Drupal Association blog: Turning Takers into Makers: The enhanced Drupal Certified Partner Program

In a recent working paper published by the Harvard Business School entitled “The Value of Open Source Software,” the authors, Manual Hoffmann, Frank Nagle, and Yanuo Zhou, use a new methodology to determine that the value of open source software is in excess of $8.8 trillion. They further admit that this is likely an underestimate.

Clearly, open source software plays a foundational and often underappreciated role in the digital lives of people across the world. This fact will not be news to those immersed in the open source communities that were the subject of the study (though I think the economic impact is illuminating).

Among the contributions of the Working Paper to open source literature, the authors assert that:

...users of OSS should not just free ride but also contribute to the creation and maintenance of OSS(...). Such contributions are a fraction of the costs that firms would incur if OSS did not exist and the active participation of OSS users in helping maintain the OSS they use is critical to the health and future well-being of the OSS ecosystem”

They further add:

Our results further show that the majority of the value created by OSS is created by a small number of contributors.”

While Drupal was not specifically included in the Harvard study (though PHP was), these conclusions are not news to the Drupal Community. Dries Buytaert introduced these concepts to the Community in his 2019 blog post Balancing Makers and Takers to scale and sustain Open Source. In it, he cites the “free rider” problem long studied in traditional economics and applies it to Drupal. His message in short: if Drupal is to thrive, we need to convert Takers to Makers.

In 2023, Drupal was recognized as a Digital Public Good. The recognition highlighted both Drupal’s importance in advancing an open and inclusive web as well as its susceptibility to the Free Rider problem.

The Role of the Drupal Association

The Drupal Association plays a unique role in the Drupal ecosystem.  As the nonprofit formed to support the global, decentralized open source project, our mission is to drive innovation and adoption of Drupal as a high-impact digital public good, hand-in-hand with our open source community.

Our fundamental task, day in and day out, is to ensure that Drupal is secure and available to anyone, anywhere in the world to download and use for free. This takes resources beyond the contributions to code that the community makes. Thus, we leverage financial contributions to maintain and improve the infrastructure that keeps Drupal available.

We are in an environment in which, without an intentional focus on innovation and a commitment to getting the word out about the benefits of Drupal (i.e. marketing), open source projects risk withering, and organizations with far larger budgets and profit incentives will oversell proprietary solutions that unnecessarily trap users data and raise the cost basis of accessing the internet.  Both are contrary to an open and inclusive web.

Enhancements to the Drupal Certified Partner Program

To fulfill our mission and to better support the availability of Drupal, the Drupal Association is re-orienting the Drupal Certified Partner program to recognize and highlight those firms who represent the “small number of contributors” that “are critical to the health and future well-being” of Drupal. In other words, we’re focusing the Drupal Certified Partner program on “Makers.”

We launched the Drupal Certified Partner program in 2021. It was a good start and we have learned much over the past 3 years. We learned that we have room for improvement to amplify and highlight Makers.

The current Marketplace lists 2,283 companies, many of whom provide Drupal services. Of these companies, 591 made a contribution to Drupal in 2023. Of these 591 contributors, the top 14% made 88% of total contributions in 2023. Some of these are relatively small organizations, who aren't necessarily getting the recognition they deserve. In fact, five of the top ten contributors in 2023 were companies with fewer than 50 employees.

It would be fair to say that, in Drupal, the majority of the value is created by a small number of contributors. We hope to better recognize those organizations and grow their number.

