Project development and funding

From Organic Design
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This document describes our bottom-up, Peer-to-Peer approach to developing projects with other organisations, in accord with our manifesto, specifically the section on organisation. This includes how we work with clients to implement projects and covers questions around intellectual property and investment. It is addressed to potential clients or investors but we prefer to define the target group as any person or group who shares the Organic Design vision, agrees with the manifesto and wishes to work with us bring about the vision. They may either see the benefit overall or they may see a way to make use of the solutions and apply them to their own organisation, in which case we are happy to assist with customisation. Funding and other resourcing can also be done collaboratively, therefore someone who may benefit from the work does not necessarily need to come up with the resources but may apply for project funding elsewhere. We have further details of this approach in our document on marketing.

While our approach to developing projects applies to a number of groups ("Peers") working together, it also addresses the question potential investors have asked us, regarding how the "IP" they would be "investing in" might be protected. We think about these issues a little differently compared to people coming from a traditional investment background and we have done our best to tangibly convey the type of value that an investor may receive while clarifying how our approach differs from conventional technology investment.

Our previous development model

First it is important to understand how Organic Design has funded development previously. Organic Design is a group of freelance contractors with skills in IT support, software development and content management with a focus on developing and extending the functionality of MediaWiki software. Our work hub is the Organic Design wiki, this is where we publish our development work and is how a lot of clients find out about our work. However, there is currently no active Organic Design foundation or company as such, the best way to describe it currently is as an "open source brand".

Our clients consist of organisations that share that vision and are prepared to pay for the customisation and further development of the open source MediaWiki software simply because they see the benefit for their own organisation. This is how a lot of open source software gets developed.

Investment vs funding

Under the old regime, project funding needed to be supplied by the clients, and investment in Organic design itself, for the purpose of bringing about the vision was not possible. Even though the organisation "Organic Design" exists, in the sense of a group of people working toward a shared vision, there is no chartered legal entity tasked with receiving and distributing funds toward projects in line with the vision. This limited support options to volunteer efforts or bringing in clients with projects that were in the broad vicinity of the Organic Design vision, as some of the Organic Design members have done.

The required legal entities are currently being set up but even so, for investment in the Organic Design vision, there are a few "barriers"[1] we need to overcome. The first is philosophical: We don't see how to reconcile our core values with the "investment mentality", whereby investors need to see a percentage return on their investment and will want an influential position within the legal entity, which in turn creates the possibility of us being pushed to toward favouring business decisions which may compromise our vision or values in exchange for higher financial return. Therefore we should at this point introduce the distinction of us seeking "funding partners" rather than "investors", just to clarify that we seek to resource the vision and are looking for people more passionate about that vision than achieving high returns on their "investment". It is nevertheless possible to look at returns that may be achieved but more on that later.

Further barriers to investment are that the technology developed here is based on software that is covered by the GPL license, meaning it can't in turn be made proprietary. An investor would be developing the overall solution being offered by Organic Design further, without then being able to own or control the technology thus developed. In addition, a lot of the core concepts that distinguish our work, such as systems thinking or the use of ontologies are high level "common sense" concepts that are not patentable. Additionally, in order for the "global aspects" of the system we propose to arise[2], interoperability is key. This runs counter to certain adopters "locking away" parts of the technology - in other words, our technology must be based on open internet standards, even from a purely functional perspective.

Our new approach: Peer alignment and focus on a shared vision

After a lot of thought and discussion through 2008 and 2009 about what makes us unique and what represents our specific focus, we have figured out that it is bottom-up values based organisation within a unified organisational system and the many emergent benefits and exciting projects that are possible within such a framework. Moving forward, we will therefore use a more proactive approach that is in line with our manifesto, leads more directly toward our vision and is appropriate for implementation within a network of peer organisations. These peers could be either bottom-up organisations, businesses, not-for-profit organisations, government agencies or individuals, they don't necessarily fit the definition of "client" or "investor", while the outcome is not so much "intellectual property", but rather an evolving, shared system that brings benefits to all stakeholders. Yet as before, projects are proposed, approved and resourced, with the benefits justifying the resource spent.

