Critical Mass? On the Proposed Sakai-Jasig Merger
As a currently serving Sakai Foundation board member, I have been a close participant in the merger efforts between Sakai and Jasig, including participating in the joint working group on the merger with the Jasig board and being "elected" to be a part of the founding board of the new merged foundation, should it come into existence.
I have been supportive of the idea of the merger because I'm always looking for ways education can increase control of its technology destiny and leverage common resources. Because Sakai itself is evolving to be a multiproject organization (with the Sakai CLE and OAE projects), it makes sense to consider evolving our community further to support multiple projects, and multiple approaches to project success. As someone who has participated in the formation and maintenance of a number of nonprofit organizations, I especially welcome the idea that with such an umbrella organization, like-minded projects and communities might not have to form their own independent nonprofit organizations, a necessity that I have seen result in significant duplication of efforts and seems an inefficient use of our scarce resources.
While the somewhat different cultures and technologies of Jasig don't necessarily make it the ideal first partner for Sakai, I believe we have more in common than we have different. The merger investigation alone has started new collaborations and insights across our communities. With an expanded umbrella, we could shelter new partnerships of different types in the future with other like-minded open educational technology organizations (eg, DuraSpace, Kuali, Opencast, etc). We don't all have to merge, but we call all work more closely together.
As the merger has moved forward however, I have become less supportive of an immediate merger, only because I have seen it generate sufficient friction within the Sakai community that I believe could be a damaging distraction to other important work. Let's face it: everybody involved has more in common than we have different and we all have far better things to do to achieve our mostly shared goals than argue amongst ourselves. I hope to to see some more healthy, respectful, open debate in our communities before finalizing my personal viewpoint. I'm disappointed that some of those who seem to think the merger is important—both for and against—have not engaged in more public discourse on the matter.
Some may have taken note that my employer—rSmart—is one of the few organizations to take a public stand on the merger, announcing that as a Sakai Commercial Affiliate, rSmart would vote against the merger in the planned community vote. It may seem odd that my viewpoint does not exactly match rSmart's.
In all this and in my board and community work in general, I would like to applaud rSmart, CEO Chris Coppola, and the rest of the rSmart team for consistently recognizing and supporting my independent viewpoints and office, rather than attempting to shape my board position and community voice to further rSmart's or anyone's interests and/or viewpoints. rSmart's conduct here is a further demonstration of rSmart's highly ethical culture, and provides more evidence of the healthy synergy we see in Sakai among commercial and educational organizations that share values and visions.
Whatever the outcomes of the merger, I'm proud to be a member of the Sakai community and to work for an organization that continues to earn my respect.
I welcome any and all comments—public or private.