always consider the business model in service to the social mission, and in service to our community of users, not the other way around.

The question on my mind isn't "how do we set up the right structure and license?", it's "since we've got a pretty good structure and license, how should we go about asking people for money to resource scaling?" I don't think that having a better commons-based reciprocity license is going to make people magically throw money at us - we'll actually have to experiment with revenue models and see what works.

AW

Aaron Wolf Mon 20 Oct 2014

+1 to Alanna's comment with one qualification: I don't think the commons-based reciprocity license is better at all. I think it's a silly naive idea that completely misunderstands the situation with AGPL. AGPLv3 is a perfectly fine license that does not in any sense make it likely for Loomio's code to be exploited by evil capitalists. It's the right license, and whatever is imperfect about it, the commons-based reciprocity license is not a better solution.

The commons-based reciprocity license is grasping for a simple rule-based solution to a problem that is not a license problem. The problem is the one everyone is discussing here: how to have sustainable funding with commons-based projects. There's no risk of capital exploitation in the case of Loomio, and the vast majority of all capitalist exploitation of Free/Libre/Open software is done with permissive (aka push-over) licenses like MIT. The GPL family and AGPL in particular does a perfectly fine job of protecting the resource for the commons.

The commons-based reciprocity license idea is unlikely to achieve anything useful and will only cause problems due to incompatibility with the existing commons.

M

Mitar Mon 20 Oct 2014

I don't think that a solution can be done just by Loomio, but only by wider movement. That's the problem. The current mainstream way of financing and funding has so many things: it is default for many, it is though in school, it has institutional support (banks, legal frameworks, lawyers understand it, incubators, etc.). No organism/system can survive on its own and the question is how to bootstrap an alternative. It is not by licenses, but by simple things. Sometimes just by having an one-click micro-donation button readily available. Sometimes by education: teaching why is important to donate. But mostly by getting friendly organizations to use Loomio, and getting some value of it, and then Loomio use something from those friendly organizations.

So instead of focusing on getting money from people outside the community, and being free for the community, maybe it should not be free for the community, and we should just ignore and not event spend energy on people outside. But that "not free" does not mean just paying in money, but also paying in some other forms.

Maybe an alternative currency is in place.

AW

Aaron Wolf Mon 20 Oct 2014

There's still value in this perspective: http://questioncopyright.org/how_to_free_your_work

Even though that's not software-focused.

ST

Simon Tegg Mon 20 Oct 2014

@wolftune I think we're talking past each other.
I also think AGPL does a fine job of protecting the commons from exploitation. If by that you mean keeping control of the software in the commons and facilitating open-source contributions to the source code.

What it doesn't seem to do very well is facilitating those who can afford to pay for the software to do so as I outlined in my hypothetical sales example.

@alanna I don't view the CBRL as addressing structural problems, I see it as addressing sales problems. I also don't hold the question: "how do we set up the right structure..", and I'm fine with Loomio's structure and I don't see it as an impediment. The last paragraph in my last comment was highlighting a difficulty of categorising organisations into paying and not paying, something @vivienmaidaborn's comment hit on up thread. And something further developments of CBRL will have to address.

I don't think the intention of the CBRL is to "make sure funds are handled properly once they arrive" (?) but in fact to "[get more people] pouring money into the system". Nor do I think that it will "magically make people throw money at us". All I'm suggesting is it could make sales easier (I don't mean structurally easier, I mean conversationally easier). Interested to hear from someone who has tried to sell a subscription to loomio (or another FLOSS project) whether or not the fact that its freely available to whoever signs up, makes some organisations who can pay for it reluctant to do so.

In any case a good CBRL doesn't exist yet. But that doesn't mean licenses that designed for a different problem (allowing developers who work for big corporates to share code) will always be appropriate for the current problem (helping FLOSS businesses build a sustainable business model).

DU

[deactivated account] Mon 20 Oct 2014

  • keep Loomio simple and free to let community grow fast;
  • make some charged plugins*;
  • if you get popular enough, some organisations will want customization for their own purpose: sell them customization*;

*market study strongly adviced for charged services, to know what to develop or who to target

JL

Jessica Lee Mon 20 Oct 2014

I like Benjamin Knight's link.. As a fellow community organizing startup (Benefit corporation) I have done the revenue calculation and it is easy for a company to survive & THRIVE if they can just charge $3 user/mo.

