The dilemma of scaling a social organisation, with commercial bits…

(13/09/12 I have updated this post, see the final paragraph)

… and not becoming a complete dick

This post is a stake in the sand for Rewired State and Young Rewired State.

The problem (ish)

Rewired State and Young Rewired State are now entering their 4th year as a community and their second as a limited company (secured by guarantee). It has grown enough that we need now to scale, to get proper funding and separate the two organisations. Scary stuff.

But it is essential to retain the binding oaths that sit at the core of both organisations:

  • To keep the developer at the heart of everything we do
  • To be open

To this end I am having to begin conversations and apply for funding with people beyond the community. These conversations are necessary for us to secure the financial and business support required to grow, and make it something that is here to stay and not something that falters.

These external people and organisations are chosen for their fit and beliefs; but whenever money is concerned – especially *proper* money – there will always be expectations from the organisation or person and we will need to adjust how we do things to meet these needs.

The solution

We need to be careful. Having spent six months talking to a variety of people about potential ways of scaling and growing the organisations it’s obvious that we come to a point where it is necessary to get a back-up team, primarily to keep me on point (as Got To Dance judges would say).

After many sleepless nights and much ferocious cooking (it orders my mind and pleases my family) I decided that these decisions are not something I could do alone, and it would be totally impossible to get a group decision, seeing as Rewired State now counts over 600 developers in its hug.

To that end, I spent some time thinking about those closest to me and who I would happily trust, without question, with the future of both organisations.

Those people were the following (in no order):

Ben Hammersley

Sym Roe

Thayer Prime

Ben Nunney

Jemima Kiss

{the links in each name were chosen by me, feel free to Google them}

And so I proposed to them, in a their own personal capacity, on virtual bended knee that they act as a developer steering group for the organisations. Every single one has agreed and for that I am humbled and hugely grateful. The role of this group has not been formally designed, but the starter for ten is that they will:

  • approve all hack days in the pipeline
  • be a part of all major business decisions
  • be a point of escalation for RS/YRS developer concerns
  • approve appointments

In the coming weeks I will publish the agreed role of this group.

But I am writing this post really because I do believe in open organisations and I believe that by writing this, so I might help others who are suffering with sleepless nights over how they can scale their business and retain the thing that sits at the heart of what they are doing and why.

For Rewired State and Young Rewired State this means developers, for other organisations it will obviously be different. But I chose this steering group because I know that, come what may, they would stand firm by what we believe in but understand that we need to scale in order to support our commitment and the ambition of the community we have fought for, brought together and support.

I hope that this post helps anyone who is in the same situation as me, and I would like to use this post to publicly thank the YRS/RS developer steering group for agreeing so readily to keep us on track.

Update 13/09/12 unfortunately this Board has not worked, I have been rubbish at keeping my side of the deal and having it as a remote reporting board as opposed to a really engaged thing – which I had dreamed of – was just not working, for anyone. I am in the process of completing some strategy work with two advisers and as a result of that we will move forward with a plan and structure that will be different to the above but will reflect the needs of the organisation and community. I do not yet know what this is. In the mean time I would like to thank the people on the board who gave up their time and attention to help guide us through this year.

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