Instance Manager Circle (Origins)

At this year’s Global Gathering proposed that we use a sociocratic model to organise. We’ve been moving toward creating best practice and ways of working for these circles. Increasingly I am finding myself wanting to better understand how to contact all instance managers at once. So I’m wondering if now is the time toformalise the Instance Managers circle? Here are a few thoughts on how this could look:


The monthly global hangout is becoming the place for the Instance Managers Circle to meet. This meeting happens on the second Tuesday of each month at 9pm CET.


The #instance-managers channel on Slack is one key way to communicate with instance managers, though this channel can be quite noisy and difficult for people to keep up with in lower resource instances.


It would be useful to have an Instance Managers tag on Discourse so that we can ping all instance managers with a single tag.
I am not clear who should be in this list, please can anyone tag the relevant people who might also know other relevant people. I’ll create this tag and update it when I have the start of a list of names :slight_smile:

I know that there are other things happening to build the Instance Managers Circle, including ways in which instance managers feed into delivery. I’m certainly not the best placed person to describe all the things so please add anything to this post about how the Instance Managers Circle can organise :slight_smile:

1 Like

I think I understand what you mean and wonder what the goal of such a circle would be?

  • asking for help
  • explaining work arounds
  • creating suggestions for development direction
  • acting as sounding board for designers and developers to help them make design decisions
  • moans and bragging
  • ???

Something else?

…all of the above?

I like the idea. Actually we are already working like this.
For Germany this would be me and @hhomann.

One thing I observe - our current global ‘hangout’ meetings (The second Tues of each month ones) are very much about sharing updates. Most of the time is taken up by that, and then there might be an update on fundraising/budget, or an update from the product circle.

While this might be a necessary aspect of an instance management circle, I don’t think its sufficient. As an instance manager there are many other things I feel I need to discuss and make decision about:

  • HR issues (who has job descriptions? how are funds for staff prioritized? performance discussions?)
  • Challenges with the platform and its utility (or not) for local contexts (How are people solving local context needs when the app doesn’t?)
  • Fundaising in the instance (What kinds of proposals are people working on? What successes and challenges with getting funds in ways other than SAAS?)
  • Platform ‘sales’ or outreach (Who are you approaching and how?, How are you supporting the mechanics of invoicing… ?)
  • Discussing platform vision and changes proposed by the product team (Might we put our heads together to respond to proposals, or do we want to each respond individually?)
    And, I’m not sure we have sorted a ‘support circle’ distinct from an ‘instance management’ circle. What is the relationship between them - or are we all (instance managers) in both?

The current meetings draw a fantastic cross section of instances - at all stages of development. That is the strength - we can help instances move along a development trajectory. But we don’t seem to have time in our monthly meetings for the above.

May I humbly suggest we rename the Slack channel #Circle_instance-managers ?

That could be a good clarification regarding the way Circle exist in OFN community.
To me, it should come with clarifying, in the Slack channel description (for ex.), what is the Mission of this Circle.

Copied here from a similar discussion on Slack #instance-managers, re: a questions from @lin_d_hop asking for someone to steward an instance managers circle: I have been grousing about how calling a group of people a circle doesn’t make it a circle, sociocracy-wise, and I would love to pitch in to help an instance managers circle be formed because that seems a lot more positive and productive than complaining. It seems like the slack channel is an invaluable and super important place for mutual aid, mostly around user support whereas a circle would have more policy and decision making activities, based on shared work? @lin_d_hop can you give a couple of examples of processes that would benefit from clear input from an instance managers circle? What do you see the domain (area of activities and decision-making authority) of the instance managers circle to be? If we look at The roles - OFN handbook it seems like #instance-managers is kind of a big bucket that includes superadmins, user support, and bits and pieces of other roles. Would our circle’s domain basically be what is found in the Overview - OFN super-admin guide ? Regardless, the I find the support aspect of this channel critical to my ability to stay afloat, so I hope we keep it regardless (and I will definitely help if I can to form a well-defined, useful Instance Managers Circle that can support the rest of the organization (i.e. other circles).

@lauriewayne1 - would you be willing to organize a first meeting of instance managers or instance manager wannabes. I think the above questions make a good agenda for those assembled to discuss.

So glad this conversation is picking up momentum.

I think it is significant to note that while #instance-managers can offer a lot of support to each other, for many instances there will be a bigger pool of people that know and support the platform than just an instance-manager. While for sure slack needs a big channel of support for instances, the instance manager circle might not be the same as the Slack channel.

I see the instance-managers circle and a circle of people representing all the instances and helping to make decisions on behalf of their instance within the global community.