But there needs to be a bigger shift in users' perspective that they won't have to pay for what they use online.. and that is something that will take more than just a company.

MAYBE there could be an alliance of startups that charge users and promise not to ever sell user data. My startup would be glad to be one!

AW

Aaron Wolf Mon 20 Oct 2014

@simontegg I see your point that you want to draw capital resources into the commons rather than merely discriminate against capital. Fine.

So, with the CBRL idea, you say: "if you aren't contributing back value, you aren't allowed to even run this software / read this text". I guess I understand that it's theoretically possible that lots of capitalist organizations decide to host their own copies of Loomio, but I'm not sure how likely that is nor whether the CBRL would simply push them into using proprietary competitors versus paying Loomio. I guess that would indeed be a matter of real-world trials.

But I think Loomio's success is more threatened by direct competition from well-funded proprietary platforms that do similar things than by the vague idea of capitalists getting to freeride as Loomio users. Without the CBRL idea, Loomio can already choose to require fees for certain types of entities to use the loomio.org hosted site, so it's just about those capitalists bold enough to host their own copy of Loomio (even if we offer reasonable fees to use the main site). Stopping those capitalists specifically might just lead them to using the proprietary competition instead, and it serves the interests of the commons to put proprietary software projects out of business. For example, the more corporations that use GNU/Linux (even if they don't help contribute to its development), the worse for the strongest monopolists in the operating system field (Apple and Microsoft). It's a good thing for the commons to hurt Apple and Microsoft's businesses (and without helping any other proprietary operating system even!).

The main problem with CBRL idea is incompatibility. That's already the biggest problem the the CC NC clause. Severing the commons into little incompatible boxes is the worst thing we can do for the commons. If we want anything like copyleft at all, the number one priority is to all stick to the same compatible copyleft licenses, and that means AGPL today.

ST

Simon Tegg Mon 20 Oct 2014

I'm seeing the CBRL idea more as a 'conversation piece' during sales for both the hosted site and for host-it-yourself (which will become a lot easier once the docker file is ready), and less of a hard restriction on who can download it (which is unenforceable anyway).

Perhaps it is possible to have a CBRL compatible with copyleft licenses?

All my stuff is AGPL BTW:)

AW

Aaron Wolf Mon 20 Oct 2014

The CBR (drop the L) idea is perfectly fine as a concept for a differentiated fee structure for a rivalrous service! Loomio could perfectly well say, "the code is available under AGPLv3, and the website offers pay-as-you-can service to everyone who themselves contributes to the commons actively while charging a stricter fee for capitalist businesses who want to use the site's services without substantial contributions in some form"

Or something like that. Make the fees reasonable, and businesses will be happy that they don't have to handle hosting and support and all. That's fully AGPL compatible practice.

There is no possible way a CBRL as a software license can be compatible with AGPL, so promoting such a license necessarily promotes a rift in the commons.

CR

Chelsea Robinson Mon 20 Oct 2014

Hi everyone! I think all this commentary is valuable as it builds a wider picture for us. Forgive me for not having much insight into licenses but I tend to agree with Alanna that a lisence won't change how much many people say "yes I'll help you this month and every month after that!"

Lets look at personal experience --

I'd love to re-invite the question - are any of you involved in a commercial venture or large organisation which uses loomio, and from that experience what ideas might you have about how to clarify a payment model whilst still doing so in a values aligned way?

We've heard ideas about subscriptions, pay what you can, creating extra value like building "loomio pro" with extra

features e.g. data migration is a big one for users even now. Of these examples that have been shared (and those yet to be shared), which ways feel practical and inspiring?

ST

Simon Tegg Mon 20 Oct 2014

@wolftune I agree with everything in your first paragraph. Its just the nitty gritty of distinguishing the two paying and non-paying groups

I'm also thinking of when the loomio docker file becomes available. If for-profit businesses perceive a self-hosted loomio to be more valuable than cloud-hosted (for data privacy reasons), and this option is easy, and free, then I don't think I'm going out on a limb to suggest that the increased availability of this option might draw potentially paying customers away from a paid cloud-hosted service.

@chelsearobinson I don't imagine a discussion of licenses have come up in sales conversations. We're really all talking about the social norm of pay-what-you-can, and the best ways to promote that norm.

