What does it even mean to "Start an OTS" anyway?

Following “What is OTS” I now wanted to understand how to “start one”.

I’ve just began looking at the city blueprint but, maybe because I’ve never been to an OTS, I’m not sure how I could start one even if I wanted to.

The first thing to do is let us know about it. There might already be people getting started in/near your city whose efforts we know about, so we may have contacts who can help you. This is crucial: get in touch with us!

So, what’s the difference between a group of people who got together for teaching and learning something to an OTS?

The blueprint was primarily build to help people, who know they want to start their own chapter of OTS, in how to do that specifically. The source of that is that many people visited us here in Berlin and liked what we did so much that they wanted to join it. Helping them is the main goal behind that document.

OTS is build around a few values, which reflect in the style we do organise and run our events as well as the communication in the community. In particular we focus on hands-on, self-directed learning, the coaching approach and a welcoming, safe and friendly environment and community. Attributes not only the learners but also coaches are looking for. Another aspect is that it is community driven and doesn’t sell out to companies or spam the learners nor coaches.

By saying you are an OpenTechSchool chapter you apply these values and standards to yourself and the way you organise yourself and the event you run. This allows others (coaches as well as learners) to immediately understand what they can and should expect if they want to help out. By holding yourself to this standard you immediately also are welcomed in the OpenTechSchool Community and through that gain access to more exposure and help locally as well as internationally.

So the primary reason to become an OTS other than yet-another-other-group is that it makes your life much easier.

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Thanks again, @ben! I really appreciated it.

Now, I’m struggling with this value:

Not for Profit
We strongly believe that, in order for education to work, the learner needs to have the best learning experience possible. In order to achieve that, coaches and team members donate their personal time for the greater good of the community and the learners. It is only with this value as your main goal that you can create the experience needed to encourage learners to continue. If you’d do that for your personal gain the quality would simply suffer.

I don’t think donation is the only model that works with education. Nor it is the best… But I kind agree basic education should be free for students… And, learning about Information Technology, or at least a little programming, is a topic important enough that everyone should know the basics.

For full disclosure:

Very recently I’ve strongly began thinking about trying to teach precisely on those topics… For living. I don’t have a business plan or model yet (who knows if I’m even moving forward with this idea?), but I wished I could build one and offer a service good enough it would be worth paying. Profit would be welcomed to make it grow, but I wouldn’t like it being required to maintain it…

In one plan, I could call it a not-for-profit NGO, but that doesn’t require it to be donation-ware. I would advertise it somewhere the lines of “costs free” meaning you don’t have to pay, but letting it clear there is a minimum amount needed to maintain it and I personally need this amount to keep it alive. It would be a cause, but none usually associated with “donations”, imho.

That being said, I’d like to know more about where that value / idea came from. Why do you think quality of education would necessarily suffer if there is profit? Maybe put in other words, what would you do if donations became profitable (i.e. receiving more money than needed to cover the costs)? Or even, what’s considered a “cost”? Isn’t labour a cost?

Maybe we’re talking about the exact same thing here… If so, how about adjusting that value to something more like this? To me, the details make the whole difference there:

Not for Profit
We strongly believe that, in order for education to work, the learner need to have the best learning experience possible. In order to achieve that, many coaches and team members even donate their personal time for the greater good of the community and the learners. The main goal must be the free exchange of information, in order to create the experience needed to encourage and entice learners. And so, if you’d participate for your personal gain the education quality would suffer.

I seem to remember that, back from the time of drafting those values up, Not For Profit is a safeguard for the learners, not the coaches. It is meant to encourage an open community where everyone — no matter their financial standing — can participate. If we were to take an entry fee for our workshops we would exclude those learners who are not capable of paying for it.

On another note, something I’ve often heard echoed inside of the OTS and other volunteer efforts is that profit destroys engagement. Our coaches love what they’re doing. If we were to pay coaches money we would quickly be in a negotiation position. How much is coaching a learner worth? Does it depend on the workshop size, or difficulty? On the number of questions answered? Which coaches do we hire? This is a can of worms we would rather not open at all.

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That makes a lot of sense, but I still don’t quite get it.

You mean from practical experiences?

3 points:

Non traditional donation working model

I’ve just heard of a school that’s open and free for anyone to join. And their educating system is so good for students that later on, when they start to make their own living and money, they will contribute back to the cause. And that’s an incentive culture within it, or else they might even not remember to do it.

