Workshopping the SustainOSS Governance Guide

Hi folks! Last year we put together the Principles of Governing OSS Commons, and then we merged that artifact with the Governance Readiness Workgroup’s question set to produce this matrix of Questions to Ask Frequently.

Together with @jlcanovas of the aforementioned Governance Readiness group, and @GeorgLink of CHAOSS, e’re preparing to introduce these materials at a workshop in the upcoming MozFest. We’ll share the backstory of how we came to produce this framework through SustainOSS conversations, and invite folks to engage with, critique, and help revise the materials.

We’d like to practice this session by hosting it with a group of SustainOSS community members first. Would you be interested to join an hour-long session where we review this Governance Guide, see how it holds up in light of your experience, and consider how it can be made more useful?

Indicate your interest here and we’ll look for a time to connect in the first week of March.

Thanks! greg


I would love to, assuming the timing works!

Sounds great am put me down for that!

Awesome! I also received interest from @gunner, so that gives us a good group with which to get started.

I believe we have people spanning GMT to PST, so I’ve picked a narrow band of 11a/12p EST slots in the first week of March that I can do. Indicate your availability on the Survey here: Doodle - Make meetings happen

Looking forward! ~greg

Hi @greggish -for future reference, if you folks want to use a fully FOSS alternative to Doodle Polls, this is what the equivalent poll looks like using NextCloud’s Poll app (on my personal instance)… Public NextCloud Poll Because FOSS doesn’t have a marketing budget, the best way for us to introduce it to lots more people and make it sustainable is to use it at every opportunity! Happy to assist anyone wanting to set one of these instances up.


Dave, thanks for sharing. Great to know about that tool! (Does it offer the option to indicate ‘if need be’?)

Also, did you (or someone else?) fill in a response there under the name Steve? Or is that a ‘sample steve.’ Trying to figure out if we need to reconcile survey results now…


Hi Greg - I’m afraid I don’t know who Steve is (wasn’t me :slight_smile: ) - Yes, when setting up a poll, you can allow a “maybe” or if need be option.

Hi folks – it’s looking like March 4th at 12p EST is the likely best bet. (Tough call here… but 11a no longer works for me :frowning: )

I’m going to loop back and confirm with a few folks, but please pencil that in for now.

Thanks! greg


I am Steve :slight_smile:

Stephen Jacobs Director, Open@RIT Professor, School of Interactive Games and Media Visiting Scholar, The Strong National Museum of Play Wanna meet?

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Sorry I can’t make it, we’re interviewing for a new department head and they’ve added their presentation to conflict with you presentation. Kinda gotta show up for that work thing :frowning:

Good luck with it!

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Sorry it didn’t work out timing-wise, keep a lookout for the notes and let me know if you’d like to connect to discuss some other way!

OK let’s lock it in: March 4th at 12p EST.

I’d like to create a calendar item and invite folks in. (Are there any open source calendaring tools of choice that would send out CALDAV invitations? Otherwise I will just use my GCal, but would be happy to keep learning about OS alternatives :wink:

Anyone who is watching this thread: This even is happening in half an hour! Hope to see some of you there.

It’ll be on Google Meet. Ping if you don’t have a calendar invite yet.

Just a note: This session at Mozfest is today! \o/

There’re still a few slots open, if anyone wants to join in: mozfest-2021-website.

how’d it go @greggish!? hope you got what you wanted out of it :+1:

I think it went pretty well! Really appreciate all the input we got.

Participants left only positive feedback in the doc – people just wanted more time. And in our co-facilitators debrief we also felt good about it.

It’s really tough to work through such a complex topic and come to a place of creative thinking in just 60 mins, tho I’d love to see how someone with some creative session design skills might do with this framework…

We’re talking about a few things that might come next, like writing up a paper, applying for funding to produce a designed guidebook… I’d also like to reach out to some similar initiatives like Community.Rule to discuss how these might align… open to ideas!

Couple days later and I’m getting some more clarity on how to make it easier to get “in” to Ostrom’s framework… this may not be interesting at all to anyone else but i’m gonna write it down anyway!