What I think comes up in sales conversations is the tension between a scarcity paradigm -"I'm paying for this because its scarce" and a pay-what-you-can "I'm paying for this because a believe in supporting the social mission". I'm pitching a CBRL as an 'anchor point' for the social norm of pay-what-yo-can and a 'way point' for clients passing between these two. "License fee" is one way of "clarify[ing] a payment model".

@wolftune I'm keen to learn more about the compatibility issues. That's somewhat off-topic so we can take this email if you'd like [simon] [at] [enspiral.com].

CR

Chelsea Robinson Mon 20 Oct 2014

Yup @simontegg I totally hear you around finding a way to normalise a license fee. My comment was merely to stimulate more discussion from other people who may be watching this thread but not weighing in due to how technical I felt it was getting. Loving the way you are thinking, but keen to weave other threads! ;)

B

Billy Tue 21 Oct 2014

Hi. Been out of the Loomio-loop for a good long while, so hopefully these comments are not too obvious.

There are two types of answer to give to the original question; a general philosophical debate about SocEnt financing, and a pragmatic one for the specific case of Loomio. Answering the former would be nice, but answering the latter seems more relevant - what sustainable means varies with each specific case or instance.

So, pragmatically: how much do you need to make each month to be sustainable? What is the current user base? What is the current "commercial" user base. What is the projected growth of the user base, both commercial and non-commercial users? What is the projected growth of costs to be sustainable as Loomio scales?

If you can answer these you can work out what you need to charge and if that will fly.

In one sense sales is about highlighting the perception of value. Is Loomio adding real value to these commercial user groups? If so, talking with them will highlight how much that value is to them (eg how many hours of meetings are avoided per annum, plus better decisions made = time and money resources saved; or some other metric; do you have any measures like this?) When this is highlighted in the sales process it affects the willingness to pay and how reasonable the charge appears. (Do you have the capacity to talk to each major "commercial" user - is there an actual "Sales" role at Loomio currently? - and find out what the value is for them? Can this be automated via a questionnaire or something?)

Can some money be generated via targeting big "commercial" users to pay, some via pay as you like for all other orgs, plus some but not all from grants etc? What proportion of each becomes a sustainable model? etc.

DG

Daniel Goldman Tue 21 Oct 2014

At the two ends of pricing and sustainability are need/cost based pricing (how much does Loomio need to survive, perhaps even grow), and value based pricing (what is the value delivered by Loomio).

The enterprises that flourish usually have value based pricing, and a focus on upping the value while managing costs.

At almost any scale, opt-in payment schemes tend to leave groups underfunded for survival let alone growth. Alanna's analysis of Wikipedia was sobering. Wealthy parties like to pay nothing just like poor parties, and they are rarely generous without some acknowledgement, status or perk. Most of us are hit up to fund campaigns several times a day and are burned out.

The answers the Billy's questions will really help focus suggestions. If there are enough groups using it to support Loomio for just $10/month per group it's a very different picture from needing $100+/month per group.

Is there a minimum price, perhaps after a free trial, below which the group is basically saying there is no real value to Loomio and if you charge anything they would just go elsewhere for free?

Along those lines, for 'non-commercial use' the groups could be sponsored by someone in (or outside) the group through an opt-in, and highlight the people sponsoring the group with levels of sponsorship (bronze, silver, gold....) --- when the group isn't sponsored for a period I'd display "Unsponsored group - would you like to sponsor? (Sponsor)" as a nag screen at the top of the page, with suggested amounts. For commercial use, Basecamp has settled on free trial, then pay. If a commercial group cannot/will not pay, they will likely just use it as a "non-commercial user", which can be ignored for the time being.
The pricing, at a minimum, should be matched against costs and projected growth so Loomio is sustainable within 12 months.
Also to Billy's point -- getting someone to develop and do corporate sales could be a game changer (but those people are usually expensive)

AW

Aaron Wolf Tue 21 Oct 2014

@danielgoldman what do you mean about "Alanna’s analysis of Wikipedia was sobering. Wealthy parties like to pay nothing just like poor parties…"

I'm confused. Alanna was pointing out what I also know to be true: Wikipedia succeeds and thrives financially. Wikipedia isn't a "sobering" example of a problem. Wikipedia is a complete success financially, with an explicit focus on smaller donors because that aligns with their interests. They don't want big corporate donors.

The problem is that Wikipedia is the exception. The problem is that we don't have lots more similar cases.