An example of such a process is outlined here. It is about supporting instances through the global sysadmin pool to help deploying new releases. That post describes two levels of sysadmin support - basic and full. We need a group that helps to decide which instances receive which level of support based on an agreed set of criteria and in respect of instance contribution to commons (time and money) and the needs of each instance. I think a circle of representatives from all instances would be a great circle to help with those decisions.

It would also be great is a representative from the instance manage circle participated in delivery train meetings, just as we are trying to have a rep from delivery train attend the global hangouts. This will help to ensure that instance needs are represented.

It would also be great to be able to have a specific place to go to ensure that any processes are known by all instances. Eg helping support teams to use the product map that gives the product team insights into which area of the product is causing the most pain to users.

All of these things would be great - but the first steps feel like just bringing people together :slight_smile: Looking forward to following this progress.

1 Like

I suggest to follow the guide of Sociocracy 3.0 to create a circle. The first step is describe the Driver, a driver is “a person’s or a group’s motive for responding to a specific situation”. I try to extract the answer to what’s happening from the discussion:

  • What’s happening?

    • “Increasingly I am finding myself wanting to better understand how to contact all instance managers at once”
      @lin_d_hop could you share with us the last time you need to contact all instance managers and the effect you suffer because you can’t find the mechanism to contact all at once?
  • What’s needed?:

    • “We need a group that helps to decide which instances receive which level of support”
      About this need I think this decision must be take it by the same group who approves the budget and process improvement, because it has a direct impact in time of the current tech team.

I feel in this case we are talking about two different drivers.

1 Like

@hernansedano I really love that you are emphasizing having a careful look at the problem that is to be solved! That is a critical understanding that we sometimes (or more often) forget. I think there is maybe another or an “umbrella” driver for the circle, which maybe could be “Instance Managers tend to spend all day focusing on their instance, and the global team only has limited visibility into what they can do to help instances be successful” and the converse, “Instance Managers do not have a structured way to provide the global team with guidance that the global team needs to be successful”. Maybe this results in the conclusion that “we need a process for Instance Managers to advise on decisions that impact global resources” - this covers not only what information is needed by the global team (product design and delivery, funding models, culture and priorities) but also what information or support is needed from the global team. So the drivers you mentioned are definitely a perfect chance for proposals that are created by the consent process, and the reason for the circle is so there will be a place and process for those proposals/decisions to be made. Up to now we are so lucky to have amazing double-duty superstars like @Rachel and @lin_d_hop and @tschumilas and @Jen and others who know where many of the pain points are because they are or have been instance managers as well as working at the product level. Maybe the Instance Managers circle can systematize the work that informs both running an instance and developing a product/organization in a way that makes sure many voices are heard, work is shared, and the organization is more sustainable?

Hi @lauriewayne1, since our resources are limited I really prefer first a careful look at the problem before think on “solutions”. The other path is very frustrating.

When we talked about our governance structure during our global assembly, we collectively drew an ‘instance management’ circle. I think we all likely have slightly different ideas about exactly what needs this group will solve - but it seems to me that we all thought it would be good to have this circle. so, i wonder if the next step would be for people interested in forming the circle to get together to discuss what its role would be? It might be that a small group could make a proposal for an instance managers circle - and then bring that to the larger group for the consent process? Would anyone object of a group had a meeting to develop a proposal? Who would like to participate in that process?

I think the ‘instance management’ circle is a good idea, and needed. I would be interested in discussing further.

Copied from Slack (post yesterday) with a teensy edit to give more time: Per our conversation about circling up to engage instance managers as a group (circle) in OFN governance, product direction, funding, support, and more, I have set up a LettuceMeet at - if this is a conversation you would like to be part of, please enter your availability for the next couple of weeks and we will meet with as many people as possible - please, only one representative per instance, and someone who considers themselves to be in the “instance manager” role, and please enter your availability by Saturday 27 March at noon (your local time). If you are willing to facilitate, co-facilitate, or take notes/diocument, please reply in thread here (or feel free to contact me). For background, please see this section in the OFN Handbook: Governance and organizational processes - OFN handbook

Ping Instance managers
@Eugeni @tschumilas @lauriewayne1 @hernansedano @romale @rafat-khashan @berniemabbs @Cecilia-Hn @VPotvin @Jen @lbwright22 @DavieP

Please ping others missed :pray:

Please note - ping @dthomas - he has left his handle in the instance managers group for OFN_CAN

Just to update anyone that doesn’t know, the instance managers circle is moving and progressing :tada: :raised_hands:

There conversations are live on the #instance-managers channel in Slack.

The next meeting is on May 4th. Following that meetings will become less regular.
It would be great to ensure that our Handbooks are up to date after this. It would also be great to link any documentation to this post so that others can find it easily in the future. Let me know if there is anything I can do to support with this.

Thanks everyone for all the amazing work on this.
Once we’ve got the new processes in place we can close this topic :heart:

1 Like