[Osmf-talk] Community Interest Company

Jonathan Bennett openstreetmap at jonno.cix.co.uk
Tue Aug 18 15:09:05 UTC 2009

While discussion is active, and while it's looking like I won't be able
to attend the AGM in person, I'd like to raise this possibility here.

UK law now allows for Community Interest Companies[1] to be formed,
which are not quite charities, but are asset-locked in the same way as
charities. As the name suggests, the companies have to carry out
activities deemed to be "for the benefit of the community rather than
for the benefit of the owners of the company"[2]. This sounds exactly
like the sort of thing the OSMF does, so should we consider changing it
to a CIC?

The advantages would include a greater level of protection of the
foundation's aims. Although the regulations for CICs don't prevent board
stacking itself, they do make any action of the board which could be
seen as being of benefit to one particular company or group illegal[3].
This means we can still elect a board of skilled, experienced OSMers
safe in the knowledge they can't pull a fast one (or if they do, they
face a date in court).

One possible problem is that CICs cannot carry out "political"
activities[4], which campaigning for release of public data could be
seen as. I've tried wading through the legalese of the regulations to
see if this is the case, and there does seem to be a clause that says
such activities are allowed as long as they're "incidental", but IANAL.

On first impressions it would seem like CIC status was designed
specifically for organisations like OSMF, and that becoming one would be
a good thing. I'd be interested to hear what everyone else --
particularly those standing for election -- think.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Community_interest_company
[2] http://www.cicregulator.gov.uk/index.shtml
[3] http://www.opsi.gov.uk/si/si2005/20051788.htm#4
[4] http://www.opsi.gov.uk/si/si2005/20051788.htm#3

Jonathan (Jonobennett)

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