Sue Gardner, in her talks, emphasizes how important it is to Wikipedia's focus on the general commons that they NOT be funded by the wealthiest parties, as that would inherently skew their focus.

Did I miss something or are you imposing your own interpretations on Alanna's and Sue's points where they were not present originally?

DG

Daniel Goldman Tue 21 Oct 2014

@wolftune - sloppy on my part not putting a break between the two comments - I think I was concurring with Alanna, did I miss her point?

Wikipedia thrives now because it has so many users (over 450 million). They raised about $37 million, or less than $0.10 US per user on the service (~$15 per person who actually donated, which includes some BIG benefactors http://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Benefactors ).

It was sobering to me that Wikipedia get less than $0.10/user, 97% donate nothing, and that's even with a small number of large contributors. Assuming Loomio needed $1M/year, they would need 10,000,000 active users to breakeven.

Alanna's analysis was that Loomio would raise only $20,000 if their campaign was as effective as Wikipedia's AND all registered users on Loomio were active. The point is taking the same approach as Wikipedia, and living on user donations, wouldn't provide sufficient funds for Loomio until Loomio's user base was much larger (50x? 100x?). It is wise to assume Loomio would not be much better at raising donations than Wikimedia.

The point on the wealthy not wanting to pay relates to the 'pay what you can' approach. Their have been some shining examples of short term funding that way (such as Ford's free oil change, where people were asked to donate what they wanted to a charity instead, and ended up donating twice what the oil changes would have cost). But usually people burn out on paying. The hope is the people with more money will continue to pay more because they have more, but in the US at least, they do not. Over time it moves to no one paying.

Pledge drives are different, and are event driven. There is much higher acceptance of that format, which in part depends on the nag and annoyance factor.

AW

Aaron Wolf Tue 21 Oct 2014

@danielgoldman I agree completely. WIkipedia's model is not going to work on smaller scales. I just want to be clear that there is nothing fundamentally wrong with the small percentage of users donating — in the sense that it's never to Wikipedia's benefit to get rid of the non-donors and make them stop using the commons. Non-rivalrous is the term here: it means more people can use it and it doesn't take away from anyone else. No actions should be taken to reduce the userbase!

Now, I completely recognize the fact that the simple Wikipedia donation model fails for almost everyone else. I'm spending my life working on a solution to this precise problem via Snowdrift.coop

DG

Daniel Goldman Tue 21 Oct 2014

@wolftune Agreed - All services based on user generated content, like Wikipedia/YouTube/..., depend on the non-paying users. If it was like free-to-play games used to be, 1-10% would pay, 40% would contribute to the commons, and the rest just use the commons. Part of the equation is the non-paying users on the whole contributing something of value that someone else is paying for (advertisers, donors, businesses...).

Is a similar dynamic for Loomio possible or desirable?

AW

Aaron Wolf Tue 21 Oct 2014

@danielgoldman If you're asking whether Loomio should have a strong community of volunteers who work to make the system better, it seems obviously the answer is yes.

The big, broad vision (the mission of Snowdrift.coop in part) is to get people to stop funding proprietary stuff just as much as to fund FLO projects. If people didn't pay for proprietary stuff or buy extra consumer junk they didn't need but they get manipulated into via all the targetted-ad economy, that's leave more funding for a greater portion of people to fund FLO projects (which are the projects that actually deserve support).

NW

Nicolas Wormser Tue 21 Oct 2014

Another interesting way would be through the Loomio API! I think their would be many ways a Loomio API could help organizations make their own decision-making app, or make a different UI that perfectly fit their website. People might also want to include an embeddable version of Loomio on their websites (by copying some copy/paste-ready html code to their site). All this could be free up to a number of requests per month, then charged per request or according to an appropriate subscription plan.

Also, like @pjf I think tailored solutions for private hosting can be something to consider.

Yet another thought: do you think any group would be willing to pay for facilitation services? Having a good facilitator that is external to the organization could help leading the decision making process. This could also include help on finding the right decision making process for a specific org...

Hope that helps, sorry if the ideas already emerged somewhere else, I've been out of the loop for some time now..

AW

Aaron Wolf Tue 21 Oct 2014

@nicolaswormser Facilitation services are a huge factor! No system and rules will ever replace the value of a real person functioning as facilitator.

