9.1. Next Steps for Open Leadership
Reflect on your open leadership journey and key takeaways for continuing your work.
Writing and reflection exercise on your experience as an open leader
Your project, its documentation, and event reports, including goal-setting documents like your open canvas
Your project’s GitHub repo and a blog or other platform/technology for composing and sharing your reflection
- Open Leadership Takeaways
- What Does Success Look Like at the End of a Project?
- Assignment: Draft a Reflection on Your Open Leadership Journey
Open Leadership Takeaways
Congratulations! You’ve done a lot of work in a short amount of time to level up your open leadership skills. As you take what you’ve learned and built into the future, keep these open essentials in mind.
As community organizers Marisa Franco, B Loewe, and Tania Unaueta write, “what makes open projects open-source is not the platform they use, but the way participation is designed. Whereas there’s still a hub and a core development team, participants have an ability to see the code and alter it to improve it.”
Your project might involve code, or it might not. It might be about policy or a design challenge that demands a response in an altogether different kind of materiality. Regardless, deciding to lead and work in the open means creating a platform that involves others in work that matters to them. As Franco et al. ask, “Does the problem you are trying to solve really matter to anyone? Is the solution you propose realistic and effective? In entrepreneurship, if the product you’re selling doesn’t meet a need or solve a problem, it’s not going anywhere.” Moreover,
Establishing critical mass and that the demand resonates are critical because it drives participation and defines the depth of the participant’s commitments. It identifies and filters the team of the willing. For an open source campaign, if no one is moved by the problem addressed or the solution offered, it doesn’t matter that there’s an open door for his or her participation. Especially when there’s a long way to go from problem, to solution, to victory, the campaign needs both a foundational team of key players who have the guts, need, motivation and skills to win and a trajectory that will translate into mass appeal as it progresses.
Take on projects that count; if you propose work that’s important to your community, you’ll find your “team of the willing” and can delegate a lot of the “work” of the project to them while you concentrate on the structures for participation, contribution, and meeting face-to-face that sustains the team’s efforts.
While urging us to bridge “From Open to Justice,” #edtech journalist Audrey Watters tells us that invoking “open” is not enough. You need to avoid “openwashing” your projects; don’t convene communities around decisions you’ve already made and work you’ve already done. Your role is not to get community approval for something you made on your own. Rather, it is to create a deeply inclusive and respectful platform that contributors can use to meet the challenges facing your shared community. To realize the full potential of open-sourced projects like yours, Watters urges us to “recognize that what we need is social justice. We need politics, not simply a license. We need politics, not simply technology solutions. We need an ethics of care, of justice, not simply assume that “open” does the work of those for us.”
In other words, as “Open Matt” Thompson puts it: “Stamping our feet and saying, ‘work open, damnit!’ doesn’t work.” You have to commit to the process of inviting, testing, and iterating contributions. Toward those ends, Thompson asserts that “feedback is sometimes useful. Testing always is.” The difference here is between asking, “What do you think?”, and “Does this work?” Be specific when you ask users to test your work. If you’re observing user interaction with your project - look for whether or not specific features function the way users think they should. It’s essential that you know whether or not your project is meeting its stated goals - that you know whether or not it works.
Finally, remember that your responsibility to your community is twofold. You’re stewarding the project, but you’re also modeling the open beliefs, habits, and technologies that make the work possible. Expert facilitator Allen Gunn summarizes open commitments like this:
For ‘open’ to work well, there has to be an intrinsic commitment by all the stakeholders — to follow the process, follow through on commitments, and give feedback and interact with others in the community, in a lateral peer-based fashion.
You are an open leader if you do all of those things and make it safe, possible, and compelling for others to do the same.
What Does Success Look Like at the End of a Project?
Mozilla’s Hive Research Lab characterizes the core principles and benefits of working open like this:
Does your project allow for rapid prototyping and testing? Are you capturing and sharing your process and all the content below the surface of your project? Have you established clear contribution pathways and made it possible to benefit from community contributions and adaptations while explicitly recognizing and valuing the goodwill and labor of your contributors?
Whether you take what you learned to launch another project or look for work that requires open leadership, it’s your role to help others realize the principles and benefits to see what they can accomplish together by working open.
Assignment: Draft a Reflection on Your Open Leadership Journey
Invite you contributors and other open leaders to read and comment on your thoughts. Add your voice to open conversations on the web and help others find the entry points into their own open leadership journeys.
In drafting your reflection, consider questions like these (but don’t let them limit your response if you have more to say!):
- How do you define open leadership?
- How have you changed as a leader and person over the course of your project? By following this curriculum?
- What have you learned?
- What do you struggle with in leading and working in the open? What do you struggle with in the curriculum?
- What surprised you the most?
- What seemed easiest?
- What seemed most difficult?
- What are your most important takeaways or lessons learned?
- What would you do differently if you could begin again? What will you do differently in your next project?
As you continue to develop your open leadership skills and take on new projects in the open, we hope you’ll let us know how it goes, as well as how to improve this curriculum. We hope you’ll visit other Mozilla Leadership Network communities online and join other leaders around the world supporting local communities in the fight to keep the web an open and free resource, accessible to all.next: Glossary