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Sustainability of FORCE11: Report of the Sustainability Committee
Micah Altman, MIT; Christine Borgman, University of California, Los Angeles; Tim Clark, Massachusetts General Hospital & Harvard Medical School; Daniel Cohen, Library of Congress; Paul Groth, VU University Amsterdam; Stephanie Hagstrom, UCSD; Simon Hodson, CODATA; Maryann Martone, University of California, San Diego; Cameron Neylon, Rutherford Appleton Lab; Daniel O'Donnell, University of Lethbridge; Kaitlin Thaney, Mozilla Foundation.
Table of Contents
Synopsis: The Sustainability Committee met regularly for a period of two months to develop a sustainability plan for FORCE11. The committee discussed the nature of FORCE11, the value proposition of the organization and its principles. FORCE11 most closely resembles a Community of Practice and its main asset is the diversity and size of its membership. Its neutrality with respect to the various stakeholder groups is a key feature. Funding models were considered and weighed against the core principles of FORCE11.
Nature of FORCE11
In order to determine appropriate funding models, we discussed the nature of FORCE11: the type of organization it is , and its value proposition.
We considered various types of organizations, including scholarly societies, trade organizations, advocacy organizations, and communities of practice. Although FORCE11 does not fit easily into any category, it most closely resembles a community of practice, which Etienne Wenger defines as “groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly.” (http://t.co/1TMsb8c2cj). In the case of FORCE11, the community is drawn from across disciplines, but its shared passion and concern is the advancement of scholarly communication.
Given this, we believe that the main value proposition of FORCE11 is its membership. In particular, FORCE11 value can be defined by the diversity of the stakeholder groups it represents and promotes interaction among. This diversity means in turn that sustainability models must encourage continued growth of the membership (our main resource) while maintaining the sense of community and identification between FORCE11 and its existing members. Sustainability plans need to be vetted in light of this imperative: any plans that could affect this relationship adversely need to be considered very carefully before implementation.
Current operating costs
The purpose of the sustainability task force was to consider ways of ensuring the continued operation of FORCE11.
Currently, FORCE11 is sustained primarily from grants. It was launched with a grant from the Sloan Foundation and operates today primarily through support from the Moore Foundation. In addition, FORCE11 has also received in-kind and cash donations from various institutions and corporations, primarily in the U.S. and U.K.
FORCE11 is a registered non-profit corporation. It received its 5013c status in August 2014, and is able to receive and disburse funds on its own behalf and can issue U.S. tax receipts for donations. Its core infrastructure is the community website and its core activities include the FORCE conference (formerly Beyond the PDF) and its various working groups. FORCE11 has one employee, Ms. Stephanie Hagstrom, who is paid on a part-time basis (50% FTE) as General Manager.
An important aspect of FORCE11's relationship with its membership stems from its guiding principles. An early draft of these were proposed by the Executive Committee, but the Sustainability Committee also devoted considerable attention to discussing and refining these principles. Read More….
The task force created a spreadsheet that listed revenue generating activities. Each of these was evaluated against the principles of FORCE11, its feasibility, and potential for revenue. Several were discarded, e.g., selling advertising. Others were potentially viewed as feasible, but required more research and careful consideration before implementation.