I think that's a HUGE opportunity. I see two aspects:

  1. the more Loomio.org has some level of site-wide moderation and other things that provide reliability and security and other help, the more entities will be happy to use Loomio's service instead of self-hosting, and a discriminatory pricing for entities using the site itself (i.e. charge more for for-profit non-cooperative businesses) is compatible with the AGPL license (whereas a different software license is a stupid idea that should be rejected).

  2. Loomio should focus on building a whole SERVICE of really trained facilitators who work on the system specifically and charge a premium rate for dedicated facilitation. That will keep everyone on the site, it will be super-valuable, and it can be part of an expanded system overall.

I think Loomio offering no-charge (but please patronize us on Snowdrift.coop!) alongside a premium integrated facilitation service is the ultimate solution.

CR

Chelsea Robinson Wed 22 Oct 2014

Hi everyone! This is fantastic thinking. Especially around the scale issue and the wikimedia example.

At loomio we do offer facilitator services- thats actually why my name in loomio includes (Loomio Helper). This brings in an average of $10,000 per client (who are typically large organisations in the public or community sector who are unconfident with technology and want to improve their collaboration skills). But the cost of delivering these services makes it difficult to scale. We've used this is tide us over in tough times but ultimately we believe loomio as an online tool creates value for organsiations too, often without help! So we're interested in working out what price point and payment structure might enable those orgs to show us how much they value the tool itself.

Hope that is helpful!

AW

Aaron Wolf Wed 22 Oct 2014

@chelsearobinson

I think the top priority in this direction should be adapting and scaling the facilitation services. Offer training in facilitation specifically using the platform. Have different levels of facilitation certification. Charge or ask for extra donations for people wanting more advanced training. Offer different levels of facilitators at different rates (expert facilitation costs more than student-level facilitation), and recruit facilitators around the world, maybe even connecting to physical facilitation in in-person meetings, but connect it all back to Loomio. Focus on being a platform that gets facilitators PAID, so the platform becomes a space for facilitators to work and organizations to pay for the services, and take a cut for the costs of running and developing the platform. Remember: independent facilitation is valuable, so it's valuable to connect orgs to facilitators who are NOT part of the org otherwise.

I really strongly believe that it is the wrong approach to try to figure out how to just make the system on its own sustainable as this piece of independent technology. That is competing in a super-cluttered market and fighting against the tide of how technology works. The best bet in my biased view is Snowdrift.coop for that side of things.

I think the core of Loomio needs to develop around the interaction of facilitation services and the site. That holds great promise to being an amazingly powerful holistic combination that will both mutually reinforce each other and build the user-base and more.

The best money these days comes from platforms that help real people connect and provide valuable services. All the platforms that just sit there and mostly work on their web development are funded by surveillance and ads and other unethical things.

Loomio as a facilitation platform connecting facilitators and orgs all using the site tools… seriously, this is the way to go. Let me make it personal: Snowdrift.coop doesn't really need Loomio's tools in part because we're building our own, but we intend to govern with facilitated consensus, and we'd TOTALLY use Loomio if it were part of a facilitation system with an actual independent facilitator (assuming we can afford it). I think there's real demand there and it can have many different scales and levels if designed well and marketed well.

AW

Aaron Wolf Wed 22 Oct 2014

One more follow-up thought: I could image building a large community of less-than-expert facilitators and have a pretty modest-price where you share a very modest amount with people who basically are hobbyists who care about facilitation. Give them an option to take no income at all and donate it to the platform entirely. But if they like, they could get a modest fee for their facilitation work. Then all sorts of groups could pay very modest rates or something to facilitate a decision, and you maximize the userbase. The premium level would be more professional facilitators assigned to work longer-term with particular groups…

Imagine companies saying, "hey, I've heard this works great, let's just go try Loomio with a basic facilitator for $50 trial for one simple decision, and see how it goes…"

CR

Chelsea Robinson Wed 22 Oct 2014

Thank you Aaron :) love the energy and vision!

What do others see in this?

VM

vivien maidaborn Wed 22 Oct 2014

awesome discussion:) I couldn't even have imagined our Loomio community would have seen yoursleves as so much a part of solving the sustainability issue even a year ago, so thank you!
I have learnt that our current position of free to public good organisations is still totally right, that a combination of custom, added value services and plugins define the paying territory, and that there is a whole bunch of work going in building a better ecosystem for growing and scaling social impact business some of which we at Loomio will follow up and figure out how we fit in with.

