Use a format called Open Canvas to help further define your project goals, strategy, and needs for resources.
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  • Read and watch videos on this topic
  • Do a thinking/writing assignment on your own or with a group

Have completed the previous section

  • Pencil and paper or this editable version of Open Canvas (if you’d like to work online)
  • If you are working in a group, you can use a whiteboard and sticky notes so ideas can be easily shared with all members

Introducing Open Canvas

Open Canvas is a way of clarifying your project idea and encouraging you to think strategically about project goals, plans, and resources you’ll need. It’s adapted from Lean Canvas, a one-page format used for describing a start-up business project. What’s special about Open Canvas is that it assumes you’ll be working collaboratively with others– that your project is community-based and will be fueled by significant contributions from volunteers, one of the key principles of working open.

To make an Open Canvas, you’ll fill a one-page template with information about your project. You’re not starting from scratch here– you can use the vision statement from the previous section as a starting point. Here’s a sample of the Open Canvas template, with descriptions of the information required in each section. The blue dotted line separates your thinking around your product and your thinking about your community, to highlight that you need to think about both of these when making your plan. The content in the green square deals with project execution, the resources you need to build your product

Here’s more about the Open Canvas tool from its creator, Abby Cabunoc Mayes, Developer Engagement Manager at the Mozilla Foundation.

Open Canvas, Abby Cabunoc Mayes

Here’s a sample of an Open Canvas created by Abby for Mozilla Science Lab’s Paper Badger Open Project.

Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

Open Canvas should help you identify needs and resources that are critical to create a Minimum Viable Product (MVP), or a first, simple version of your project that meets the key goals for the project. The concept of MVP comes from the start-up world, where resources are often scarce and timelines are tight, so creating a simple functional product or project quickly is a priority. While you may have ideas or plans for an extended, enhanced version of your project– for example you may want to eventually expand from coding workshops for students in public schools to running summer coding camps, or you might have a brilliant idea for that fancy extra feature for your app– it’s always best to build your Minimum Viable Product first. This way, you can test out the project and ensure the idea works before you spend lots of time and resources expanding it. If you find your project is too complex to fit into the Open Canvas model, it may be that you’re trying to do too much, and need to narrow your scope.

Assignment: Make an Open Canvas

In this assignment you’ll use Open Canvas to organize the information you already know about your project, clarify and summarize project goals and define resource needs.

  1. Using the template, fill out Open Canvas for your project/idea. Read the description of what goes in each field (aloud, if you’re working in a group).
  2. For your project, write what you think goes in each field– your problem, solution, etc. Take a minute or two on each. If working in a group, have everyone write their own answer to each field on a sticky note.
  3. Share, revise, and add. If working in a group, review the answers and spend a few minutes coming to shared definitions of each. Add these to the template or sticky note collection,
  4. If you don’t yet know some of this information– that’s OK! You can leave user channels, contributor profiles and channels boxes blank for now if you don’t have that information. We’ll go over those items in later Sections (see Building Communities of Contributors, Open Communications). You should have information for the problem, solution, value proposition, key metrics, and user profiles boxes filled in.

Now that you’ve got a more complete, detailed sense of your project down on paper, in the next module you’ll make a user-friendly version of this information, to welcome and orient potential contributors to the project.

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