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10A Corporate Guidance of Self Organizing Communities

Corporate Guidance of Self Organizing Communities

Problem statement:
Volunteers self-organize with their own goals, but corporate leadership want a measurable return on their financial sponsorship.


  • People are more willing to volunteer when the corporation does less overt leading and more supporting their own efforts.
  • It is fair for corporations to tie their funding to specific goals: we will pay for the servers if you are helping people in the forums.
  • Can be useful to move governance to a third party foundation–that provides a lot of community trust of their own role in governance.
  • In your organization, have a community of practice of people that engage in open source projects. Both using, and contributing. Cross organizational.
  • Have a sense for participants “wish lists” from their involvement. Connect people who have similar interests.
  • The corporation can sweeten the pot to encourage efforts toward certain “wishes”–pay for the work.
  • With the corporation–ask for forgiveness, not permission. Getting buy-in is a process that kills volunteer motivation.
  • Public statements of intent, such as a product roadmap, can help people feel like there is a common direction to work towards.
    – Don’t cling to your roadmap. Lightweight.
    – Creation of a roadmap in committee is painful. But most active contributors can state what they are working on.
    – It gives a tool to follow-up with developers and measure progress. Can measure completeness to gage releases.
    – Understand motivation: Autonomy, Mastery, Purpose, Comradery

Core Needs:

  • Trust: The community and the corporation needs to trust that they are partners. It is easy to lose trust.
  • Fairness: It isn’t an “open source wash”, but sincerely sharing with the community.
  • Volunteers need to have a measurable benefit as well, and “feeling good” is not enough. You need to help your volunteers do what is good for them.
  • Clear expectations: What will your corporation do, and won’t do.

Organizations are not monolithic. There are groups within every organization that have various levels of engagement and trust for the community.

Driving enthusiastic volunteering can be too-heavy. Very few of your participants will be doing it for purely altruistic reasons.

Interesting blog post: Coding Horror “Why Discourse Isn’t .NET” (I don’t remember the exact title).

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