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Solidarity: our guiding principle
OCF has a unique role to play as steward of a legal, financial, and technical commons—a piece of shared infrastructure—that is resonating deeply with the solidarity economy movement. We can build bridges between 501(c)(3) fiscal sponsorship, the open source community (where we have deep roots), mutual aid groups (100+ are hosted by OCF today), and the movement at large. A new clarity has emerged for Open Collective Foundation: Solidarity will be our guiding principle. —original announcement, July 2021
Open Collective Foundation allows initiatives to raise and spend money under the umbrella of our 501(c)(3) nonprofit, using a powerful open-source tech platform with financial and community engagement tools.
We are radical administrators for a decentralized future. As a fiscal sponsor, OCF handles the compliance side of raising and spending money (like dealing with the IRS and banks), so that groups can focus on their work. We build trust by sharing OCF’s budget with full transparency, and enable our hosted initiatives to do the same.
We are one node in the interconnected Open Collective network, a decentralized platform of fiscal hosts offering their legal status and bank accounts to Collectives around the world, who are working to share power, knowledge, and wealth. Financial power and community power go hand in hand.
Open Collective Foundation exists to spread wealth and power and root it in community (the solidarity economy) by unlocking access to funding.
Solidarity is our guiding principle.
At the end of 2019, Open Collective Foundation was pretty small and not very well-known. Then, things started moving, quickly. We grew 20x in 2020 alone (and went on to scale another 2.5x in 2021 and another 2.5x in 2022).
As COVID19 picked up speed, the mutual aid movement found us. Over 100 mutual aid groups across the US started using our fiscal sponsorship and crowdfunding service to provide critical assistance to their neighbors during the pandemic. OCF’s increasing visibility helped other solidarity and social justice initiatives find us, too, like ParentPreneur Foundation, Juneteenth Conference, and WalkTheVote. Suddenly, we were running just trying to keep up with these incredible communities.
Simultaneously, initiatives connected to our background in open source began to reach a whole new level of scale and impact. Partnerships with grantmaking foundations in this area, long in the making, started coming to fruition, with initiatives like the Digital Infrastructure Research Grants, Sustain, the Internet Freedom Fund, and OpenMined attracting funding in the millions.
This was all fantastic and amazing, but in all honesty, OCF grew so fast that it’s taken us some time to get our feet under us and take space to look at the bigger picture. A couple months ago, the OCF team and board began a strategy-setting process, in search of more clarity and focus.
We asked: What connects open source projects and mutual aid and community groups and foundation grantmakers—and why do all of them resonate with OCF? We realized that our diverse initiatives, their funders, the Open Collective platform, and OCF itself, are all part of a bigger story.
Open Collective Foundation is only one node of the international network of fiscal hosts using the Open Collective software platform to enable Collectives to operate through their legal status and bank accounts, transparently. The platform itself is completely open source, and Open Collective Inc, the company building the software, aspires to someday become a platform cooperative.
It’s no accident that the same characteristics that attract mutual aid groups also attract open source projects and similar groups. They share a vision of community ownership and democratic governance for political, cultural, and economic power—known to many as the solidarity economy.
Groups that value transparency often also value cooperation, participatory democracy, intersectional equity, sustainability, and pluralism—the principles of the solidarity economy. OCF offers many of the technological, legal, and financial supports that solidarity economy groups are asking for. We believe that, instead of a world dominated by hierarchies with only a few at the top, a better society can be formed through solidarity among peers, scaling from groups of individuals right up to huge collectives of collectives.
Why is OCF a good fit for mutual aid groups? We can get them set up quickly, ready to receive and distribute money via thousands of transactions, without needing to incorporate or set up a bank account. As a 501(c)(3), we create a bridge between these unincorporated communities and donors/grants requiring a formal nonprofit.
These are the same reasons we’re a good fit for the other kinds of initiatives under our umbrella, like social movements and open source projects. We’re designed to serve highly collaborative communities that value transparency and seek to have a positive impact through the lens of solidarity, and we offer powerful tools for their collective agency.
Solidarity Economy = mutual aid + open source + collective power