Between October 31 and November 4, 2022, Invest in Open Infrastructure (IOI) organized our first Funders Summit, where we brought together over 80 funders, budget holders, and other key stakeholders involved in the financing and resourcing of open infrastructure to collaboratively explore and discuss a shared framework for investment in open research infrastructure and test out building an alternative funding mechanism.

As outlined in our strategic plan, we recognize the need for global cooperation and coordination to increase and sustain open infrastructure investment at an ecosystem-wide level. In our many conversations with stakeholders throughout the past years, we have also come to understand the desire for more evidence-based strategic guidance and recommendations for funders looking to invest more meaningfully in open infrastructure, as well as the need to test new models and interventions.

In organizing this Summit, we aimed to:

  • Go beyond the “usual suspects”, to bring together diverse stakeholders from around the world, from those representing inter-governmental organizations to those from the broader digital and/or public infrastructure space.
  • Share key research and data to spark discussions and challenge assumptions on what to fund and how to fund.
  • Create a safe space for experimentation, to test out an alternative means to collectively fund open infrastructure and for all participants – including IOI – to learn from the experience.

Below, we share a summary of the discussions at the Summit, as well as links to recordings, slides, and other related resources. We’ll reflect on the collective fund pilot run during the Summit and key lessons we learnt in the following weeks.

Funders Summit Programme 2022

In line with our goal to create a safe discussion space, we used the Chatham House Rule throughout the Summit. The slides and recordings shared below are from presentations given by IOI staff and affiliates.

Notes about the recordings:

  • Spanish and French language simultaneous interpretation audio recordings are available for core sessions. Please see the Summit’s public recordings playlist for links to those audio recordings.
  • Machine-generated subtitles and transcriptions are available with all recordings – please see this page for more information.

Day 1: Why collective, transparent, and evidence-based funding mechanisms for open infrastructure?

At the opening session, our Research Data Analyst Tania Hernández Ortiz shared the findings from our exploratory data analysis into funding for open infrastructure, highlighting the need to move from powering to empowering open infrastructure.

Tania Cohen (360Giving), Tania Hernández Ortiz (IOI), Woodrow Rosenbaum (GivingTuesday), and James Wilsdon (Research on Research institute) discussed the challenges of collecting and sharing funding data, incentives for funders, and the impact of not doing this work.

Our Director of Research and Strategy Richard Dunks and affiliate user researcher Taimour Azizuddin presented our findings from interviews with funders and budget holders on the value of the Catalog of Open Infrastructure Services (COIs)

Day 2: How to fund?

We announced that IOI is launching a fund to deepen investment into open infrastructure. Our Research Affiliate Samala shared her work looking at the feasibility of various funding models and recommended that we learn from venture philanthropy as a mechanism to deepen investment in open infrastructure.

After the presentations, participants reflected on the research, recommendations, and fund announcement. We heard the need for additional specificity and clarity, as well as further investigation into how we can ensure that the fund is additive and coordinating, rather than redundant or competitive.

In the first set of hands-on sessions co-facilitated by the IOI and Greaterthan teams, we shared the objectives and process for the Summit’s collective fund pilot. Participants shared what they’re excited and concerned about regarding this week’s collective fund pilot, and 36 people registered to participate – more about this in our next blog post.

Days 3-4: What to fund?

In our core session, our Executive Director Kaitlin Thaney introduced the funding framework and the process behind its design. Our Research Data Analyst Naomi Penfold presented the six areas open for funding in the collective fund pilot and some initial ideas for how the pilot funds can be used to advance those areas of work.

  • View the slides and recording
  • Read more about the funding framework
  • We will be sharing more about our intentions with designing the funding framework, the details, and the next steps in a further blog post early next year.

Following the funding framework introduction, we hosted deep dive sessions – spaces for participants to discuss six potential areas of opportunity for funding.

  • Preprints infrastructure: Naomi led a discussion on the bright spots and challenges in the preprints ecosystem based on her earlier research, highlighting the unsustainability and risk of commercial capture of some key preprint services.
  • Good community governance: Former IOI research affiliates Ravin Cline (University of Texas at Dallas) and Samuel Moore (University of Cambridge) shared their work and thoughts on the importance of, potential models for, and essential components of effective community governance. Participants further explored the relationship between governance and fiscal sponsorship, legal structures, and community ownership.
  • Financial health: Tania Hernández Ortiz presented her analysis of the financial health and risks of nonprofits in the research and scholarship sector. Using financial ratios, Tania highlighted the need for providers to diversify revenue types, build operational reserves, and invest in management capacity.
  • Critical and at-risk infrastructure: Katharina Meyer (Sovereign Tech Fund) and Carly Strasser (Chan Zuckerberg Initiative) discussed how they’d measured the criticality of open technology and reflected on various approaches to funding critical and at-risk infrastructure.
  • Technical reliability and security: Abigail Cabunoc Mayes (GitHub), Bilal Mateen (Wellcome Trust), Ivan Oransky (Simons Foundation), and Sean Goggins (CHAOSS) discussed the importance of maintainers and building a diverse, equitable, and inclusive community for the sustainability and reliability of open-source software.
  • Adoption: Our Engagement Lead Emmy Tsang led a participatory discussion session on the key elements affecting the adoption of open infrastructure and the importance of investing in this area.

After these discussions into each funding area, we held small group discussions with collective fund pilot participants. We shared what we found surprising, what we were concerned about, and what we considered when prioritizing investment in open infrastructure. More in the next blog post!

Day 5: Next steps and a roadmap forward

In our final core session, we shared the results from our collective fund pilot and what we learnt over the week.

Some things we have learnt from our conversations:

  • Experimentation and new models are needed, but that doesn’t mean existing ways aren’t still useful and important
  • Past experiences influence how we approach different funding frames
  • We need more actionable information (with less duplication of effort) to guide funding and adoption
  • This includes the available services, reliable data on funding levels, and resource gaps
  • It’s hard to understand and discuss broad categories without specific examples

View the slides and recording.

In the second half of the core session and the deep-dive discussion that followed, participants reflected on what they experienced during and took away from the week and raised questions that will need to be addressed - more in our final blog post in a few weeks.

The shared notes and complete recordings remain accessible to Summit participants. The links and ways to access these additional artefacts can be found on our HackMD page.

Social image by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash.

Posted by Emmy Tsang