The key element of our new approach consists of us specifying the work we would like see done, based on our current and evolving knowledge of technology, as opposed to merely advertising a laundry list of the services we provide and waiting for clients to request project proposals based on their unique and specific needs, entirely disconnected from other projects being worked on at Organic Design

Therefore we are now creating project proposals that represent the ideal path ("milestones within our roadmap") in moving toward our larger vision, which we are developing further in cooperation with peer organisations. We still have a number of clients we are currently working for under our old regime, and to minimise disruption we will seek to either integrate such work with the new roadmap or to assist in sub-contracting work that no longer ties in with our bigger picture.

Funding framework and principles

  • Invest in quality of life and sustainability, make knowledge available to all
  • Organic Design software development costs represent cost of customisation, not investment with % return
  • Investment takes place based on shared vision - the client sees value in what is proposed and wishes to see it made - we supply the skills, client supplies funding
  • What we supply needs to be compared with expensive proprietary software, the savings achieved by getting the unified organisational system developed could be expressed as % return if desired. for instance most SAAS vendors charge a per-seat fee of several hundred US$/month/user. This would need to be modelled as a scenario.
  • Funding is based on shared vision and is done to ensure realisation of that shared vision
  • Charitable trust model for tax write-offs
  • Make a budget for development costs within overall business investment
  • Exploit the benefits of the unified organisational system to maximise growth of the overall business
  • Open up new investment opportunities in the emerging web 3.0 economy
  • Protect your business model through supplier and licensing agreements, trademarks and brands, not software patents
  • Make the most of the scalability and deployment options offered by a unified system rather than having adoption be inhibited by non-open standards


We believe that this approach is merely pre-empting a larger trend toward a "Web 3.0" economy, with structured data and open standards creating a level playing field in a service-based economy. In such an economy, peer rating systems will create a trusted mechanism to assess quality of service among providers in any industry, something we believe will lead to the natural emergence of best practices or standards that will yield the highest quality of service, based on "consumers" being able to objectively compare what is being offered. In contrast, corporate brands, proprietary technology and other intellectual property cut off from the larger body of structured knowledge will diminish in relevance. We believe that this will give rise to a "customer is king" economy, in which organisations and projects form in response to the needs of the community.

  • Focus is not profit or control but outcomes!

Organic Design benefits

  • Organic Design maintains relationships with a wide set of peers with diverse needs, this prevents single large clients from dominating or creating dependence and ensures an end results that caters to a broad spectrum of needs

Peer benefits

  • We are convinced that a web 3.0 environment is the future of business. We offer any investment partner a head start in this environment, allowing them to gain leadership in this emerging market
  • Peers are free to create their own branded Unified Organisational System, with or without our help
  • Project scaling or crashing can draw upon a diverse range of stakeholders, the Panarchy can react to new resources or events changing the roadmap and priorities
  • Development of a shared roadmap allows smaller groups to focus on specialities while ensuring re-use
  • It is scalable, network of organisations taking on projects in distributed way
  • Resourcing is more flexible, does not need to come from "client"

Societal benefits

  • Cooperation in an environment of transparency and accountability leads to higher quality
  • Contribute to a level playing field in a more open society
  • Cooperation and knowledge sharing as the foundation of a more civilised society

Further notes from meeting and discussion


All the content in the site will remain fully accessible and open (apart from obviously private business material). It is a site run by a commercial entity for use by the development community similar to SourceForge or OpenOffice, there is no ownership or restriction on the works produced, and this is only going to get more like this as we move our of the realm of open source GPL software and into the context of Internet Open Standards.

  • The Ontology is GPL
  • Extensions are "glue"

New business model

  • Software service model
  • GWave
  • OOo
  • Mozilla
  • vTiger
  • Canonical
  • Red Hat

other points

  • Resilient against market downturns


Notes and References

  1. Barriers are in parentheses because they only appear as barriers when viewed from a conservative investors' perspective
  2. See the organisation section of the manifesto