Community Leadership Summit Wiki

Discussion summary (by Andy Oram and Richard Esplin)[]


  • Where? Go where the customers are, or where you want the business to grow?
  • How much should the business follow where it can make money versus sharing more widely (globally)?
  • How? How to work in new cultures and areas?
  • Tips?

Identifying community in new areas:[]

  • Might have a community that you don't know about

Find the sponsor in the culture--but it is hard to figure out how they are representing[]

  • Risks: local people may be bad ambassadors for you, or may leave and take people with them because they've built a community around themselves.
  • Some companies try to establish monopoly over offering your open source software in their country.
  • People sometimes try to build their own fiefdoms instead of building the community
  • Check that people are not all going through a single point of contact.

How to figure out who you trust in a new geography?[]

  • Mozilla Reps application process
  • Fedora ambassadors program
  • Contest: invite us to your city!

Tripping points:[]

  • Some people don't speak up for cultural reasons, so you don't even know they're there.
  • Treating every country in Asia (or other region) the same
  • Timezone issues: someone will lose. Rotate who the loser is so different people find it convenient. (Wordpress dev chat rotates every 3 months)
    • For training, run each event three times, one for each time block (Americas, Europe / Africa, Asia / Australia)
    • Need more lead time for planning meetings when people are in different time zones
  • Many Western-based open source communities assume that others should adopt the culture they've built up in their community. So others don't feel comfortable.
    • Each group will want to contribute on their own terms as dictated by culture, allow them to do that.
  • Training people like to hang out with training people, documentation people like to hang out with documentation people--don't hang out 
  • Local politics is important. Free Software in Brazil is associated with a specific political party.
  • Shipping: often easier to send with a person than to ship
    • encourages distribution within the geography as well

What is your goal? Are you committed?[]

  • In some cases, necessary to have a representative of the company or organization present geographically.


  • Openstreet map: needs better mapping data in new geography
    • spend significant time in the area (3 weeks) doing training, to see who shows up and stays
    • create open source ambassadors out of college graduates (2 year effort)

Better to work with the individuals or local institutions?[]

  • Find the individuals to work with, and make sure they are reliable
  • Easier to replace an individual than an institution
  • Lots of success with Universities
  • What people need from you (the community leader) will vary based on geography
  • Want to get them running the show (autonomy), and you providing support
  • It isn't the Americans telling us what to do, but it is us telling the Americans what we are doing
  • Often easier to work with the provinces because they are used to working on the Internet (don't have other options)
  • Helps to give people in other places some control over their budget helps.

Break down barriers:[]

  • Global language mailing lists, instead of country specific mailing lists.
  • Post in multiple languages--even if it is machine translated (Haiti)

Ideas for making contacts:[]

  • For an open source project to get volunteers, convince their employers that your project benefits them.
  • Put someone in that timezone
  • Get plugged in to local tech hubs / tech communities
  • Each country has their own social networks (China, Korea, Russia), so use those to find people interested in your project.
  • work with that culture's diaspora community
  • Engage with social sciences people (anthropologists)
    • PNC network: Database of people interested in NGO and community development (includes a mailing list)

Discussion notes[]

  • Intro by Andrea from Wordpress.   She is interested in hearing about functional open source commities in other countries that may not be as wealthy as the US and Europe.
  • Richard E. from Alfresco talks about not knowing Japanese or Chinese, but helping with community and translation communies for OSS in Japan and China and Taiwan.  How to balance these issues?
  • Jared Smith, former Fedora project leader.  Community in Japan and you may not know it and that may be cultural ,  some cultures are more open about asking questions and in others it is frowned on.  You may find there is a community that is insular and they are talking amongst themselves and you can't see it.  In latin america OSS has an advantage because people aren't use to paying $300 for proprietary software. Helping people self organize and giving resources to communicate, giving some autonomy and a budget, is useful.  People self identify   Fedora "Ambassadors" program.
  • the culture of the country dictates the business practices of a country.  become aware of culture and cultural practices.   Cultural literacy is important.
  • Liz: Mozilla Reps program provides infrastructure and resources. people apply to be a Mozilla Rep for a particular country, area or language.
  • people brought up the good and bad points of empowering a charismatic leader who is in a remote location. They may build a community but around themselves not around the open source project.  HOw can a project tell who will be a good "ambassador" or community leader?
  • example from community building in Haiti. Go there and spend several weeks and see who shows up, and work with them.  Another example of going to Indonesia and working with recent college graduates. Being physically there is a requirement for some 
  • What things have companies do well, and wrong, cross culturally... 
  • U.S. companies sometimes don't get it about the relationships particular countries have with each other. 
    • for example, we need a server "in Asia". What does that mean? Put it in Japan, no one in mainland china can use it. Complex interrelationships.
    • time zone issue is so hard.  Example for Large Hadron Collider. Meetings are difficult. Alternating the pain is important. Or have one day a week where someone has to have meetings all evening. 
      • The reliability of electricity can't be relied on in many countries. 
      • Working with individuals vs. organizations or universities. 

