An entrepreneurial journey

Bootstraping a local OFN community is a social enterprise; it means you are taking the lead on gathering a team, creating a local entity (or finding an existing one to host the project), organize the deployment of the OFN software for the local users, setup user support, plan communication, think about economic model, etc. Let's detail a bit what it takes to startup a local OFN affiliate entity.

1- Build a first node of community and/or team

You might be alone to take the lead on carrying on the project of developing the OFN project where you are. Or you might be 2 or more people joining forces and sharing tasks. Whatever, you will need to talk to people about the OFN and your project and start to build a network of potential / actual co-leaders, contributors, users, partners, supporters, etc. When doing that, you can also "sense" how people react to the project and perceive the potential of it in your territory. That will help you understand the need of potential local food networks that the OFN software and knowledge base could serve.

Networking can mean participate to conferences, connect with local media, blogs, publish articles, survey potential users, etc.

2- Deploy a first local version of the OFN software

It's hard to start talking about the project without having something to show to the people you talk to. The faster you have a local software version to show, the easier it will be to gather people around your local project. The OFN is more than a software but having a software to show make it easier for people to understand what it is about. It's OK if it doesn't answer yet all the local needs you perceive, think about it as a "minimum viable product", something local users can start using even if it's not perfect.

If you have not yet set up the software in your country and you want to show others how it works, you are welcome to become an administrator of the OFN demo food hub on the OFN UK server. Please contact nick@openfoodnetwork.org.uk if you would like to be given admin access to this demo enterprise.

Why we have separate local OFN platforms ?

For now, each local OFN entity needs a specific local deployment of the software, on their own servers. It may seems a bit less efficient than having just one deployment for the whole world, as we need to redo the installation job every time.

The main reason why the deployments are done separately for now is technical; we don’t currently need to deal with country specific customisations, taxes, currencies and languages within the same application; local customisation and setup is done separately for each local deployment. Having a "single instance" for the whole world would mean it is multilingual, multi-currency, manage VAT/sales tax properly all over the world, etc. This requires lots of developments / money we have not yet found.

Understand the technical aspect of it

You'll find everything you need on the OFN wiki on Github concerning the technical aspects of a local deployment.

Here are some precisions on 2 aspects of the local deployment:

So as a local driver of the project, you need to make sure the person doing the local deployment is taking into account those two specific points.

Get support from the OFN global sys admin team

From all over the world, people have contributed for months, years, and have developed a specific expertise on the OFN code base and processes around how to set up a local instance and run your project on it. We do have a global system administration team and have organised deployments in "batch" of new releases for all local affiliate instances to try to improve the efficiency of our processes. This team can also support the setting up of a new local deployed version, but that can't be done for free, so if you would like support from the global team to deploy your first local version of the OFN software, you need to find some budget to start with. Contact us for more details.

Identify the blockers to local use - if there are some

It might be that some specific aspects of the software are really blocking a local use. In that case, you can start listing them and discuss those points with the global team, in the context of the priorization process (see below).

3- Find a first legal and economic model

This can also be done before 2, or in parallel, depending on the local resources you have or can get.

You can start the project without any legal entity if you find people able to deploy the software, but you will soon realize you need some money to operate, at least pay server costs. Which legal entity to incorporate or build on to host the project? Which governance model around this entity to govern the local platform and other services the entity may propose like training, incubation programs, etc.?

Through all the networking you will have done, you might start to foresee some form of legal entity you think is more relevant to start with. Some existing local OFN entities have started with not-for-profit organizations because they could get grants for instance, before creating cooperative commercial entities as a side when the time has come, like OFN Australia and France. Others have directly gone for community interest companies, like OFN UK. Others only are a not-for-profit organization like OFN Canada. Others have found a local existing entity willing to host the project, like Oxfam Magasins du Monde in Belgium.The choice of the form of incorporation is yours, but to become an affiliate, a condition is that this legal entity involved a collaborative and democratic governance. Because there can only be one affiliate on a given territory, it needs to be inclusive of all parties interested.

Alongside the choice of a legal entity comes the question of the governance model: who make the decisions regarding the local entity? How are all stakeholders involved in the decision making process? Again, existing local OFN entities are experimenting various models, some workers coops, some multi-stakeholders coop, some regular commercial entities but with representatives of each stakeholders in the board, etc.

Also, connected to the legal and governance model, you need to think about a sustainable business model. We have explained here the economic model of the global OFN project. That should help you think your local business model.

4- Look for funding

We all need to contribute to the global commons. The fundraising tasks has been a shared one since the very beginning. Australia, UK, Canada, France, Catalunya, etc. all local OFN affiliates have searched for funds locally, talked to local private foundations, participated to EU projects, etc. Some (like Australia or Catalunya) also have carried out crowdfunding campaigns. Usually local fundraising serve both the local costs to deploy the project and port of the money is attributed to the "global pot" to finance software improvement. Until we have efficient sustainable local business model, we need to keep on finding funds through philanthropy and local governments.

5- Join the global priorization process

When you start doing all that, you can request to become an affiliate member of the OFN community. The process is described on the next page. This will among other things enable you to report your needs and participate in prioritizing the various need reported by the software users. You will find more information about that process here.