The (many) years ahead for Coko

Adam Hyde and Faith Bosworth Oct 26, 2019

This is the first of a series of posts collaboratively written by Adam Hyde and Faith Bosworth. Expect more to come!

What does it mean for a not-for-profit organization like Coko to consider ambitiously increasing its mission driven impact while building a 20 year sustainability plan? This is something we have been thinking about a lot recently at Coko.

We’ve been publishing much news over the last 4 months about changes at Coko: changing roles, new staff, new projects. These changes are symptomatic of our quest to be a dynamic organization and a fleet-footed actor in an industry, which, we can all probably acknowledge, can feel a little stuck in the mud at times. That’s part of the problem we are trying to fix; let’s build technology that actually works for its users instead of technology that makes Publishers and Researchers alike, work for it.

With our mission in mind, we’ve spent some time thinking about our sustainability plan to figure out how to get to where we want to go. We have some high level answers for the short term – in five years we want to see Coko having successfully built a very large community, brought even more platforms into the market and with a revenue surplus we can invest in projects we really care about. Lastly in five years we hope that no one will be able to imagine scholarly communications infrastructure without PubSweet!

Right now we are in a good place to achieve this and we are looking further ahead and asking ourselves what we need to do to ensure Coko is here in 20 years? or more?

Currently things look good on the sustainability front for the mid term; we are still reliant on funding but we are increasingly getting not-for-profit revenue from community contributions, consultancy and building platforms. There are some exciting announcements around these topics coming in the next weeks so stay tuned! But the question really is – how do we stay a healthy mission driven not-for-profit organization with a sustainable revenue stream over the long term?

Taking this approach, we have decided to get Coko out of funding within 2-3 years so that we can ensure our very-long term sustainability and be the best not-for-profit mission-driven organization we can be. This is something many not-for-profits dream of but don’t know how to achieve. Or they leave it too late and by the time they realize funding isn’t flowing in as freely as it was a few years before, they are weighed down by overheads and have to chase after ill-matched funding which pulls them away from their mission. The trick is to anticipate this early so that by the time funding disappears, you’ve already adapted.

We believe that by seguing out of a reliance on funding over the next 3 years and increasing our other not-for-profit revenue streams, we will also ensure we maintain focus on our mission. That means razor-sharp attention on the sector’s needs, growing where we need to and adapting where we need to. It means we can do our best work and not be distracted by the need to source funding. It also means that we can generate a surplus that we are able to invest in projects which we care about, not only those that funders support. We have a number of projects in mind already that align extremely well with our mission but we know already will be difficult to attract funding for. If we have surplus revenue we can focus on making these happen much like we did with the Open Publishing Awards.

So how to do it? We’ll have more sophisticated plans as we work through this more and we are adding some interesting people to our advisory board to help us think through this. But with the typical transparency we have become known for, we wanted to share our current thinking with you early. Briefly, there are two key mission driven revenue streams for us, alongside community contributions, that we are going to continue to build capacity for. These are:

  1. Building more platforms
    We will build more open source publishing platforms for and with scholarly publishers; bringing them to the market as quickly and cost-effectively as possible. It is our mission to see scholarly publishing radically transformed so we would rather produce more platforms cost-effectively than a few at high cost. We build platforms in two ways, both require you to become active participants in the Coko community:

      a. we build a platform for you
      b. you build a platform and we help

    We also can help you build community around your platform

  2. Workflow consultancy
    Simplifying and redesigning publishers’ workflows through workflow sprints. Workflow Sprints is a facilitated process that guides your team to rapidly (in one day!) understand and design an optimum workflow for your project, and in the same day design a high level architecture that maps your vision to software.

As mentioned above, we have already made considerable progress on these items and keep watching the Coko website for announcements over the next weeks.

If you are interested in working with Coko in any of the above ways, do get in touch with us – adam@coko.foundation

About the Author

Adam Hyde and Faith Bosworth

A series of collaborative posts by Adam Hyde and Faith Bosworth.

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