[Osmf-talk] The 'Paying People' question

Frederik Ramm frederik at remote.org
Sat Nov 28 15:32:59 UTC 2015


On 11/28/2015 03:23 PM, Harry Wood wrote:
> A lot of people instinctively look at this aspect of the OSMF, and
> surmise that we are dithering. failing to act decisively. failing to
> grow. The number of employees as a success metric

... a metric that we need to fight wherever we encounter it.

The more employees an organisation has, the more power is concentrated
in the hands of the board who are ultimately controlling what the
employees do; the distance between the "small member" and those "higher
up" increases; the power of the members to force board to do something
is curtailed because the small members don't understand the complexity
of the organisation. The board runs its own PR team, and when one member
stands up and says "we should do things differently", the board simply
instructs their employees to run a campaign that persuades members to
vote against that idea.

I've seen that first-hand in a different organisation, where before too
long ex board members became the full-time employed CEOs and so on.

> What about the flipside of this? The benefits of keeping the OSMF
> not-for-profit company as a lean organisation. The risks of starting
> to move much more money around to pay people's salaries.

Pay people to acquire donations to pay for salaries of the people you've
hired ;)

The funny thing is, we discussed this at our board face-to-face meeting,
and we had the same distribution - some very much in favour, some very
much against, little middle ground. Upon closer discussion and
inspection, it turned out that there were "extremist" views on all
sides. Those against employing people - me among them - had the horror
vision sketched above, or were thinking of Wikimedia, fearing that
employing people would be a first step on a slippery slope that would
ultimately lead to paid software developers, paid mappers, and paid
outreach programmes across the world.

The others who were in favour of paid staff had a horror vision of a
board bogged down in everyday operational tasks and unable to look at
the big picture, an organisation that would be easy prey to commercial
interests because we are no match for their level of organisation and

It turns out that if everyone accepts the "horror visions" of the other
side, there's quite an acceptable middle ground to be found. (Of course
there might always be those who would like nothing better than be a
board member of an organisation with 300 paid staff, or those who abhor
paying even a single person, but those are rare.)

In the current board, we agreed to take it slow - to accept that in the
long run we will likely be employing a few people, and to say: Let's
learn how to do this, as an organisation, slowly, let's start with
hiring an administrative assistant for 1-2 days a week and let them do
some of the tasks that currently are either being dropped or being
reluctantly done.

I think we're all aware of the dangers, and as long as we take it slow
and don't let us be blinded by those who say "with a project worth that
much, why don't you have a free-standing office building in Geneva yet",
I think we're safe.


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

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