[OpenSpending] Financial sustainability of OpenSpending - please share your ideas!

Mark Brough mark.brough at publishwhatyoufund.org
Tue Aug 19 11:33:22 UTC 2014

Hi all

Belatedly, here's a few ideas on this...

*Maps vs money*

I think I'm a little unsure about analogies to OSM. Maps have lots of
obvious business models; non-technical users like to look at them and it
makes sense that a lot of other organisations would want to build their own
apps off open map data. For open financial data, there are certainly
business models "there", but they seem less broad and accessible to a
non-technical audience (though I might just be ignorant here). Financial
data is probably going to have a somewhat more niche user base than map
data. If that is true (and there are some obvious exceptions), it suggests
that OpenSpending will need to continue to provide a lot of the front end.

Nevertheless it appears [1] OSM get hosting and bandwidth provided by UCL
and ICL. I wonder whether they might also be willing to consider hosting
there. That could then cover about 1/4 of current running costs.

*Standards/mapping, views and ETL*

I assume that the visualisation / non-technical use of OS is going to be
the main draw both for people with datasets and for potential grant
funders; but that funding can also be used to fund the back-end.

I wonder if ongoing costs could be lowered, as well as some of the benefits
of OpenSpending to other organisations/individuals increased, by looking to
standards as a way to increase economies of scale. If people want to make a
visualisation of a dataset and compare a couple of things, you could do
that by a) encouraging people to have a few required fields in the data; b)
mapping that data to a standard template for budget/spending data/etc. It
might make it easier to offer consultancy on the back of OpenSpending if
non-technical staff could do this without significant customisation or

That would also make it easier to output all data that follows a particular
template and to query across it (and so to start to push some data into the
emerging open budgets spec). If the data were in a more standard format,
then rolling out tools to compare things like approved and actual
expenditure etc. might be easier. Also, perhaps it could address some of
the issues raised in terms of server performance [2]


I think depending on the future strategy for OpenSpending, grant funding
should be a key target, but consultancy activities should also be viewed as
an important revenue source. I also think freemium models around
OpenSpending might be worth exploring as a way to develop additional
features/tools/visualisations that can't be funded out of other revenue
streams (this can be viewed as just an extension of existing consultancy


[1] http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Partners
[2] https://lists.okfn.org/pipermail/openspending-dev/2014-April/000995.html

Mark Brough
Aid Information Advisor, Publish What You Fund
Skype: mark-brough - Twitter: @mark_brough

On 12 June 2014 21:38, Anders Pedersen <anders.pedersen at okfn.org> wrote:

> Hi all,
> OpenSpending has seen significant growth since its formal launch in 2011.
> In the last year alone the amount of data in OpenSpending has doubled
> (from 12m to 25m records today) and we anticipate this growth continuing.
> This is a cause for celebration but is also putting significant strain on
> the infrastructure. The OpenSpending Steering group
> <http://community.openspending.org/about/governance/members-of-the-steering-group/>
> therefore set out on its last call
> <https://docs.google.com/a/okfn.org/document/d/1jCB-RquGYeW9mm466ViucMRjggbCxa0pGZDH5JThcRc/edit#>
> to discuss these challenges in greater detail in this document
> <https://docs.google.com/a/okfn.org/document/d/1r3KHUiQ4g4av_E22wIZLEvG_m9OtbKn13o98bv70nnY/edit#heading=h.w9mt2xsythb3>
> - see also below.
> For the last several years, Open Knowledge has been able to sponsor the
> entirety of the core infrastructure (servers, sysadmin, essential bugfixes)
> thanks both to the limited size of the project and the great support of the
> Knight Foundation for the SpendingStories project from 2011-2013.
> With the increasing technical demands and the ending of that support we need
> to secure additional resources (whether financial or in-kind) to support
> OpenSpending Project and its infrastructure going forward.
> *Options for Securing Support*
> A few models have been outlined as ideas for further consideration:
>    -
>    Sponsors/Partner/Member organisations / subscription model
>    -
>       For this case we have drawn up a draft OpenSpending Project
>       Sponsorship Partners Outline
>       <https://docs.google.com/a/okfn.org/document/d/17NHmQzEb_zOT5NAei-IkQTgWMdiOvD5ulBQIw0pptoU/edit#heading=h.wjyni2paf88v>
>       -
>       These could be companies, NGOs, IGOs, funders or others
>       -
>       For NGOs may not directly sponsor but may secure support as part of
>       existing or new grant-funding
>       -
>    Community Volunteers e.g. for sysadmin
>    -
>    Crowd-funding / with funding targets set across countries
>    -
>       May be some specific communities who are interested
>       -
>    Donations
>    -
>       How to collect and administrate these?
>       -
>       Would we need a campaign?
>       -
>    Please add your suggestions here!
> We want to hear your thoughts and ideas about how the OpenSpending project
> could be made more financially sustainable in this thread or with comments
> directly in the document
> <https://docs.google.com/a/okfn.org/document/d/1r3KHUiQ4g4av_E22wIZLEvG_m9OtbKn13o98bv70nnY/edit#heading=h.w9mt2xsythb3>?
> You can also comment on the draft OpenSpending Project Sponsorship
> Partners Outline
> <https://docs.google.com/a/okfn.org/document/d/17NHmQzEb_zOT5NAei-IkQTgWMdiOvD5ulBQIw0pptoU/edit#heading=h.wjyni2paf88v>
> *Next steps*
> We will discuss these proposals until the next OpenSpending Community call
> on *Wednesday June 25th*. After the call we will publish it on the governance
> page <http://community.openspending.org/about/governance/> of the
> OpenSpending Community site.
> Looking forward to hear your thoughts!
> Best,
> Anders
> --
> * Anders Pedersen Knowledge Development Lead  |  skype: anpehej  |  @anpe
> <https://twitter.com/> | 001 202-815-0149 <202-815-0149> *
> *The Open Knowledge Foundation <http://okfn.org/> Empowering through Open
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