Contributors' Mill

[This thread is part of the Global Process Roadmap - for the intro page, click here]

One of the many wonderfully complex things about OFN is that we have individual contributors that can play many different roles at many levels.

To illustrate this, let’s take the example of a fictional Liz:

a local food activist in Totnes, UK. She contributes to OFN in a variety of ways:

  1. She runs a food hub there, which uses OFN - so she is on the UK site as a hub manager;
  2. As she’s been running her hub through OFN for a while and there’s plenty of new people wanting to set up hubs in the UK, but the person in the UK doing hub support is already overwhelmed with all the demand, she helps out two afternoons a week with that, passing on her experience as a hub manager (and earning some money as well);
  3. In her free time she also contributes to spreading the word about OFN in the UK, speaks at events etc. - so she is involved in communications and networking in the UK;
  4. And as she’s been gathering experience in the UK on supporting hubs in their setup phase, she helps train people in the “hub support” teams of OFN instances in other countries/regions of the world.

So you see - one person, four different roles in OFN. In order to understand all that better, we came up with what we call THE CONTRIBUTORS MILL.
The contributors mill is best described in a picture:

We wanted to make it easy for people to understand the structure of OFN on a global scale.
So the idea was to capture that OFN is made up of regional groups (hosting their own instances) and that there are common tasks that each of these regional groups undertake - common roles fulfilled by contributors in different instances.

Currently we have identified the following contributors’ groupings – sort of like communities of practice – we could also simply call them circles (remember this is all about roles - so not about individual contributors, put about roles fulfilled by different or the same contributors):

Technical: People who code, deploy and get their teeth into technical tasks
Testing: People who spot and report bugs, test new functionality and ensure if it isn’t running smoothly, the right people know!
Support: People who support users (hub managers) to learn about the OFN platform and communication tools (e.g. discourse etc), how to get started and how to use all this appropriately.
Communications and Networking: People who speak, blog, do social media, email and network locally to attract new users and potential fundings. That circle includes marketing functions, “sales”, and PR.
Resources: People who work on co-budgeting, funding, working with staff and volunteers etc.
International development: People who work on supporting new regional instances to start, networking globally to spread the word about OFN, which in turn potentially leads to new instances and/or fundings. [this circle is not in the lovely mill image - we added this later]

These first 6 circles constitute a global operations coordination: people who coordinate together so that tech, testing, support, communication, resource and international development can align.

Global Processes: People who work on how we organise, work and communicate together and try to ensure we evolve as we need to.

In considering these groups we see there is obvious advantage in collaborating inter-regionally. There is a lot of skills, knowledge and resources to share between the instances.

In order to understand this better, let’s get back to fictional Liz from Totnes:

apart from being involved on a hub level and on the UK instance level (in both the Support and Communications & Marketing teams), she is also in the global Support circle, where she shares her hub support experience with people in other instances. It so happens that once every two weeks she leads an online training session for members from OFN Baltics and OFN Central Asia who’re just starting (because Liz also speaks Russian, you see!), in which she trains Ivan, Tatjana, Bogdana and Boris (from the respective instance-level Support teams) on such things as the different types of hubs (“enterprises”) that can be set up in OFN, how they operate, what issues they face, how to respond to these issues, what is needed to set up a hub etc… And she gets paid for this either by global funding or by the respective regional instances.
OK. Enough about Liz and her friends and back to the theory.

Organising in groups such as these doesn’t only allow for that sharing to happen across the different instances, but can also make it easier for new contributors to become involved and understand how to engage, who to speak to and how to find out more about their specific interests.

We like the idea of a big mill being the representation… a windmill with blades… it relates to food and feels wholesome (though it potentially creates the association of a grind… oops, less positive).

At this stage we want to be sure that everyone feels like this model accurately represents their vision of OFN as a structure. In particular we are interested in finding out:

- Do these groups cover the wide range of tasks different people undertake across OFN?
- Do these groups seem like a useful way to clarify our organisation?
- What didn’t we think of?
- Which groups already have implemented regular meetings? (ie Tech between Australia and UK have a 1h slot every Wednesday morning at 8:00 GMT when required.)

To give some insight into the utility of clarifying this structure going forward, we are planning in the coming weeks to document clearly (with your input) how the different groups currently organise themselves (if at all) and how we would like to see them organise. We don’t necessarily anticipate creating more meetings or need for more contribution from anyone, but maybe having some “alignment times” can help and facilitate the work of everyone. More so we’d just like to be able to map out contacts and resources that are already in place to make people feel more comfortable in finding out things they don’t know. We feel this will be particularly useful in welcoming new contributors.

