For almost three years the Open Heroines community has been a loose structure, with minimal rules: This is a space for anyone who defines themselves as women, and we try to keep the space open, respect one another, and create together. As our community grew, we created as a community our rules of engagement to ensure that we were all on the same page.
Now, that we are well over 400 members from 22 timezones, we think it is a great time to reflect, create and work on a governance mechanism. Dealing with governance should be more than just setting up rules and boundaries. For us, this is also about keeping up the good work that we are doing: to make women stronger, more visible and more comfortable in our fields of work (open government, open data and civic tech).
None of the women in Open Heroines are paid and the money we raise is going towards travel grants for women who never been to an international conference, most of whom aren’t currently a part of Open Heroines community. We all volunteer because we believe in our cause and in our community. To build on this momentum, we need to also define what we want to achieve and how our community will get there. To that end, we’ll be opening up a consultation in early next year on where Open Heroines wants to be by 2020.
Lastly and with full honesty, working on governance in open communities is scary. On the one hand, we want to keep the “community magic” and keep it unstructured so it’s free from bureaucratic hassle. On the other hand, we do want to make sure that we are achieving our goals and sticking to our open principles. So we are taking this task seriously, trying to practice what we preach and keep the building of our governance as open and as documented as possible, so all will feel part of the process.
We decided to start simple with a group call that was open to everyone from the community to join. We started by asking “what is governance for you?” Here are some of the Heroines replies:
- Edafe: An environment to support the Open Heroines work and allow people to participate as they like to.
- Mollie: Building structures and principles to ensure Open Heroines is always collaborative, inclusive and accountable (and admitting that sometimes we will get this wrong)
- Katie: Adding a more formal governance is adding a more formal structure to support a common mission and objectives, and including adding clarity around decision making, but it’s also about giving people space to understand how to engage through ground rules of engagement. (Is there a way to do this openly and in a participatory way, hopefully!)
- Jasmine: A way for people to get involved how people can find out about Open Heroines.
- Maria: How the group is growing and where we are going next?
- Emily: Balance, creating a balance between levels of involvement and participation in the group.
- Ruba: A formal structure can help us be more effective and accountable to our community
- Hera: accountability, transparency, addressing power structures
- Ana: Building on all the great things everyone has said — it’s about discovering a new way we can do governance, in a more collaborative way. Governance can also be a way for us to be more transparent and inclusive with the larger community outside of this group — and the working groups that will be initiated.
- Jamila: To streamline the community’s efforts and accelerate. Also, a way to get new members engaged with Open Heroines.
- Mor: Governance is a system to make people welcome and comfortable, understanding how we can move forward.
- Pyrou: Governance is simply a word that describes a teams structure, so that all the components can fit together and complement each other. Embedded within this structure is accountability and transparency which holds the team together.
We’ve also started setting up working groups on a range of topics: membership, vision, events and our travel grants project. Following the call, we circulated the notes to ensure people who weren’t able to join could still volunteer to be part of the working group and offer suggestions.
More to come as we continue to learn from each other and shape our community during 2019.