My approach to community building and coordination

For the last three months I've been knee-deep (neck deep? thoroughly underwater?) in the #CommonsPilot project, where I have been funded to take on a community coordinating role.

Someone asked today about how my coordination approach dovetails with the immense complexity of the project, and I put together the following answer, which I liked, and am now sharing with y'all.

I am trying to use the following process:

  • put in place some loose guidelines (we'll be using this platform for e-mail, that project for documents, etc.);

  • define a community code of conduct, and start things off the way you want to continue with communication;

  • devise some simple on-boarding to connect people with guidelines;

  • watch carefully to see what communication avenues are actually being used / work well (slack has been a success, google calendar... not so much); fine tune accordingly (we're now using for both mailing lists and calendars);

  • then, observe & extract the emergent "Desire Paths" and bring them into the on-boarding docs ;

  • layer more structure on as need becomes apparent, but don't do it too early, because each layer of structure acts as a straitjacket on the project and limits flexibility and adaptation;

  • use training and in-person / 1-1 meetings to inculcate culture and process;

  • iterate!

This process has emerged from my participation in open source projects over the last 30 years, as well as from watching Greg Wilson grow Software Carpentry from scratch over a decade. It is as different from the way academics think about building collaborations as the Carpentry teaching method is from "sage on a stage"-style teaching :).


p.s. I just started taking scuba lessons (PADI Open Water cert), which may have been a subconscious reaction to this #CommonsPilot thing... "breathe deeply and slowly. don't panic. and when your air runs out? bail to the surface." :)

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