AW

Aaron Wolf Wed 22 Oct 2014

@vivienmaidaborn

To be blunt about my view: I am fundamentally opposed to any of the software being proprietary, i.e. to the artificial restriction of certain features when they have no natural extra cost (artificially blocking them to compel payment). If Loomio builds proprietary software plug-ins, it will no longer qualify to use Snowdrift.coop as our mission is explicitly to help projects that don't put artificial restrictions on things. Development work is scarce and needs funding, and to a degree so does hosting, and service (like facilitation) is absolutely a rivalrous scarce resource. What we're trying to do is work out funding without resorting to artificially locking-down things that are naturally free (as in freedom). I really hope Loomio sticks to AGPL for all the software running the site. I strongly oppose proprietary plugins. Being Open Source also means the potential for volunteers to help with development of course. Don't sacrifice that or take undue advantage of the community's good will by making extra parts of things be proprietary. Thanks.

DG

Daniel Goldman Wed 22 Oct 2014

@aaronwolf Why is snowdrift.coop building its own tools rather than just using Loomio?

Would Snowdrift be willing to trial and pay Loomio for facilitation? It would have to cover a reasonable wage for the facilitator with something left over for Loomio.

AI

Alanna Irving Wed 22 Oct 2014

As @chelsearobinson said, we do a lot of paid consulting and facilitation work for clients (online and offline). But after a few years of experience in this space, and gratefully using the funds we've earned from that work to put back into improving Loomio, we have found that it's ultimately not a scalable long-term solution for us. We can charge enough to cover people's time and put bit back into Loomio, but it's not scalable in the way that a SaaS business model is scalable.

We want millions of people to use Loomio, and we need a revenue model that supports that growth, and grows with that scale. Anything that only scales at the limitations of human hours of intervention (like consulting and facilitation) is not the whole answer.

I think that collaboration and decision-making is key online infrastructure, essential for the future of our society and democracy. I want it to be huge, and I want it to be held in the commons, not owned by proprietary advertising platform companies. I think Loomio can be an important part of that sea change, but to do that we need to dream at that scale.

AW

Aaron Wolf Wed 22 Oct 2014

@danielgoldman Snowdrift.coop started building its own tools before Loomio was fully launched. I have very mixed feelings about it all and have been looking for ways to integrate and to use Loomio. There are advantages to monolithic all-integrated development though. We are focusing right now mostly on things that do not directly overlap with Loomio. We don't want to compete mindlessly. But we also need systems that work with our overall structure, and it's not clear where Loomio will fit in at this time, although I hope to discuss it further.

Snowdrift.coop is a non-profit co-op that is currently not even launched and has no real budget at all. We will be running our own fund-drive to get launched. When we are operating, if we have enough of a budget to hire facilitation through Loomio, we would consider it (the co-op membership would decide, not me directly). At this time, we could not pay for that nor do we really need it immediately. These are long-term considerations.

AW

Aaron Wolf Wed 22 Oct 2014

@alanna SaaS business models are mostly unethical and in direct opposition to the commons. It's not that interesting to talk about how well they scale unless you want to accept or to be oblivious to the fundamental problems. The majority of SaaS businesses are entirely designed around gaining substantial power over the users. I hope you are not promoting that direction or coveting that business-model's success and power.

If you are interested in democracy, as you indicate, then you have to accept that your vision of the typical profitable SaaS website is a fundamentally non-democratic vision that is in direct opposition to the aims of a better commons. If Loomio is to achieve a sustainable income, it can't do it by simply copying the general mechanisms of SaaS without undermining the basic values.

AI

Alanna Irving started a proposal Wed 22 Oct 2014

Temperature Check: some people should pay for using the hosted Loomio software, so those who can't pay can use it for free Closed Mon 27 Oct 2014

This whole discussion is really rich and the different perspectives are super valuable. Thanks again to everyone who is contributing.

The whole question of the business model is complex and multifaceted, and this proposal is not really about deciding what it should be in detail. This is a non-binding temperature check to test the a basic principle: some people should pay for using the hosted Loomio software, so those who can't pay can use it for free.

If there is broad consensus on this principle, let’s make that clear. And if there is disagreement about it, let’s tease out what exactly it hinges on. I want to know how the community feels.

I’m also raising this proposal because I suspect there are many people reading who haven’t found their moment to jump into the long-form discussion. I would love to bring out all the voices. Tell us what you think about this and why.

