The application period for the OSMF microgrants program finished a few days ago and i thought i’d share some interesting results from looking over the applications in terms of the raw numbers:

  • The 49 applications listed are asking for a total of about 182k Euro in funding.
  • 9 are asking for less than 2000 Euro
  • 9 are asking for between 2000 and 4000 Euro
  • 9 are asking for between 4000 and 4800 Euro
  • 22 are asking for between 4800 and 5000 Euro

Regarding what the applicants want to use the money for i made a rough classification. There are often border cases of course so don’t take these as exact numbers. Alltogether the applications are asking for

  • ~60k Euro for paid work (directly paying people for work on the project)
  • ~47k Euro for hardware of some sort (from phones to motorcycles)
  • ~29k Euro for commercial services of some sort that are not separately specified in the following - most of this is internet access.
  • ~14k Euro for various sorts of allowances for people
  • ~11k Euro for all kinds of merchandise, gifts and presents other than hardware
  • ~6900 Euro for social media advertisements
  • ~5000 Euro for renting workplaces and rooms
  • ~5000 Euro for administrative costs
  • ~3800 Euro for hosting
  • ~2700 Euro for licensing non Open Source software and services

Not all applications asking for financing paid work specify exact rates but where this is done the hourly rate varies between 7 Euro and 80 Euro. This range does not appear to be much related to differences in living costs, there is one application from the US asking for just slightly more than 8 Euro per hour for example while another from the US is asking for EUR 80 per hour.


Comment from RobJN on 13 May 2020 at 22:54

The key take-away I took from reading the applications was just how much I take for granted. For example I have no need to ask for support to pay for my broadband but lots of communities requested this.

For me, this makes me worry about the whole concept of do-ocracy. How can a do-ocracy genuinely represent a truly diverse population when some communities are so lucky with access to cheap internet and loads of free time, whilst others are living hand-to-mouth?

P.S. the fact that you found the free time to do your analysis suggests to me that you are one of the lucky few. Did you therefore get the same feeling as me (about how much we take for granted)?

Comment from imagico on 14 May 2020 at 10:35

No. If i have to guess i’d say our very different views on these things stem largely from very different exposures to cultures and living conditions very different from our own current circumstances.

There is no simple relationship between economic and social privileges and available free time. Not even in a country like the UK or Germany let alone globally.

If you want to get to know people, learn about their life, their hopes, their concerns and their values money is about the worst choice as a catalyst you can think of. Money tends to bring out the worst in people - like greed, fraud and disguise. However you read the microgrants applications, don’t make the mistake of assessing the people personally based on how they write an application to get money from the OSMF.

Comment from RobJN on 14 May 2020 at 15:22

Oh good. For a moment I was feeling guilty about taking things for granted all these years. But in fact it is the opposite - it is other people’s greed that has driven them to their view that they should have their broadband paid by the OSMF. How absolutely rotten of them.

(this entire comment is off course sarcasm)

Comment from imagico on 15 May 2020 at 14:46

Since it seems the advise at the end of my previous comment is by some understood differently from how it is meant i will try to clarify by re-stating it in German.

Beim Lesen der Bewerbungen für die Microgrants werden viele vermutlich - bewusst oder unbewusst - geneigt sein, sich auf Grundlage der Bewerbungen ein Bild von den Menschen zu machen, die diese Bewerbungen eingereicht haben. Ich möchte davon abraten. Die Vergabe der OSMF-Microgrants geschieht wie ja alle sehen können im Wettbewerb der Bewerber zueinander. Alle, die sich bewerben, werden versuchen, die eigene Bewerbung so zu gestalten, dass ihre Chancen maximiert werden. Dass hierbei im Vordergrund steht, das eigene Vorhaben in einem besonders gutem Licht erscheinen zu lassen und nicht, dem Leser ein ausgeglichenes Bild von der Person des Bewerbers/der Bewerberin zu vermitteln, dürfte offensichtlich sein. Schlussfolgerungen aus den Bewerbungen über die wirtschaftliche oder persönliche Situation der Bewerber zu ziehen ist nicht ratsam.

Comment from RobJN on 15 May 2020 at 22:54

Of course people are going to design their own application so that their chances are maximized. If anything that makes my first comment even more relevant. Adding in additional cost weakens the application. Therefore, as I stated, the key take-away I took from reading the applications was just how much I take for granted. I am lucky and have no need to risk weakening an application (had I submitted an individual application) by asking for support to pay for broadband.

I’m still not sure what your main take-away was but it seems like you are suggesting treating everyone the same. Given that this will make those applicants that have had to ask for extra support look worse, then in my view this would be a failure of the OSMF. It would favour those who already have more time and money. It would do nothing to help diversity.

