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There is no independent organisation whose role it is to support and grow the Clojure community.  Cognitect has done a great job thus far of supporting the community by running the Clojure conferences, supporting projects like Clojure-in-Clojure, and helping out with the Google Summer of Code effort.  Despite all of this, there are some needs that are not being entirely met.  A few examples include:

Summer of Code

Google gives money to mentoring organisations that participate in the Google Summer of Code.  In 2014, we used these funds to help our students travel to Clojure/West and Clojure/Conj.  However, it wasn't enough to do all we would have liked.  If there were an easier way to raise money, we would be able to better help those students who can't travel to the conference even with the subsidy we provided.

Additionally, Google Summer of Code isn't a sure bet.  This year, Google seems to have cut back on the programme, and there is no guarantee it will be around in years to come, or that Clojure will be accepted.  It would be nice if we could support students to work on Clojure code over the summer even if we do not get support from Google.

Community infrastructure

There are some bits of very important community infrastructure, such as Clojars, that are entirely dependent on individual contributors.  It would be nice if there were an organisation that could help manage the ownership and costs of that infrastructure, especially as individual contributors come and go.

User group/event support

There are user groups throughout the world, and it might be helpful if there was a resource available that could help local organisers create local and regional events.

A place to donate to

There are people who would be happy to help provide financial support to Clojure or Clojure-related projects, but there is nowhere to do that.

Independent and transparent

While Cognitect has been very helpful in growing the community, the community has grown to a point where it can be strengthened by the presence of an independent organisation that is independent of Cognitect.  This organisation should be transparent to the community at large.  Also, the existence of an independent organisation can help companies considering adopting Clojure feel more confident about the overall health and vigor of the Clojure community.

It's about the community, not the language

While a lot of language-oriented non-profits hold the ownership rights to the language and related intellectual property, this proposal is not about that.  That is a completely separate concern and this proposal does not propose to do anything related to the Clojure language, its development, ownership, or anything else along those lines.

Solution overview

It's still fairly early in the process, but I think there are two major concerns that should be addressed at this stage:

  1. What would be the mission of this organisation?
  2. How would that organisation be organised?

Proposed mission/objectives

The overall mission of this organisation should be to help support and grow an international community of software developers and projects using the Clojure programming language.  In particular, it will seek to do this by:

  • Supporting outreach to students through programmes like Google Summer of Code
  • Hosting and managing key community infrastructure and projects
  • Organising and help organise community events such as conferences
  • Helping grow the community by providing beginner materials and training
  • Providing support to help grow the community through opportunity grants and the like

Most importantly, it is important for this organisation to achieve these objectives in a way that is transparent to the community at large.

Possible methods of organisation

There are a lot of different ways that an indepenent organisation could be organised.

A for-profit corporation

A standard corporation is easy to put together, but has a fair amount of administrative overhead.  For corporate sponsorship, I don't think that being a for-profit corporation is that big of a deal, but it doesn't necessarily score high marks for individuals.

A 501(c)3 charity

This may end up being the end goal, but it's far too soon to take on the administrative overhead of running a non-profit corporation.

A 501(c)6 trade association

The Linux Foundation is an example of this.  The main problem with running this sort of organsiation is that it has the preponderance to act in the best interests of its largest contributors/members, rather than the community at larg.

Fiscal sponsorship under the Software Freedom Conservancy

One option is to seek sponsorship under an existing charity.  One such option is the Software Freedom Conservancy (SFC).  They provide a number of services to member projects, such as conference support, asset stewardship, legal support, some personal liability indemnification, mentorship/guidance, administrative support, and fundraising help.  In exchange, they take a portion of contributions in exchange for these services.

Fiscal sponsorship under Software in the Public Interest

An alternative to the SFC is Software in the Public Interest (SPI).  They are very similar to the SFC, but tend to not be as involved/provide as many services.

Fiscal sponsorship under someone else

The above two organisations are not the only two choices.  The Apache Software Foundation and Eclipse Foundation are examples of other fiscal sponsors.

Next steps

At this point in time, we are starting to prepare our applications to the SFC and SPI.  These things take time, so we might as well get the ball rolling regardless of whether or not we end up going with one of those two.

We are also very interested in getting feedback from the community as on how best to move forward with setting a mission for an independent organisation and how it shoulld work.