I think the ‘flow’ of principles in the IAD framework (i.e. Institutional Analysis and Design) could be improved – for the purpose of communication and education – by a simple reorder of one of the principles.

The principles normally are ordered like this (i’m translating/simplifying here):

  1. boundaries
  2. rules
  3. rule-making processes that involve community members
  4. monitoring
  5. sanctions
  6. conflict resolution
  7. government recognition of community rights to self govern
  8. nestedness of governing systems

I think most people instinctively understand these things, though seeing it all at once is a lot to take in. Now, IMO the characteristic that really makes a governance model ‘alive’ is #3 – that members of the community should be able to participate somehow in making and changing the rules. But conceptually this is a higher level of abstraction. And having walked people through this a bunch of times, I wonder if it gets in the way there in the #3 spot.

If the principles were reordered like this:

  1. boundaries
  2. rules
  3. monitoring
  4. sanctions
  5. conflict resolution mechanisms
  6. rule-making processes that community members can participate in
  7. rights to self-govern
  8. nested governing systems

#1-5 now have a clear linear logical progression, each principle building directly upon the previous one: boundaries create the context for rules, rules establish a framework for monitoring, monitoring is a critical capacity for sanctioning, sanctions can work fairly as a system if there are conflict resolution mechanisms to adjudicate disagreements.

And #6-8 then work better together: all of the above can be a fair and just system if members are able to participate somehow in making and changing the rules. (This even flows naturally from conflict resolution: a likely path to resolution of a good-faith conflict over rule-interpretation entails changing the rules to be clearer and more appropriate!) And participatory rule-making is only possible if the right to make and enforce rules is recognized by higher authorities. Finally, this logic should also apply “internally” to the resource sharing system, such that a complex commons might include multiple localized systems in which all of the above apply.

This may be an easier “flow” for people to wrap their heads around, rather than having to jump up a level of abstraction in the third step, only to have to immediately jump back to the linear monitoring>sanctions>conflict resolution – with the final two abstract principles then dangling on as an afterthought. I’m going to figure out how to test it :slight_smile:

Like I said, it may be that I’m the only one who finds this interesting, but for me it is an outcome of having run this framework through group discussion multiple times, so I wanted to share!



I was thinking on the session a bit more and in the group I was in looking at ’ Accessibility of Newcomers I did end up guiding the rest of the group (rather inexpertly) in connecting their stories to principles or bringing conversations back to the principles. I imagine if we did have more time I wouldn’t have ‘rushed’ these connections and they would have naturally emerged in the language.

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Good example, just riffing here on this:

As I recall, your group got to the point of recognizing that newcomer accessibility might benefit from systems of monitoring … since it might not be enough to simply put in place some instructions for onboarding and assume that’s good enough, a community might want to be able to monitor the flow of newcomers to better understand how effective the onboarding system is at meeting newcomers’ needs, and where things can be improved.

There’s also another, totally different ‘story’ that the principles can tell: a key aspect of the sanctions principle is that the sanctions should be graduated, such that – in this case – newcomers shouldn’t face harsh reprisals for making beginner’s mistakes.

And then the next order of logic entails the ability for newcomers to – eventually, somehow – participate in the process of evolving the system of norms / rules to be more appropriate as needed.


This is all awesome :heart: The simplification of the language makes me wonder whether the whole thing could go one level higher, and ground itself in entertaining memes. In this thought, taking huge inspiration from @BlackSocialists instagram and all their social media (lazy-jump to 5:20)

Summarized by host, Caroline Busta: One thing that’s really impressive to me is you guys will use thinkers who sometimes exist only in the domain of academia, and yet you present it as though it’s as normal as talking about some pop cultural reference. you’re like “sorry, but what this person is saying is really dope” and here it is very plainly. You pull out the key quote, and you’re like “look, this is actually useful to you, and isn’t it cool”. I feel like there’s this sanctimonious treatment of academic texts and figures or there’s this dismissal [of the popular philosophers for being popular]"

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