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Let’s Apply for a Shuttleworth Fellowship

October 24, 2012, 11:22 am

Update: Denied.

Gittip is funded on Gittip. That means the interests of Gittip as a company are perfectly aligned with the interests of Gittip’s users. It also means I can’t take any traditional venture capital to fund the early development of Gittip.

Mark Shuttleworth made a fortune during the dot-com boom, and has since established Ubuntu as the preeminent open-source operating system. He also has an eponymous foundation that gives generous grants to “dynamic leaders who are at the forefront of social change.” A few points in the Shuttleworth Foundation’s philosophy and model jump out at me. First is the focus on people more than projects:

We support individuals through fellowships (rather than project funding) because we believe that great people are the true change agents.

We want to give the person with the fresh idea a chance to try it and see if it brings about the positive change they believe it will.

We hope that by freeing up 100% of a persons time to follow their dream, it will become a reality.

This is, of course, very much in line with Gittip’s ethos, as is the theme of applying open source models beyond software:

The more we expose the thinking, working and practices of our organisation and our projects, the better.

Working together is faster and smarter than working against each other.

The Foundation does not […] fund initiatives with the development or advocacy of free and open source software as the primary objective. We rather apply the free and open source philosophy as the underlying principle to our work.

Lastly, the foundation’s “skin in the game” expectation is something I can certainly get behind, since I left a comfortable corporate job to pursue Gittip:

We make sure the Fellow invests, both personal resources as well as money into their projects.

My long-term goal is to find my living on Gittip itself—and if Gittip works for me, it will be because it works for many of us. I think we can get there in a year or two. How do we bootstrap Gittip to that point? It seems that a Shuttleworth Foundation grant would be a big help.

So, in the spirit of openness and community, I would like to invite your input and support as I apply for a Shuttleworth Foundation grant, starting with the application itself. Besides a resume and a five-minute video, the application is just four questions and two pages long:

  1. Describe the world as it is. a description of the status quo and context in which you will be working
  2. What change do you want to make? a description of what you want to change about the status quo, in the world, your personal vision for this area
  3. What do you want to explore? a description of the innovations or questions you would like to explore during the fellowship year
  4. What are you going to do to get there? a description of what you actually plan to do during the year

Applications for the spring cohort are due a week from today. I’m going to draft mine here, and I welcome your input. Let’s show the Shuttleworth Foundation that Gittip is a community worth joining.

Chad Whitacre is the founder of Gittip, a platform for sustainable crowd-funding.