We need to be better at communicating what WeRobotics is (and isn’t) to fellow humans. We can’t expect everyone to have the time to read through most of these blog posts and somehow immediately understand the big picture. We are keen to share more about our community, culture, and methodology. The FAQ below is a way to share more about our work. We are learning as we build. Feel free to share this post with anyone who might benefit from more clarity. It’s a quick 3 minute read.
Is WeRobotics a for-profit company?
WeRobotics is a registered not-for-profit in the US and a tax-exempt organization in Switzerland.
Are Flying Labs for-profit companies?
Flying Labs are coordinated by local not-for-profit organizations and/or local companies.
What is the difference between Flying Labs and WeRobotics Labs?
There are no such things as WeRobotics Labs.
Flying Labs are independently organized centers of expertise that are coordinated by local experts pin the Global South. Calling them WeRobotics Labs instead of Flying Labs might suggest they are staffed and managed by WeRobotics and belong to WeRobotics. Flying Labs are not staffed or managed by WeRobotics and are not owned by WeRobotics. Furthermore, calling them WeRobotics Labs would be disrespectful as doing so would take attention away from local experts who run their Flying Labs. Calling them WeRobotics Labs would directly undermine everyone’s efforts.
Is FlyingLabs.org its own legal entity?
We’re using WeRobotics to co-create an independent international organization deeply rooted in the Global South and run entirely by leaders from the Global South. This has been our goal from the very start. As a first step, we are co-creating a network of country-level Flying Labs across Africa, Asia and Latin America. The second step is to secure systems change funding to co-create FlyingLabs.org as its own legal entity with its own leadership selected from and by country-level Flying Labs. We have already developed a concrete, 5-year plan and budget to launch FlyingLabs.org as its own independent entity.
What happens to WeRobotics after FlyingLabs.org becomes its own organization?
FlyingLabs.org may want to hire WeRobotics for certain projects or roles as needed. In addition, WeRobotics will offer new consulting services such as enabling other organizations to adopt the “Flying Labs Formula” at scale. Consulting projects represent around 30% of our revenue today. We will continue to grow this revenue stream to 80% of total revenue by the time FlyingLabs.org becomes its own legal entity. The remaining 20% will be grant funding to cover core.
What do you mean by “decolonizing technology for good”?
In this recent blog post, we talk about “the colonization of the public sphere through the use of instrumental technical rationality. In this sphere, complex social problems are reduced to technical questions, effectively removing the plurality of contending perspectives.” By advocating for the “decolonization of technology for good” we advocate against the reduction of complex social problems into technical problems. Equally importantly, we advocate for restoring the plurality of contending perspectives. In our case, this means strongly advocating for the Power of Local.
Decolonization is a rather loaded word.
Is that question or comment? Just kidding. Yes, decolonization is a loaded term. We discussed this at length with Flying Labs during last year’s retreat. We use the word decolonization selectively to call more attention to power dynamics, especially (but not exclusively) in the “Technology for Good” space. This may come as a surprise to some since WeRobotics co-founders are from the Global North. Thing is, we feel strongly that those with privilege have a particular responsibility to listen and call out these power dynamics where they can. This is about solidarity, which is one of our core values along with inclusion, diversity, autonomy, humanity, humility and sharing.
Are Flying Labs independent?
Yes: We are an open network with a federated model. Hierarchy is not part of our formal culture. We co-create in an open way. As such, Flying Labs conduct their own affairs and make their own decisions. They select their own projects and partners. They run their own meetings and their own finances. They develop their own value propositions, governance models, business models and services. They write their own blog posts and many are also engaged on multiple social media platforms. WeRobotics does not have password access to any of these platforms. It should be noted that 90% of blog posts hosted on the Flying Labs blog and WeRobotics blog are about Flying Labs and published by Flying Labs. In addition, 95% of all photos and videos in these blog posts are of Flying Labs, not WeRobotics. We work hard to amplify the voices of local experts across the Flying Labs network. Furthermore, Labs do their own media interviews and also decide which conferences and workshops they want to organize or speak at.*
No: Flying Labs must follow local, national and international laws. This includes relevant aviation regulations and our Child Protection Policy, for example. In addition, Flying Labs must follow this Code of Conduct and these Flying Labs Guidelines (PDF).
*When WeRobotics receives an invitation to speak at a conference, we transfer the invitation to Flying Labs whenever possible. This has given Flying Labs the opportunity to give presentations and keynotes in Malaysia, Japan, Dubai, Australia, Jamaica and Kenya, for example. We do the same when receiving requests for media interviews. Helping to amplify the voices of local experts is important to us.
Does WeRobotics own the data (and metadata) collected by Flying Labs?
No, Flying Labs and/or their clients own the data and metadata collected by Flying Labs. WeRobotics does not own or monetize the data or metadata collected by Flying Labs.
Do Flying Labs pay fees to WeRobotics?
Yes, Flying Labs make annual contributions to the Flying Labs Fund. These mandatory contributions range from USD 250 to $750 depending on the type of organization that coordinates any given Flying Labs. Note that 100% of the annual contributions go directly to the Flying Labs Fund and that 100% of the Flying Labs Fund goes right back to the Flying Labs in the form of micro-grants, subsidized travel, free software, free training, retreats and more. WeRobotics does not take commissions.
Is the Flying Labs model based on a franchise model?
We frequently describe the Affiliate Flying Labs Program as being based on a franchise model. But this is simply a means to express affiliation. There’s no ownership in our case, so we ought to use a different word to describe the Affiliate Program. “Cooperative model” may be more accurate.
Is WeRobotics perfect?