Thank you Nick for pushing forward the idea of creating a Karrot co-op!
According to the above discussion, there seem to be five main motivations for creating a Karrot co-op:
- Distribution of responsibility
- Facilitation of decision making
- Meeting legal requirements
- Fostering collaboration
- Reinforcing money flow
I think all of these points are justified and we can tackle them all with the help of a co-op. How the co-op will finally look like depends on how much importance we attach to each of the points. And in this respect, I would like to emphasise the last point, that is, the importance of fundraising. Here is why.
The development of Karrot effectively started about one and a half years ago (even earlier if the yunity era counts in). The result is great, and Karrot is already used by several groups on a day-by-day basis. However, while Karrot is steadily growing, the core team (Tilmann, Janina and Nick) has not grown at all. This is although various attempts have been tried to find new team members (e.g., networking, RGSoC, open days at hackweeks). As a consequence, Janina has to take care of the communications (keeping in touch with the user groups, writing blog posts, social media, etc.) all alone, Tilmann maintains the software all alone and meanwhile even develops new features together with Nick, who in turn can only work part-time for Karrot due to his job at outlandish. Moreover, Tilmann mentioned he will soon need to look for a paid job to be able to pay his health insurance. What I am concerned, in the last 18 months I spent more time away from Karrot than actually working for Karrot. I would have preferred to work for Karrot all the time but I had to earn money elsewhere to pay my rent. I do not know Lars’s situation but I guess it is similar.
For now, it may more or less work out the way it is. However, I suppose we all hope Karrot will get more and more popular until the point when Foodsaving truly goes worldwide. And in my opinion, this is very likely to happen because we can leverage valuable experiences made by foodsharing.de. And when it happens, sooner or later we will no longer be able to meet the needs of the users unless we have some steady money flow. This is one of the lessons learnt by Foodsharing.
Now you might think, okay, right now we are managing without funding, so let us wait until we really need it, we can still talk about it then. I disagree. I think we should approach this issue right now, for two reasons. First, when money is needed, there is no time left to develop a funding concept, to establish a legal entity, to do fundraising, to regulate money distribution. When money is needed, we will be glad to have the whole structure already at our hands. Second, if we do not think about funding right now, we waste a whole lot of resources. For example, Tilmann, Nick and I will have less time for Karrot because we will need to earn money externally - a waste of development time, so to say. Furthermore, at the hackweek in March Janina told us about groups who received grants to kickstart foodsaving in their areas. They considered using Karrot but then decided to have their own tool developed instead. If they had “invested” that grant in Karrot, they would have got a much better result for sure. Still, they did not. Why? Apparently, they did not have enough trust in Karrot. Now imagine we would have had a Karrot co-op at that time, with a legal entity that inspires confidence, and information on the Karrot website on how they could invest their money to receive certain services (e.g., to have a new feature developed or to have their own Karrot instance deployed and maintained). Would they still have preferred to build another tool and thus waste their money? I doubt it.
To summarise, for me the main objective of a Karrot co-op would be to achieve a steady money flow to increase the average number of working hours, while preserving our working culture. I prefer an incorporated co-op because a legal entity inspires confidence to potential sponsors and lowers the barrier to transfer money. In general, I think if Karrot is meant to grow sustainably, we should start to seriously discuss funding concepts - the sooner the better.
To kickstart this discussion, I created a new forum thread.