- In instances where funding causes teams and projects to need to adapt their structure (e.g. by giving up day jobs, dedicating more time to funded projects than others), receiving short-term funding can lead to long-term dependence.
- Funders who explicitly influence governance structure and decision-making are viewed as intrusive.
- Collective and embedded infrastructure projects are decentralized; they defy structure. As one interviewee put it: “decentralization means trust, which is built over a long time on the basis of personal connections”. If funders demand a higher degree of centralization (in the form of governance), this can harm the community.
- When funders push projects towards creating new, paid management positions, this changes the community dynamic. These positions and the people who fill them will only be trusted to stick around if the funder commits to supporting them in the long term.
- Even though the people who work on digital infrastructure perceive their work as political, the projects themselves often preserve a neutral status. Receiving grants from funders with a strong political position can sow doubt as to the integrity and intentions of even non-aligned grantees.
“There is no good mechanism [to enroll donors] for 1-2 people projects or teams.”
“We have been blamed for funding by [public funder 1] and [public funder 2].”
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Explicitly funding non-technical positions within tech projects can enhance their standing in the eyes of the FOSS community.
Our data on women is scarce, but there are indications that projects with community management and team leadership roles can help to keep women on board. Financially supporting these roles could help tackle the lack of diversity. However, especially for one-person-shops or collectives, this can mean the imposition of a governance structure on the project that the community is not willing to support.
Establishing fellowships within existing projects exhibiting poor inclusivity can temporarily alleviate imbalances, but this unfairly puts the onus of reforming projects’ structure onto the fellows.
Providing examples of good practice for lightweight, result-oriented FOSS project structures can help communicate their benefits and make discussions about governance less dogmatic.
When using adoption as a metric of success, be sure to factor in the necessary support resources.
Be transparent about your demands on future grantees, both during the application process (paperwork, legal status, response time), and during the grant period (reporting, availability, communication).
Be transparent about whether projects can only expect short-term support or more.
Work with your applicants to create a budget that avoids project “bloat” – especially with short-term funding.
Be aware that in some contexts, projects may not credit you because of the political implications of your funding. Trust them to make this choice in your and their best interest.