I love the concept that everyone has something to contribute (here we call these the gifts people have), and that these contributions are all equally valued (although for any given project, some are needed more than others of course). And, I think there is a replication of these contributions across scales - so these same functions exist from the local hub level, and at a provincial level (so in canada a province might have a grouping of 20 hubs), and at a national level, and at a global level. Thinking this way helps me imagine future structures for OFN here in Canada. I wonder if there is another role - or maybe it is the communcations role? It seems you describe the communications role above as an outward-directed function, performed on behalf of a particular instance. (I’d say I’m doing this now for the Canadian instance for example.) But there is also a role of communicating, and pollinating across instances, and across the contribution circles. This is a ‘pollinator’ role - who are the bees in our structure? This is a role of keeping aware of what is happening across circles and instances and facilitating connections. When you think of it using ecological metaphors - the bees are not ‘expert’ in anything else but this one thing. They don’t know how the plant grows, or what makes the flower bloom, or how big the farm is, or whether it has a forest attached to it or not… they only know to fly between flowers and take interesting bits from one to the other. Is that role captured in our model?

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Hi everyone! Just following up a conversation with @maikel, I just wanted to share that it was not so easy for me to visualize myself on the mill so I just draw my roles on it to illustrate and make it visual for myself :smile:
I contribute in roles in two local instances and I contribute in some global tasks as well (outside instances, like work on global fundraising, support new instances, or work on organization design things…)
The whole space outside of the local instances is the “inter-instances space”, all the things we do not for a dedicated instance :wink:

As you say @tschumilas, every hub will also have an organization with some similar roles, but when drawing OFN global we just focus on the actual contributors at the partners level (instance level and the coordination between instances)
I think the “pollinator” role you mention is definitely crucial :slight_smile: And that can be seen on different levels I think on the mill:

  • first you do “pollinate” within your own instance territory by your “communicator and local networking role”, so that in Canada more people get to know about OFN for example.
  • the pollination role between instances for me is done through the “global processes” (holding the space for people from different instances to speak, like the global community HO for example, or this community forum) and also through the different “circles meeting” (ie people working in tech gather sometimes to align, people working on funding in the different instances could gather sometimes to share and collaborate, etc.)
  • the pollination towards new potential instances is done through the “international development” circle (not on the drawing but we added it in the description), which includes answering messages from new people who want to start instances and explaining them OFN, taking contacts with global networks who can spread the word about OFN, etc.

But it seems that we really need to find a tool to represent that complexity in a very simple and visual way :slight_smile:
We have identified 4 tools so far:

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These roles work well for me. I see myself contributing in these ways:

  • Testing:
  • Support
  • Communications and Networking:
  • International development:

thanks for all your work on this - it is looking good

Ok, so here is a first attemp to visually represent our community, to enable new comers to understand who does what, the extend of the community, how we all contribute on global tasks, etc. Instead of the “mill”, I propose the “star” representation: in the middle the global tasks, foundation of the commons, around are the people who care for this commons, and then, the local groups that the contributors belong to and their local activity.
My thoughts are that it’s still a bit geeky, BUT we can have an easy PDF representation of the frame and then have the link if people want to see precisely who does what in the community. It is a collaborative tool, but on “beta-invite-only” for the moment. If some of you want to try I can give you access, let me know :slight_smile:

For holodex I asked Derek from Enspiral if we could have access to a beta version to test. It’s more user friendly but not so easy to see the whole community, who contributes to what, etc.

Open for feedback !!!

I forgot to precise that for each “community of practice”, I put a different symbol, and in the “filter” option, we can select only the person who work on “coding” and “servers” for example, to see this define group, same for other groups. it’s the equivalent of the inner circles in the mill. And each branch of the star is a local instance. other interesting tool that might help representing better our community. Have not yet tried.

@MyriamBoure Just had a look at the metamaps map you created. Nice work! One thought though, would it work better if the roles were filters on the nodes, and nodes were only used to show orgs and people? Thats very possible with Kumu, not sure about Metamaps.

Is there an update for that very interesting topic?
I find it difficult to understand how do what and how is part of wich OFN instance.

You mention Glassfrog as a possibility to have that representation, I add this is a dynamic tool adjusting the graph to the current role and group people are involved in. Using circles to figure each part of any organisation. One circle is dedicated to a specific accountability area and is composed of people interested in the topic?
Would it be possible to have a discussion and maybe a draft of what could be OFN organization using Circles ?