Agree - 38
Abstain - 2
Disagree - 3
Block - 0
42 people have voted (4%)
RDB

Richard D. Bartlett
Agree
Wed 22 Oct 2014

I like the idea of corporations paying so social movements can use it for free, and we can keep improving the software

AW

Aaron Wolf
Agree
Wed 22 Oct 2014

I think offering the service in a manner that doesn't exclude those without the means to pay is essential. I oppose the creation of hard artificial restrictions. People who can pay should, but it should be on an honor system, a self-determination.

B

Billy
Agree
Wed 22 Oct 2014

if Loomio is providing substantial value to orgs with the ability to repay some portion of the value that they are receiving/saving, which allows for Loomio to continue with its vision, then that seems fine

TM

Tim McNamara
Agree
Wed 22 Oct 2014

It's costly to maintain services. People who are happy to pay should be given the option.

As someone who financially supported the crowd funding campaign, I would be extremely upset if everyone freeloaded off of the community's generosity.

KA

Kylee Astrobox
Agree
Wed 22 Oct 2014

"From each according to their ability, to each according to their need"

NA

Nico Aumar
Agree
Wed 22 Oct 2014

Big actors, those with enough resources, should contribute somehow.

BK

Benjamin Knight
Agree
Wed 22 Oct 2014

This feels like a solid basis for a mission-aligned revenue model.

N

Nanz
Agree
Wed 22 Oct 2014

what rich said

BH

Bevan Harrington
Agree
Wed 22 Oct 2014

Capitalism reflects nature & has value. Charity is humane & essential. Loomio has a great chance to be free of corruption because transparent conversation is its core. By donation only wont guarantee anything being corruption free. Intention is key.

DU

[deactivated account]
Agree
Wed 22 Oct 2014

Loomio is a tool for communities, and its future depends on its users community; remaining free of charge for newcomers is vital to make it grow fast.

DU

[deactivated account]
Agree
Wed 22 Oct 2014

Loomio is a tool for communities, and its future depends on its users community; remaining free of charge for newcomers is vital to make it grow

RN

Rob Nevin
Agree
Wed 22 Oct 2014

I believe if Loomio is used for purposes, where the benefit of the service can even remotely be attributed to the profit or viability of the company, that company should pay. The paves the way for "community" (non-profiting) use. Follow the $.

T

Tekarihoken
Disagree
Wed 22 Oct 2014

According to me the point is not if people can pay for using Loomio or not but how they are using it. If they are making money using Loomio it should be fait to give money back. If it is an NGO it can be different (even if they have a lot of money)

VM

vivien maidaborn
Agree
Thu 23 Oct 2014

There is no doubt that everyone using Loomio will have a chance to contribute, there is also no doubt that some people will pay and others use it freely

JT

Jack Tolley
Agree
Thu 23 Oct 2014

Love it. Sustainability FTW

T

Tekarihoken
Agree
Thu 23 Oct 2014

According to me the point is not if people can pay for using Loomio or not but how they are using it. If they are making money using Loomio it should be fait to give money back. If it is an NGO it can be different (even if they have a lot of money)

CM

Caelan MacIntyre
Disagree
Thu 23 Oct 2014

Please see my reply under this thread.

PJ

Peta Joyce
Agree
Thu 23 Oct 2014

And I support the idea of transparency - make the accounts available to all who are interested. I think there is no 'one way' to pay, for example, I don't currently use Loomio but I support it because I want to contribute to the social good.

MH

Mike Hargreaves
Agree
Fri 24 Oct 2014

In my comment

CM

Caelan MacIntyre
Disagree
Fri 24 Oct 2014

Please see my replies under this thread.

JB

Jason Brown
Agree
Fri 24 Oct 2014

Summary of my post: Give mobile payments a go, i agree with calls for transparency but make it real-time (radical transparency), and don't forget that comms is all when it comes to audience buy-in.

RP

Rakesh Prashar
Agree
Sat 25 Oct 2014

A good idea, details still need to be sorted but its only a Temp Check at the moment.

CM

Claudiu Marginean
Agree
Sun 26 Oct 2014

agree, but the process can be very difficult
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open-source-appropriate_technology

JK

Joop Kiefte (LaPingvino)
Agree
Sun 26 Oct 2014

Maybe there should be a guideline criterium to help people decide if and how much to pay?