Several years ago I used to share your view. I work in an engineering company which is white male dominated (transparency: I am a white male). I used to think that as long as the recruitment process is fair then everything will be fine after a few years. My view has now changed and I strongly believe that I personaly, and my company has a role to play. We can keep the interview process entirely fair whilst still supporting women and minority groups. One example is going in to schools to promote engineering to everyone thereby helping to remove the idea that it is a man’s job.

When it comes to the OSMF microgrant scheme I see this more like the latter in my analogy (and therefore OSMF should be able to take into account differences in people’s backgrounds) rather than the interview in my analogy (in which everyone is treated exactly the same). I suspect your view is different. At the end of the day, the elected OSMF board is responsible for deciding which path to take. If you or I don’t like it then we get a democratic chance to say so at the next board elections.

I believe that the microgrant committee have a very hard task ahead of them and I am glad I am not part of the group having to make difficult decisions. Unfortunately I suspect that whatever they decide they will be criticised for it. The same was true when I was on the SotM WG and was part of the group selecting talks and scholars. Ultimately the endless criticism eventually wore me down and sadly I stopped volunteering my time to the SotM WG. Ironically this links to the other key OSMF topic right now (a framework for paid employment) in which they are concerned how paid employees could lead to demotivated volunteers. In my case it was volunteers who expected the world from me and criticised at every opportunity that eventually broke me. There was only so many late nights after a full day at work that I could take. Food for thought….

P.s. I wrote above that the interview process is entirely fair. Of course it isn’t as it depends on which country you were born in. I have on multiple occasions had to put absolutely fantastic applicants in the reject pile simply because they have no right to work in my country. I found that very hard and saddening. Decisions are not just numbers and words, they are people and livelihoods. Be glad when it’s not you having to make these cruel choices.

P.p.s thank you for writing in German. It allowed me to read your message as you intended.

Comment from RobJN on 15 May 2020 at 23:15

Oh and of course there is an opportunity for fraud here. Another thing that makes the work of the microgrant committee that bit harder.

I suspect that the OSMF and microgrant committee would welcome your views on how to minimise the risk of fraud (minimise as it’s impossible to eliminate risk unless you just stop doing anything). I’m sure they would also be keen to hear your ideas on how to balance extra adminstrative bureaucracy introduced to limit the risk, with the resources available to them (i.e. the microgrant committee volunteers time). Also and obviously, any additional checks would have to be done in a humane way and avoid a ‘witch hunt’ interrogation.

Perhaps you could start by considering what additional steps would be required to understand why the hourly rate ranges from 7 to 80 EUR. Some way of testing that without persecuting the applicants.

Comment from CjMalone on 15 May 2020 at 23:49

A quick glance at the proposals seems to indicate that the €8 is a student intern, that price is probably so low because they don’t expect to be paid a lot, and probably don’t even know the value of their time. Where as somebody in the middle of a career would want higher compensation even though OSMF is a non profit.

I’m not saying either is wrong, I think in an ideal world OSMF would be able to pay a salary that matches for profit companies. But that’s not currently possible.

Comment from imagico on 16 May 2020 at 10:56

@CjMalone - what you make of the spread in hourly rates that can be observed is obviously a political question. I am really glad that we do also have applications asking for roughly a realistic market rate for paid work. That means the OSMF will need to position itself in that regard. That is not a very thankful task for the committee of course but it is also one you could see coming given the board, when setting up microgrants program, has specifically allowed paid work as part of the grants without specifying concrete parameters for that.

Comment from SimonPoole on 16 May 2020 at 15:27

@CjMalone while some parameters of the micro grant scheme may have changed with the new board, I think it is still safe to say that it was never intended to be vehicle, or as a replacement, for regular employment by the OSMF. If there is ever is a situation where we are looking for that kind of solution, where and for how much people are employed is going to be a difficult decision. For example I don’t see why we should be paying an order of magnitude more for development work in the US or western Europe, when we can have the same from -pick-your-favourite-low-wage-country-.

Matter of fact the bulk of the applications show that the micro grant scheme is likely the wrong scheme, at the wrong time, aimed at the wrong audience.

And it is not that I think that none of the proposals are worthy of being funded by the OSMF. For example the request by the Weekly OSM team makes total sense, but it is a reoccurring cost that should simply be part of the CWG budget (harhar). I could even live with one or two of the “save the world” proposals being funded (which -use- OSM, but are clearly out of scope for micro grants, which should -support- the OSM project), again out of the CWG budget as a marketing exercise, with the expectation that they will be miked for marketing to the max.

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