Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
As regards your footnote, maybe I'm dense but I can't think offhand of a product or service that an ET virtual consultancy can offer either more cost-effectively or in higher quality (though I'm willing to be convinced).
by dvx

"There is a numerical fact that if 1000 people gave 10 minutes of their time, 6 days a week, there would be the equivalent of 25 people fully employed."
That is nonsense. The amount of useful work that can be performed by a single person in 10 minutes a day is very nearly zero. You're falling into the mythical man-month fallacy.

I'd say an hour is a minimal slice for writing type work that you're doing day-in, day-out. Three  hours if you have to pick it up from two weeks or two months ago and spend and hour working out what the hell you were doing.
10 minutes might do for answering a service call, but that's a different matter.
And for something highly technical it may take eight hours to pick up from a couple of weeks ago.
by Colman

Not true. You don't know my business. Most of it is spent in short period connection with others on a variety of simultaneous projects at various stages of development.  The only time most of us spend continuous effort of say 4 hours is when we are working individually on our speciality contribution to the agenda.
by Sven Triloqvist

In Switzerland, setting up a non-profit is super easy...it is only making it charitable org. that takes a bit more work, but not much. How is it in the UK and elsewhere?
by whataboutbob

Jumping in here - This is as good a place as any.
My thoughts on this are as follows:
a reasonable goal would be to have our ideas influence public discourse more, and see ET (or ET-inspired ideas) quoted more often. While that may sound a lot like let's-make-Jerome-a-pundit, and it will be hard for the outside world not to focus on one or a few persons, there is real value in the collective debate, and it is the debate itself that I'd like to promote;
one way to do this would be to send links for ET content around - posting on blogs, emailing it to journalists, writing to institutions and pundits and the like. This is done on a small scale by some members already; it could be extended, or made more systematic. Having someone with the time to build up the database of contacts, and identify the places where it's worthwhile to post about ET would be a requisite, I think.
another, more ambitious, would be to take the time to make summaries of some of our discussions, and distribute these around as finished products. That requires (i) the time and ability to prepare summaries (ii) some process for ETers that participated in the discussion to veto or not the summary (iii) the infrastructure to send these around.
another option would be to push our collective LTE and Op-Ed drafting output. This has worked well in the past, and it can still work, provided that more of us do it. This need not be initiated by me or a FPer, as it has majoritarily been the case so far.
Now, the money angle is relevant insofar as we might want to get someone's time committed more explicitly to doing one of these things or others, and that requires that someone to be compensated for. Should we go that route, and create a structure that actually employs someone, that money may come from various sources - member contributions (unlikely to be enough), grants (need to be found, conditions to be understood), or sale of some kind of services (I'm skeptical so far - apart from writing output that would meet some kind of consensus to be stamped ET, or would be donated by the authors, an option I may be able to put on the table in concrete ways in the near future).
I'm wary of bringing money in anyway in ET. I still think that with a few more committed volunteers, some basic organisation and task sharing, and, quite simply, more members, we can do a lot more of what we do right now, without compromising the quality of debate nor the motivation of participants. In the past few weeks, we've seen an increase in readership, diary writing, and active participants, and debate quality is as good as ever (including some lighter threads). I think we need to build on this.
I think ET is a unique place where a high-level collective debate can take place while being open to anyone who wants to participate.  It is a unique place for sharing information and knowledge and I have learnt a lot here. In fact, it is one of the best examples of collective intelligence-building I know. Participating in ET is an asset and I think we all benefit from the knowledge we've acquired through ET in our professional or broader social activities.
While I understand those who would like to see this extraordinary intellectual potential better exploited, I am very sceptical about ET becoming a consulting organisation or a think-tank for several reasons. First of all, I have been working in the consulting business and with think-tanks for years and I know how hard it would be to convince potential customers of the specific added value of ET and to establish our credibility in a sector where the competition is very hard. Except for a limited number of persons who know it, ET is not a brand yet.
But the most important issue is that if we were to develop this kind of activities, it would have a major impact on the nature of ET, the way it functions and on its image. Why? First, consulting and online collective blogging don't have the same purposes, timelines and priorities, nor do they require the same skills and work organisation, so make them coexist would be very difficult. Also, combining non-for-profit and for-profit activities within the same organisation is almost impossible; I know several organisations that tried to do it and none of them have succeeded. ET contributors involved in business-oriented projects would inevitably focus their time and energy on these projects. Finally the ET image would be blurred: for our audience, a key asset of ET is the fact that we have nothing to sell.
However, ET can be a place where people can meet, discuss projects proposals and create ad hoc teams around common projects. It is already the case and the more it happens, the better. We could even expect those who have started successful projects thanks to ET to make a financial contribution. But these project's are ET's by-products, not it's raison d'être and that doesn't make ET a think-tank, nor a consulting organisation.
I agree with you: our first goal should be to develop our audience both by expanding our users base and by building a network of media (the press, blogs...) who would channel our ideas or link to our debates.  The recent links with PSEmanifesto and the LibDems show it is possible.
We have been very successful in drafting LTEs and Op-eds. I think we should focus on producing more of them. In order to do so, we should improve the way we work, maybe by adopting collaborative tools.  We could also produce more in-depth contributions (a ~10 pages note) on some issues. I doubt we can easily make a summary of our debates: it would require a lot of work. I think it's better to identify an issue on which we would like to draft a note, to define the document's plan and to collectively work on it.
And just to add as a throwaway that while "Individuals" have Agendas, and "Organisations" have Agenda's - of which the most pernicious is the pursuit of profit above all else - "Frameworks" are simply relationships and do not have Agenda's, although I could conceive of a Framework as an Agenda.
Chris Cook

"What is true IMO is that collaboration and cooperation are the major factors in ET's building success. It is inevitable that these processes would produce all sorts of relationships that might have a life outside of ET - personal, political, professional etc. As they do."
I agree and I think that ET's fertility, i.e. its capacity to foster multiple relationships, including professional projects, is one of the best indicators of its success.
"I don't see any reason however why such a 'work group site' might not extend the brand in some way."
Sure, in a near future, we will proudly say we were early Eurotribuns and put the label on our projects. In fact I already mention it, but I still have to explain what ET is...

paul spencer

by paul spencer (spencerinthegorge AT yahoo DOT com) on Tue Nov 13th, 2007 at 12:17:41 AM EST

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