Ubuntu Governance Reboot: Five Proposals
Sorry, this is long, but hang in there.
A little while back I wrote a blog post that seemed to inspire some people and ruffle the feathers of some others. It was designed as a conversation-starter for how we can re-energize leadership in Ubuntu.
When I kicked off the blog post, Elizabeth quite rightly gave me a bit of a kick in the spuds about not providing a place to have a discussion, so I amended the blog post to a link to this thread where I encourage your feedback and participation.
Rather unsurprisingly, there was some good feedback, before much of it started wandering off the point a little bit.
I was delighted to see that Laura posted that a Community Council meeting on the 4th Dec at 5pm UTC has been set up to further discuss the topic. Thanks, CC, for taking the time to evaluate and discuss the topic in-hand.
I plan on joining the meeting, but I wanted to post five proposed recommendations that we can think about. Again, please feel free to share feedback about these ideas on the mailing list
1. Create our Governance Mission/Charter
I spent a bit of time trying to find the charter or mission statements for the Community Council and Technical Board and I couldn’t find anything. I suspect they are not formally documented as they were put together back in the early days, but other sub-councils have crisp charters (mostly based off the first sub-council, the Forum Council).
I think it could be interesting to define a crisp mission statement for Ubuntu governance. What is our governance here to do? What are the primary areas of opportunity? What are the priorities? What are the risks we want to avoid? Do we need both a CC and TB?
We already have the answers to some of these questions, but are the answers we have the right ones? Is there an opportunity to adjust our goals with our leadership and governance in the project?
Like many of the best mission statements, this should be a collaborative process. Not a mission defined by a single person or group, but an opportunity for multiple people to feed into so it feels like a shared mission. I would recommend that this be a process that all Ubuntu members can play a role in. Ubuntu members have earned their seat at the table via their contributions, and would be a wonderfully diverse group to pull ideas from.
This would give us a mission that feels shared, and feels representative of our community and culture. It would feel current and relevant, and help guide our governance and wider project forward.
2. Create an ‘Impact Constitution’
OK, I just made that term up, and yes, it sounds a bit buzzwordy, but let me explain.
The guiding principles in Ubuntu are the Ubuntu Promise. It puts in place a set of commitments that ensure Ubuntu always remains a collaborative Open Source project.
What we are missing though is a document that outlines the impact that Ubuntu gives you, others, and the wider world…the ways in which Ubuntu empowers us all to succeed, to create opportunity in our own lives and the life of others.
As an example:
Ubuntu is a Free Software platform and community. Our project is designed to create open technology that empowers individuals, groups, businesses, charities, and others. Ubuntu breaks down the digital divide, and brings together our collective energy into a system that is useful, practical, simple, and accessible.
Ubuntu empowers you to:
- Deploy an entirely free Operating System and archive of software to one of multiple computers in homes, offices, classrooms, government institutions, charities, and elsewhere.
- Learn a variety of programming and development languages and have the tools to design, create, test, and deploy software across desktops, phones, tablets, the cloud, the web, embedded devices and more.
- Have the tools for artistic creativity and expression in music, video, graphics, writing, and more.
- . . .
Imagine if we had a document with 20 or so of these impact statements that crisply show the power of our collective work. I think this will regularly remind us of the value of Ubuntu and provide a set of benefits that we as a wider community will seek to protect and improve.
I would then suggest that part of the governance charter of Ubuntu is that our leadership are there to inspire, empower, and protect the ‘impact constitution'; this then directly connects our governance and leadership to what we consider to be the primary practical impact of Ubuntu in making the world a better place.
3. Cross-Governance Strategic Meetings
Today we have CC meetings, TB meetings, FC meetings etc. I think it would be useful to have a monthly, or even quarterly meeting that brings together key representatives from each of the governance boards with a single specific goal – how do the different boards help further each other’s mission. As an example, how does the CC empower the TB for success? How does the TB empower the FC for success?
We don’t want governance that is either independent or dependent at the individual board level. We want governance that is inter-dependent with each other. This then creates a more connected network of leadership.
4. Annual In-Person Governance Summit
We have a community donations fund. I believe we should utilize it to get together key representatives across Ubuntu governance into the same room for two or three days to discuss (a) how to refine and optimize process, but also (b) how to further the impact of our ‘impact constitution’ and inspire wider opportunity in Ubuntu.
If Canonical could chip in and potentially there were a few sponsors, we could potentially bring all governance representatives together.
Now, it could be tempting to suggest we do this online. I think this would be a mistake. We want to get our leaders together to work together, socialize together, and bond together. The benefits of doing this in person significantly outweigh doing it online.
5. Optimize our community brand around “innovation”
Ubuntu has a good reputation for innovation. Desktop, Mobile, Tablet, Cloud…it is all systems go. Much of this innovation though is seen in the community as something that Canonical fosters and drives. There was a sentiment in the discussion after my last blog post that some folks feel that Canonical is in the driving seat of Ubuntu these days and there isn’t much the community can do to inspire and innovate. There was at times a jaded feeling that Canonical is standing in the way of our community doing great things.
I think this is a bit of an excuse. Yes, Canonical are primarily driving some key pieces…Unity, Mir, Juju for example…but there is nothing stopping anyone innovating in Ubuntu. Our archives are open, we have a multitude of toolsets people can use, we have extensive collaborative infrastructure, and an awesome community. Our flavors are a wonderful example of much of this innovation that is going on. There is significantly more in Ubuntu that is open than restricted.
As such, I think it could be useful to focus on this in our outgoing Ubuntu messaging and advocacy. As our ‘impact constitution’ could show, Ubuntu is a hotbed of innovation, and we could create some materials, messaging, taglines, imagery, videos, and more that inspires people to join a community that is doing cool new stuff.
This could be a great opportunity for designers and artists to participate, and I am sure the Canonical design team would be happy to provide some input too.
Imagine a world in which we see a constant stream of social media, blog posts, videos and more all thematically orientated around how Ubuntu is where the innovators innovate.
Bonus: Network of Ubucons
OK, this is a small extra one I would like to throw in for good measure.
The in-person Ubuntu Developer Summits were a phenomenal experience for so many people, myself included. While the Ubuntu Online Summit is an excellent, well-organized online event, there is something to be said about in-person events.
I think there is a great opportunity for us to define two UbuCons that become the primary in-person events where people meet other Ubuntu folks. One would be focused on the US, and one of Europe, and if we could get more (such as an Asian event), that would be awesome.
These would be driven by the community for the community. Again, I am sure the donations fund could help with the running costs.
In fact, before I left Canonical, this is something I started working on with the always-excellent Richard Gaskin who puts on the UbuCon before SCALE in LA each year.
This would be more than a LoCo Team meeting. It would be a formal Ubuntu event before another conference that brings together speakers, panel sessions, and more. It would be where Ubuntu people to come to meet, share, learn, and socialize.
I think these events could be a tremendous boon for the community.
Well, that’s it. I hope this provided some food for thought for further discussion. I am keen to hear your thoughts on the mailing list!