European Union grants¶
Continued development of LiberaForms over the last two years has been possible thanks to international grants within the European Union. This is our expericence so far.
Making a small Free software project sustainable is not easy, especially when you are getting started. The grants we have recieved have payed bills, kept a roof over the head, and food in the mouth. We are very grateful for that because if not, LiberaForms would not be what it is today.
When we first applied for a grant we had no experience at all with EU grants. The whole ecosystem was bewildering. This is what we have learned.
The European government has both policy and budget to promote Free software projects.
- The impact of Open Source Software and Hardware on technological independence, competitiveness and innovation in the EU economy
- Funding for Digital in the 2021-2027 Multiannual Financial Framework
So there is money to spend, but how does it get from the upper echelons who make the desicions all the way down to the individuals and small groups of people developing the technology?
LiberaForms applies for grants from organizations who they themselves look for financing to support projects like us. They act as 'channels' to get the money out to the developers.
These channels are independant from each other. Each of them has their own way of understanding software and their own set of interests and ethics.
We have experience with two such organizations.
When it comes to important ideas that can help improve our society, there really are no boundaries. The challenge is to turn those opportunities into reality. Great ideas just come, but they are gone in a breeze as well. Lets make good use of them.
After having worked with NLnet I can say they do indeed nurture and foster Free software projects. It is so refreshing to find someone who believes in your idea and is ready to help you. What a change!
NLnet are easy to work with and they know what they say. Before the grant is agreed on you go through a back and forth process to come to a concensus about what the grant money will be used for. Work is divided into milestones each with an associated sum of money. Milestones can be split into smaller parts. When a milestone or one of the smaller parts is completed you send them the code (commits, etc) and any other relevant documentation. They revise it and when they confirm that the agreed apon work has been done, you get paid for that part. It's that easy.
When you need to get in touch they are there. You recieve the occasional email with information that is of interest to you. No spam.
You are not side tracked with irrelevant chores. They do not waste your time (time you are being payed for to develop). You are not required to prepare presentations, go to conferences, or make interventions either publicly or privately.
They treat you as a person.
We empower internet innovators to develop technology solutions and services in the data portability field.
If only that were true. We found DAPSI to be inefficient, unprofessional, unempathetic and disgracefully substandard. Free software and it's ecosystem of which LiberaForms is part of was not important to them at all but instead, importance was placed on outward projection regardless of the state of the software (aka Vaporware).
The DAPSI team was made up of thrid parties, each with their own Google or Microsoft cloud. There was no common documentation repository or fixed interlocutor, and the onus was put on us to keep track of their scattered information using proprietory services.
We spent hours and hours preparing compulsory "Deliverables" like presentations and projections, and attending online conferences instead of working on the project. Our weekly internal devop meetings became dedicated to preparing presentations and reports for DAPSI. The level of stress within the team built up so much that one of the members abandoned the project. DAPSI nearly broke us.
As an anecdote, one of our team was required to travel to Paris to give a "Final Pitch" (if not we would not recieve the grant money). We payed the travel expenses and while in the conference room our laptop was stolen (along with the laptops of three other people from different projects). DAPSI did not take any responsibility, they did not report the theft to the police, they did not even inform me (the project lead) so I could at least know about the security breach!
That Paris incident really defines DAPSI's overall lack of interest and seriousness.
To sum up ...¶
Organizations that manage European funds range from the professional and responsible all the way down to the complete opposite.
Grants are a big help but can come with a cost, a cost that may out weigh the financial benefit.
It is a good idea to look into who is behind the organization before you sign up for the grant!