Starting on April 1, 2024, the Drupal Certified Partner program will support those companies who are committed to supporting the Drupal Project and the Drupal Community with the following improvements:

  • The Drupal Marketplace on Drupal.org will be reserved solely for Makers, known as Drupal Certified Partners. The Marketplace will be branded as the global list of “Makers” and recommended by the Drupal Association and will only list Drupal Certified Partners in active status.
  • Becoming and maintaining certification as a Drupal Certified Partner will require at least 150 annual credits and complete a short annual business survey.
  • Companies will be awarded a tier badge (Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, Diamond, Top Tier), based solely on their credits (see below).
  • Position on the Marketplace will be largely determined by credits (this is “largely” and not “solely” because we plan on providing Marketplace advantages to those companies that sponsor local camps).
  • An annual financial contribution will be required of all Drupal Certified Partners based on company size and measured by number of employees and full time contractors (see below). The intent is that this contribution be nominal to the size of the organization. These funds are used to maintain the Drupal infrastructure, a core responsibility of the Drupal Association, as well as supporting the Drupal Community.
  • Many benefits conferred by the Drupal Association will be limited to Drupal Certified Partners. These benefits are being updated and will be published before the end of the first quarter of 2024.
  • The Supporting Partner program will be re-oriented to recognize those companies who are not in the business of selling Drupal services, but want to contribute to the project and the community.

New Tiered Badge Levels

In developing the new tiers, we started with our highest performing contributor and then looked for natural cut points in the data to create subsequent tiers. With these changes, the annual contribution credit minimums for each Tier have increased.

Since 2021, when this program launched, code contribution within organizations has increased. What this tells us is the program is working. Organizations are motivated to increase contribution which, in turn, will increase innovation. It also proves we can incrementally increase the weighted contribution credit eligibility to continue to grow code contributions.

Weighted contributions over the previous twelve months will determine the Tier at an organization’s annual renewal date.

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New Financial Sponsorship Levels

Maintaining Drupal and making it available worldwide free of charge to anyone to download and use takes resources beyond contributions by the community.  The nonprofit Drupal Association, in conjunction with the Drupal Project, does the bulk of this work.  Undertaking this work on a continual basis and with great quality requires a consistent source of funding.  The Association’s historic reliance on DrupalCon revenue is insufficient to undertake the goals of innovating Drupal faster and expanding its impact.

Drupal’s market impact is conservatively valued at $3 to $5 billion.  If only 1% of the value was invested back into Drupal, this would result in tens of millions of dollars annually.  This would more than address Drupal’s maintenance, innovation, and marketing needs.

In this vein, the enhanced Drupal Certified Partner program will require an annual financial sponsorship amount.  The amount will vary commensurate with the size of the organization.  The idea is that makers who use Drupal should contribute a nominal financial amount to help the Association maintain Drupal.  It is a cost of doing business, similar to any software tool an organization may use to build and maintain their digital presence.  The amount will generate far less than “tens of millions” of dollars, but will provide a sustainable source of revenue that will be invested in innovating and marketing Drupal.  Many companies already contribute at this level, we want to formalize the commitment for all Drupal Certified Partners.

The number of employees and full-time employees will be used as a proxy for company size.

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The new Drupal Certified Partner requirements will go into effect starting 1 April 2024. All companies currently on the marketplace who are not yet Certified are invited to enroll. New organizations joining the Drupal Certified Partner program will enroll in this new program starting 1 April. Current Drupal Certified Partners will be invited to enroll on their annual renewal date after 1 April 2024. Current Drupal Certified Partners will not see a change in their financial contribution requirements until their next renewal date.

If your organization does not contribute code or your organization is an end-user, you will still be able to support Drupal the community. The current “Supporting Partner” program will now be called the “Supporting Member” program. The current financial levels will be available and some of the same benefits will be part of the program, such as 10% off DrupalCon registrations. For some, the Supporting Members program will be a starting point towards becoming a Drupal Certified Partner with the Drupal Association hosting webinars and training on how to get started contributing.

A webinar is planned for March to review the new Drupal Certified Partner program.

If you would like to learn more, please register for our upcoming webinar on 5 March 2024 hosted by myself and Kelly Delaney, our Director of Development.

Register for the webinar here. If you can’t make the live webinar, we’ll send the recording to everyone who registered after the event.

Tim Doyle
Chief Executive Officer
Drupal Association