Community management is a huge challenge. As David Eaves states “as open source projects becomes increasingly successful (and, possibly, more political) the context around the community changes”. We’re seeing this a little with DemoCampToronto as the community grows and the common values and operating assumptions are challenged. These have not been encoded but we were a small enough group that the people that “opt in” got it. We’ve seen tremendous growth in the size of the audience at events and the community. We seen people latch on the the Camp brand to drive attendance at their events.
“Decision-makers are chosen and evaluated by their ability to provide leadership that draws in other contributors.”—Mitchell Baker
I’ve started thinking about TorCamp and all of the events as an open community. Chris Messina has talked about the future of open leadership . Mitchell Baker has talked about community decision making and leadership. Perhaps we need to provide a little bit of structure around TorCamp leadership. This is a community, and it needs leadership. What are the roles and paths to success that leaders will be chosen and evaluated.
- How much structure does this community and its participants need to continue success?
- What are the roles necessary to guarantee success of the community and it’s members? internal? external?
- How will we choose the decision-makers and leaders of this community?
- How will the decision-makers and leaders be evaluated?
Leadership is important; it's not about power, it's about clarity of purpose and of seeing things through to their desired conclusion, deterring that which threatens to scuttle the intentions of the group.—Chris Messina
What are the goals for the community?
Where did all of this start? It started with BarCamp and the goal to bring together the diverse technology, design and entrepreneurship communities in Toronto to participate in an open environment. It was my belief that there were people in Toronto that needed a community, so we didn’t have to struggle as freelancers and entrepreneurs in our kitchens, garages, and offices. Humans are inherently social creatures who can not operate without social cooperation and association.
A BarCamp is an ad-hoc gathering born from the desire for people to share and learn in an open environment. It is an intense event with discussions, demos, and interaction from participants.
It started with an event. But the energy, the people, the social nature of the activities required that we find new opportunities to gather, to association, to interact. We started by having DemoCamps, RoundTables, DesignSlams. We started a Google Group, an Upcoming group, a Skype Chat and other tools to enable this community to continue to form, interact and socialize. This has lead to the goal listed on the TorCamp page:
The goal is to build an open community of individuals and companies. To provide open events to inspire and instill a sense of community in the Toronto technology scene.
These goals are still relevant. The community and members of the community has stepped up to create events. To inspire the community. These events take time and effort. There are costs, for t-shirts, food, space rental, projectors, etc.. There are risks, remember the stolen keg. But the results are visible. There is a community. A sense of belonging. A series of events.
Basically it boils down to making enough decisions correctly enough that people continue to choose to participate.—Mitchell Baker
Structure or a lack of it
We’ve done all of this because there is a small group of dedicated individuals that have take a personal responsibility to contribute to the community. We haven’t had a structure. Individuals have coalesced around the ideas and ideas of open community.
It is the BarCamp model of leadership, of self-determination, of personal responsibility and of realizing your own role in consciously creating circumstances for yourself.—Chris Messina
Do we need formal identification of leaders? For the most part we’ve succeed with individuals in the community making decisions and leading the way. Our community works. This decentralized group means that it is the responsibility of each individual to make sure they are contributing to the community’s goals. It makes it tougher when there is a media inquiry, or when folks come ‘round looking for the person responsible for this. But the community is responsible, each of us. This is the Open Spaces Technology Law of Two Feet.
We call it the Law of Two Feet. Briefly stated, this law says that every individual has two feet, and must be prepared to use them. Responsibility for a successful outcome in any Open Space Event resides with exactly one person – each participant. Individuals can make a difference and must make a difference. If that is not true in a given situation, they, and they alone, must take responsibility to use their two feet, and move to a new place where they can make a difference. This departure need not be made in anger or hostility, but only after honoring the people involved and the space they occupy. By word or gesture, indicate that you have nothing further to contribute, wish them well, and go and do something useful.—Open Space Technology User Guide
Time magazine has it right, it’s all about you. You have the power to be a part of this community. You have the power to change the world.