Volunteerism in different cultures[]

  • Different cultural attitudes to sharing information. Open/shared is not universally seen as a good thing.
  • Why do people want to do something for free?
  • Sometimes you are going to be building community around people who have a job to do and need a tool to do it! They will be motivated to work on contributing to that tool.
  • Is something going to be framed as exploitative, is there a history of imperialsim/colonialism?
  • There are counter narratives about proprietary software or tech being exploitative and F/LOSS being a way to end run that hegemony.
  • Sometimes people will start a sort of petty tyranny in a locality and say to people, Our company is the official contact in Indonesia, if you want to work with WordPress you have to pay and go through us.  Stopping that is hard.
  • Students and universities are a common channel. Or, regional organizations. 

What did people need from you? Why did they get in touch in the first place? What do people in decentralized communiites need from "us"? who is "us"...[]

  • Jacob:  Discussion of Global South. What interaction style will work?  Need to be aware that it is seen as "we're coming in to take your ideas without giving anything back."  
  • Francesca: connecting people in different regions with each other. That works well.   
  • Liz: If people are communicating with each other directly without going through a single point of contact that is probably good, or healthier for communication and power structures.  so what francesca suggests can help with what was asked earlier about having problems with particular individuals taking too much of a role of power over others.

Let's talk about cultural proximity[]

  • Richard Esplin asks us to get more specific.
  • what are specific latin america.issues.   In brazil for example F/LOSS is associated with particular political parties in electoral politics so you need to be aware of that.    Others are mentioning shipping and transport so sending stickers or swag or whatever has to be done through sending things in people's luggage. Like sneakernet.
  • David from Joomla: how to improve our position in various asian markets. latin america as well, going there personally and meeting people and talking with people and handing stuff out.  Story of going to a conference in Guatemala associated with the university and people came to it from costa rica. Now they have an event in Costa Rica, because of that personal contact.   
  • Andrea talks about expecting to connect with peopl ein Mexico City but it is much more the people who don't live in a big city who get in touch and want to be involved.  If you are in a bigger city you have face to face working groups already.  Richard from Alfresco mentions how they have a great community in Ecuador. 
  • Guy in blue suggests offering a curriculum, food, funding for events particularly at universities. 
  • Andrea mentions that the assumption in the U.S. or western/developed world is that people are coming in as autodidacts to open source. 
  • But that is not true across cultures. 
  • Providing a curriculum can be useful to cross cultural boundaries and get more diverse contributors
  • Janet mentions Mozilla Hispano. It is a huge successful community. 
  • Mozilla francophone community is popular in the middle east and african countries. 
  • In Haiti people are expected to post in 3 languages. 
  • "There is no 'Asia'".   Richard wouldl ike us to talk about Japan and Korea. He has vietnamese speakers and translators. He can't figure out why they dont have any korean contributors. 
  • Francesca suggests figuring out which social network software is the most popular in particular countries.  So you need to figure that out for Korea and then talk on there.   Google will not be useful as the social software base.   
  • Someone signed up to translate for Korean.   
  • Woman with UK accent said, just look in your own disapora community. She was doing disaster relief and then went round the corner to the local grocery and asked to connect with their expat communities locally. 
  • Woman in blue shirt says that culture trumps everything.  For all these questions you need more than finding someone in korea. you want someone who understands nuances of korean culture. She has a social science background
  • Podcast called Surprisingly Free.  cultural anthropology stuff, microsoft research is very interesting.  what people from the US want is not always clear to others. Or what will result from it.   
  • Michael Downey: western open source communiites require others to assimiliate to our culture.  that will just not always work. 
  • language, is there anyone for a person to talk to?  but culture: if a person wants to work on open source, what does it mean for them in their own culture and community?       how do we build a culture that either fits everywhere or is fluid to meet people on their own terms?
  • Richard: How do we engage with social science people?
  • Woman in blue shirt : PNC network, a database communication tool for people interested in ngo or community development work.   this can be a useful bridge. 

Open Questions[]

  • Where do we want communities?
  • how do we build in cultures we aren't comfortable with?
  • in a developing country that doesn't have as much of a technical background how do we develop community?
  • open source philosophies don't always match with cultural and financial realities.
  • How to identity contributors and their geography?  


If you'd like to connect with other people in this session, add your name/contact information here:*Michael Downey (OpenMRS) -