[Osmf-talk] Paid Staff

Frederik Ramm frederik at remote.org
Sat Aug 25 19:51:04 UTC 2012


    I think I should maybe clarify my own position regarding paid staff 
at OSMF and give others - candidates or not - the opinion to voice theirs.

1. The effects of paid staff (executive or not)

1a. Board is currently relatively toothless in a do-ocracy like ours; 
some board members have learned this the hard way when they found that 
just because board decides something that doesn't mean it is actually 
done, or done in the way board would have liked it done. Paid staff 
would report to the board and therefore massively increase board's power 
vis-a-vis the project as a whole. This can be good and it can be bad. I 
believe that in some cases in the past years, the fact that our coders 
and admins were *not* employees and therefore able to reject board 
"orders" has actually helped. If we're talking about admin or coding 
staff then good integration with the community will certainly be a big 

1b. The foremost quality of paid staff is that it is paid. You can of 
course pay freelancers for a project but if you think long-term you will 
want to employ people and given them a perspective and a promise. This 
requires money of a different kind than we have now; not the occasional 
donation, but longer-term commitments from donors that allow us to plan 
ahead. This, in turn, means we need to raise funds differently, and 
quite possibly also enter closer relations with certain donors, which 
may come with some strings attached that we will have to weigh 
carefully. Having staff will very likely make us dependent on 
sponsorship, whereas the small budget we have today could easily be 
financed through membership fees and the occasional donation drive. We 
might even have to hire staff tasked with raising funds.

1c. As a follow-on of 1b, the organisation would suddenly have a much 
larger turnover, and the few individuals on the board would essentially 
control who gets all the money. This would requires top-notch 
accountability on the part of the board so that any potential 
allegations of cronyism are nipped in the bud. Board work would for the 
first time directly influence the livelihood of people, and would be 
rightly subject to more scrutiny than it is now.

2. How to decide whether we should have paid staff

2a. decide what we would like to do (or to be done);
2b. determine whether, or how, it can be done by volunteers;
2c. determine the cost and/or potential adverse effect of having it done 
by paid staff;
2d. compare with money and/or capacity to deal with adverse effect available
2e. decide what to buy ;)

I think it is acceptable to hire paid staff if one is clear about the 
scope, and one has carefully weighted the reasons for and against. For 
me, the reasons "against" which I have sketched in 1. weigh heavily and 
would have to be offset by a real, demonstrable gain for the whole project.

The one thing that I think is definitely wrong is to do things the other 
way round: "Let's hire an Executive Director and see where we go from 


Frederik Ramm  ##  eMail frederik at remote.org  ##  N49°00'09" E008°23'33"

More information about the osmf-talk mailing list