Open Collective is home to thousands of collaborative communities raising and spending funds transparently, giving us a front-row seat to observe many diverse examples.

Each group is different, and one size does not fit all. But we can say that understanding different options and consciously choosing between them makes for healthier communities.

Here are some examples we've seen across the platform.

Technocracy

Defined as "control by an elite of technical experts", technocracy is the most common form of governance in open source software projects, where a small group of core maintainers make decisions about the project and its resources (sometimes with informal input from the wider community).

Examples: The budget expenditures of Webpack are determined by a small group of the project's core maintainers.

Funding Open Source: How Webpack Reached $400k+/year
Webpack’s Sean Larkin on growing the project’s budget with crowdfunding, sponsorships, grants, partnerships… and pure love.

Individual

Funds are controlled by a single person. When the focus is really centered around an individual, this can be fine. But if there's risk of that person burning out, or not welcoming wider community input, it can be an unhealthy dynamic.

Example: Sindre Sorhus raises money to fund himself as an open source creator, and he decides what to spend it on (which makes sense because the focus of the funding is on him individually).

Bounties

Tasks or goals have attached amounts, and anyone who completes one gets paid its associated bounty fee.

Example: Jhipster has an active bounty program, with 400+ payouts of $100-$500 so far.

JHipster’s Bounty System and how it saved the project.
The back story.

Devolved

Anyone involved in the community can be an admin, and anyone can submit payout requests, which can be approved by any admin. Simply trust the community to make good decisions, without overall coordination.

Example: Secure Scuttlebutt Consortium has 15 self-selected admins who approve expenses.

Enriching commons by practicing with money
For the Secure Scuttlebutt community, it involves money but it’s not about money

Consensus

Use a group decision-making tool like Loomio, or a protocol in a meeting, to make collective decisions about expenditures.

Example: Social.coop expenses are submitted to the group as a Loomio proposal, and are paid only once approved.

Social.coop: A Cooperative Decentralized Social Network
Social.coop is a cooperatively run instance of Mastodon, a decentralized social network based on open protocols and free, open-source…

Delegated

A committee or working group holds responsibility for use of the funds. The power ultimately sits with the wider community (unlike the technocratic model), which can withdraw or change the delegation.

Example: Bushwick Ayuda Mutua has a working group of volunteers who make budget decisions.

“Solidarity Not Charity” in Bushwick, NY
We spoke with Kristen Ablamsky and Fernando Ramos, two local organizers of Bushwick Ayuda Mutua about New York’s community engagement and mutual aid in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

Board/Steering Committee

A structured group with formal responsibility for resource allocation.

Universal Viewer has a steering group of its major sponsors who have donated to the project at a certain level. Open Collective Foundation has a formal governance board with legally fiduciary responsibilities.

Solving open source funding by giving sponsors a seat at the table
How creating a Steering Group became the game-changer for Universal Viewer, propelling this long-running project into a whole new phase.

Contractual

An explicit legal agreement determines how the funds will be used, often defined by the funder (e.g. for a grant).

Example: Digital Infrastructure Research Grants are funded by a consortium of foundations who designed the process for selecting grantees.

Digital Infrastructure Fund
Supporting Global Research to Strengthen Open Source Communities & Tackle InequalityOpen Collective Foundation is excited to support $1.3 million in Digital Infrastructure grants funded by The Ford Foundation, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Open Society Foundations, Omidyar Network, and the Mozilla…

Participatory

A process by which a large number of people can co-create a budget together, often through many individuals allocating dollars or prioritization points to what they think is important.

Example: Cobudget makes an open source tool for participatory budgeting, so of course they use it to set their own budget, too.

Circles/Projects

Different groups are responsible for different parts of the budget, related to their focus area or expertise.

Example: The EHF Community has multiple different projects, each with its own leader who decides how to spend its budget.


This is by no means an exhaustive list!

We've only scratched the surface. A great resource for exploring more governance models is Community Rule.

Play By the Rules, or Create New Ones
We spoke with Nathan Schneider of Community Rule about the importance of more accessible governance practices within online communities.
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Want to share how your Collective makes financial decisions? We'd love to hear about it! Reach out to info@opencollective.com.