This is not donation, nor government, but I would say it is profit oriented. The only problem I believe they must suffer is having to have a system to select new students since there is a certain number required to maintain the good quality there. I’ll still try to get their name and visit them, though… I hope they’re not as rare as “Escola da Ponte”.

In any case, that’s an awesome model if it really works like that. Just requires a huge amount of initial investment. And this is just one model.

Dedicated school

Also, without enough resources, a school can’t be as dedicated as it might if it had a business model. Right?

How else would you create a non governmental school dedicated to teaching? Would the school require coaches have to have their own job and income to survive? Doesn’t that limit it a lot?

Time is money, not profit

Finally the OTS coaches might not receive anything from the school, but I would argue what makes they engage has nothing to do with money. They all have their own job, right? So their free time does have a value and eventually they could be making money elsewhere and so, in a sense, they could think as if losing money there. Even without any profit, there is money relayed anyway.


Engagement has more to do with people and environment. The culture within the group and affinities among each person. I would guess. Doesn’t it?

When I ask it’s because I’m I really don’t know better, in practice.

The idea isn’t paying for employees, but trying to find a model where coaches might be able to dedicate more time if they want to, keeping in mind the school is not for profit, nor against it, and the goal is teaching openly and freely to anyone.

I’m no expert on incentive models by all means but will try to answer from my rough knowledge and intuition.

I would be very interested to learn details about the school you referred to. The critical bit that’s missing in your description is how do they pay the coaches? I have mentioned a couple points that are inextricably hard about that topic in #4, namely discrimination of coaches against each other, possibly erecting a two-tiered community. I strongly believe that any form of cash payment to our coaches would irrevocably terminate all volunteer efforts.

Donations are an entirely separate issue. We have guidelines on sponsorship which would apply and have casually accepted donations at events. (Even though the response has never been to large as far as I know.) If you wish to push this question further I encourage you to open another discussion on Discourse and involve @Danila as she wanted to discuss that at a previous Berlin Organizers meeting.

I agree that commercial enterprises can be more “dedicated,” if that means having a larger reach and throughput. However, one of OpenTechSchool’s biggest strengths I currently see is exactly the dedication we get from volunteers. Yes, they all have a day job and yes, they cannot dedicate as much time as full-time teachers can. Most of them wouldn’t want to, nevertheless, and make up for it with passion.

As for your “time is money” point, you’re absolutely right: Our coaches relay one of their largest valuables to us — their time. In a way, you could say the coaches pay the resources the learners cannot afford. This is very different from the profit-based model you proposed in #3: Coaches pay the learners (with their time), not the other way around.

Incentive systems are hard and I encourage you to continue your forays into for-profit volunteer work. OpenTechSchool has found an equilibrium where the model works out perfectly for our coaches and learners and we don’t have any problems recruiting enough of them. (As for organizers, it’s a completely different story.)

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While not exactly prohibiting it, the Charter of the OpenTechSchool Foundation reads (roughly translated §2d):

Members do not receive any benefits from funds of the Foundation.
No person may be favored by payments that are foreign to the purposes of the Foundation, or by disproportionately high reimbursements.

§§2a, c:

The Foundation solely and directly pursues charitable purposes.
The Foundation acts selflessly; it does not primarily pursue its own financial purposes.

IOW treading on thin ice.

You describe quite a different world from what I can see indeed. It’s hard to me thinking of “teachers paying to teach” or “coaches paying to coach”. I guess all this helped me a lot realizing a bit more that reality.

It’s quite common people who realize they’ve been so fortunate on their lives that they’re willing to give something back to society. And it’s sure much more satisfying if you can even arrange the time to do it in person, such as coaching.

And we sure do need more people well informed about critical thinking, science and technology. Things people might not realize they need and so even if they could afford it might not pay for something they can’t see immediate return.

I still don’t see exactly why volunteers and dedicated professionals can’t co-exist, but from what I get it’s something you’ve tried and have watched failing multiple times. Meanwhile keeping “profit” away actually make the school work. Kinda sad I think, but if that’s the case there must be a very logical reason behind it. Eventually I’ll see it…

By all that, I just mean: thanks!

I’ll dig deeper and come back with more details. :slight_smile:

Found it: http://www.estudar.org.br/ (made by this guy) Have you heard of it? Probably not.

It was my father who told me about it, and I think he exaggerated a bit. But it’s not too far from the picture I’ve made. From what I could dig so far, it’s more like a full scholarship, but with much support and little interest / charges. Unfortunately it is like most things brazilians: too much is written on the website and said on the videos and too little is effectively said. I’ll apply to it and when I get to know it better I eventually will come back with more info! :wink:

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