Saturday, September 1, 2012

What can be "free" and what should be paid for in the non-profit sector?

One of the challenges I am currently thinking about, as I settle into my new job,is how to make money from education in the non-profit sector.

Three weeks ago I moved jobs from working for Otago Polytechnic, Dunedin, as an educator, to professional development officer at the Australian College of Midwives (ACM) in Canberra, Australia. I haven't been in my new job for very long, so can't tell you too much about it, because I'm still getting my head around what it entails. However, the main tension I have already come up against is moving from an environment where I was encouraged to develop open access education and resources, and free learning opportunities for the community under an open intellectual property policy, to working for a small non-profit organization that has to do everything it can to make money and be financially viable, within a closed IP framework.

This is causing me to think very carefully. How can I continue to work for national and international midwifery collaboration, which includes open sharing of resources and ideas, yet protect the financial interests of the organization I work for? How can I make money by providing professional development opportunities to midwives in Australia, yet stay true to the philosophy of open access education? Is it possible to do this in the non-profit sector? Is it even appropriate or relevant?

I would love to hear from anyone who is in the same situation and work for non-profit organizations? How do you keep a balance between making money, yet contributing to collaboration and education development in the wider community? What can be "free", and what should be paid for?


Beth Kanter said...

This is such a tricky question, but I follow the path that openness leads to abundance. Almost all my content is licensed on a creative commons license which allows people to use. Now, my "business model" isn't to make money (directly) from making people make for my content. Rather, I get hired based on my content. So, for me - giving it away is a problem. Do other people who do the same work as I do "borrow"? Creative commons licensing encourages that -- and most give attribution. But for me - I see that as a networked approach to reach a higher goal than just helping me.

Tine Oudshoorn said...

Share all relevant information as much as possible for no price. See the interesting discussion about Elsevier Publishers policy and comments of users. Very interesting.

When necessary ask money for items which are of certain cost, like self developed workshops and Master Classes or for your help by the organisation of workshops and conferences. Split up and be clear about what is free and what has a cost.

I noticed that this works the best on the long turn. Keeping items to myself and thinking about making profit is very competitive and was no help for me to achieve my objectives.

Competition is the opposite of cooperation, with competition we do not reach women and midwives in need for reliable new information and new ideas. Be generous and cooperative is my idea after years of running first an independent midwives practice and now a consultancy.

I believe in midwives shaping their ‘own culture’. New Zealand midwives, with their vision on care and philosophy is example for me.
Openness and trust, that is what it is all about, so by running a business be congruent with the chosen philosophy.

Protection is defensive behaviour and reflects fear.

Best regards and have fun in Europe.

Are you passing the Netherlands?
Most welcome.

Tine Oudshoorn, midwife and owner Midwifery Business.

Nancy White said...

I'm nodding in agreement from experience w/ Beth. The more I give away, the more people come to me with specific needs that require us working together. So from the College's perspective, being known as THE place to get information, makes you then THE place to come for training, joining in association and even simply giving back. I know a content "tip jar" sounds pretty trivial, but you can always provide opportunities to donate AND then build the revenue generation from workshops, tailored content, etc. Look at CommonCraft. All of their videos which are watermarked are free on YouTube but institutions buy licenses to use unlabeled material internally. Hm, in fact, maybe you should talk to Lee and Satchi at Commoncraft!

Anonymous said...

I am a web developer and do nearly 60% of my work free for non-profit organisations including for birth organisations and midwives - I find that by doing what I love I also find other clients/non-profit organisations that have a budget to pay me for what I do well.

I still do a large amount of work for free but only because I love what I do and in some ways the clients who can afford to pay me subsidise the work I do for those who can't and I am able to do a better job for them also as a result. It is fine line between valuing what you (or your organisation) are creating and making it freely available. And some organisations have to charge to survive as that is how they are funded otherwise their good work can't continue.

Some of my clients charge for their contents or use a subscriber pays model - for some this works really well. I really believe by doing what you love, then you create a market for your work (or your clients work).

IP is a complicated issue and most people don't understand it - the person who even thinks about it is usually the only party who protects their interests. It does not come naturally to me but some very smart people helped me protect some of my IP early on and it still pays off now.

Joy Johnston said...

Good on you Sarah for raising this question. I hope you find a solution to your dilemma that satisfies you and your employer.

I have been a member of ACM for many years, and held some responsible roles. I am delighted to read the responses that urge openness and generosity with knowledge and thought.

Midwifery in this country is hugely competitive. I would really like to see the College of Midwives being generous with public discussion, and offering educational opportunities that midwives see as affordable and unmissable. In that way, midwives will value their membership in ACM, providing greater financial stability through numbers.

Sarah, I would love to see blogging and open critical discussion happening amongst Aussie midwives. At present very few are willing to express opinions publicly.

Sarah Stewart said...

Thank you all so much for responding to my question...I am sorry its taken me so long to reply...been so busy settling into my new job :)

As you all say, this is not an easy issue to address and as an organisation ( a not-for profit) we have to be making as much money as we can so we survive and expand.

For myself, I think in my role I need to advocate changes in a small but consistent way, so openess if fostered in a way that is inclusive and not threatening. I am thinking that "Softly, Softly, Catchee Monkey"...